Happiness Pervades on Reaching the ‘Ultimate’

Shikha Sinha

When results of the education board examinations are declared, not only are the toppers at cloud nine but also the parents, teachers, school, the coaching centres and the examination board too. It brings an all-round happiness and a big relief at all levels. The students have worked hard throughout their school journey and are toppers with 100% in nearly every subject, only missing out few marks in a subject that stops their grand total from being an impressive 100%. Parents are happy and satisfied that their years of solid support to their children has been rewarded.

School principals, teachers and so do the coaching centres (these days) celebrate; the examination boards too heave a sigh of relief, of the task well done and well received. All these components’ brand value is upgraded. Full-page advertisements of schools and coaching institute, along with the pictures of the top students, appear in the dailies as well as online. One can notice the names and pictures of some students appearing in the advertisement of more than one institute. This overlap is justified by the fact that the particular student has taken coaching for a subject for one session; though may have moved to another institute for reasons best known to the student only. This is a golden time for the teenagers when they feel great to be offered good sum, by the institutes, for their names and pictures appearing in the media — and it is now that they get the first experience of getting paid for the job done well!

Reaching the ‘ultimate’ is a win-win situation for all!

The achievers and their stories that are carried out in the media; the announcements by the parents and congratulatory messages of the near and dear ones that flood the social media platforms are mostly for the students who have secured more than 90%. However the presence of the students, a few hundred thousand in number who have not been able to touch the 90% level, is not visible. It appears as if the below-90 percenters have lost a battle or do not deserve to celebrate as much. In the euphoric atmosphere that is created, those few days, the near and dear ones of the below 90% wonder how to react! Out of a crore students that take the board exams in the country, only less than 10% get visible attention and appreciation by families and society. The board exams that should just be treated as a means in the growth and development path, has over a period of few decades become a hyped-up goal.

The educationists witness this change with a lot of anxiety and apprehension. They are worried that this trend of marking is making the students rote learners which have nothing to do with creative thinking. Academician and former NCERT Chairman, Krishna Kumar, views this scenario as “At the heart of the problem is the mechanical evaluation of the answer sheet. The board encourages exact copying (remembering) of answers from the text books rather than critical thinking. Anyone who uses the exact phrases as suggested in the model answers will be marked correct. So if the correct response to a question is red and if you write scarlet, it will be marked incorrect… This shows that our education system promotes rote learning.” Former Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Shanta Sinha, has a strong opinion: Commercialisation of education has introduced an element of exclusion and competition. There are many private shops competing for achievers. Children do not learn in this environment. They are being converted into mindless machines that are made to perform as though they are in a circus… In the national Curriculum Framework 2005, we had recommended that the child’s performance should be based on sports, art and culture, not just academics.

The CBSE and ICSE boards, state boards too, have been trying to implements various changes based on the recommendations. But no balances solution had evolved. This has to do, most probably, because of the large number with varied combination of regions and backgrounds which has to be brought on a common platform. The CBSE board had done away with the mandatory examination for Class X and Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) was made a process of assessment; examination at this level was made optional. However they have reverted back to examination system at Class X level. The recent news after the declaration of 2019 results by the CBSE board is the decision to introduce changes in the examination pattern at Class X level, from the current academic year. The board is planning to reward ‘creative answers and discourage rote learning’ by diversifying the current format of objective questions.

Lost in all the above-mentioned circumstances is the learning and education of subjects that take students beyond text books to explore their potential. Teaching moral values, life skills, mindfulness, dealing with machines and digital devices, time management, decision-making and tapping ones vocational temperament could be extremely helpful. Student and parents ought to be convinced by counselling that even if these teaching will not get them good marks, it will surely help make them self-equipped to handle stress. They are well prepared for the future and the knowledge thus gained will always remain relevant for them in any profession they end up with.

Of how much relevance is the study of regular subjects in the next level of life, which is profession? In the current circumstances, most of the time the knowledge required for a certain job is absolutely different than the knowledge gained. These days an engineering graduate and a humanities graduate are seen doing the same job. A hotel management graduate is offered job in the marketing of an apparel brand. It is the creative faculty of the students then that helps them perform satisfactory in a job. Studies beyond preparing for board exams will make students different from machines in future. Karishma, the joint topper of CBSE Class XII who secured 499 out of 500 this year, wants to study Psychology and her concentration will entirely shift to this subject if she pursues her passion. Her excellent percentage will get her admission in college of her choice.

With many new vocational avenues developing in the country, the need of the hour is to create a holistic learning environment. Few institutions have their teaching pattern based on this approach. But such institutes are exclusive and elusive, and affordability much above the reach of the most. The holistic learning process should be developed in each school of the country so that diverse learning opportunities are provided. Let the growing-up process be an enjoyable component to uncover and develop, by self-discovery of the inherent talent and potential within. It is often noticed that students are discouraged to participate in sports and cultural activities, once they reach higher class and studies start getting tougher. This is a life-long loss in most of the cases. Only a handful of exceptional performers take part in sports and cultural events, and that too at the cost of their studies. This is sadly a mistaken notion. Physical activities strengthen mental fitness.

Till a sound and balanced educational pattern evolves, it is wise to have a self-balance approach to matters of academics and life in a broader sense. Much depends on the parents and guides. They need to be grounded and pragmatic in giving direction to the developing mind of the growing children. Examinations are only stepping stones and not end goal. It is an inevitable stage in formal education which one has to step on and move forward. Not much pressure has to be exerted, but only a sincere effort to do the best according to ones capabilities. There are many success stories of great achievers, who performed poorly in their studies.

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