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This year’s board exams had an added challenge – the pandemic. Let’s celebrate our kids for who they are and not by how many marks they have achieved.
Ever since I have started being active in the mental health field I know for sure that one of the most stressful periods for both parents and children is the board results.
In 2020 these come with the additional challenge of a pandemic where some students didn’t complete their exams and CBSE developed a one-time system in which students mark sheets were made based on the number of exams they have appeared for and their performance in them.
Well if our education system is to be imagine like a marathon, the board exam is the last 100 meters and those then are considered to be the culmination of all the learning in school. It is tragic that in our education system, students are evaluated on the basis of set of few questions at the end of the last academic year in school and not on the basis of whatever knowledge they received throughout and how well they apply it. The marks and percentages then in these exams sadly become the measure of the entire future of the student- what college or courses they would get admission into, what kind of peer group would accept them or how their immediate and extended family and relatives, neighbors and friends would see them- “an achiever” or “a loser.”
The labels are ready and the water-tight compartments are set.
Board exams have become the epitome of not just a student’s achievement but sadly also the pinnacle of parenting success for many. Sadly most parents start believing that their child’s score is the reflection on how good a parent they have been.
There is pressure on everyone from multiple sources, the exam fever continues till it becomes the results epidemic. The schools mostly want and aim at 100% pass record, several state and national toppers, distinction in subjects and what not because these figures help them impress on future parents of their students how good they are as an institution.
Coaching centers want more or less the same. Most parents only make matters worse by taking their offspring on a ride to hell and back by comparison with “in our times” and “so and so’s son or daughter”. I have known parents who do not allow sleeping for more than 3 hours every day in Indian homes during the boards. TV, phones and sports are all under curfew and so are outdoors.
So for a couple of years the student is supposed to live like a zombie aimed at getting a high percentile and then cracking some competitive exam. In my disability etiquette class with future doctors most had not seen a film for many years, may had forgotten what their hobby was as a child. We call this dehumanization as “coping with competition”. The cultural baggage of science stream being considered superior than commerce or humanities is another epic tale altogether.
As soon as the results are out parents and families start the humble bragging business all around but most nastily on social media. Education has been transformed into a rat race for percentage devoid of any joy of learning. The person the student is, gets literally buried under the ultimate desire to become a topper. Sadly now that the toppers are scoring 100% there is no record left to beat, no next milestone so to say. Just a mad race to emulate that year after year.
It is one thing to mark a milestone in your child’s life by thinking of it as stepping into college from school, being an adult, deciding on a career, but is entirely another ball-game displaying percentages down to the decimal as bragging rights and calling it “celebration”.
The problem with such public endorsements of percentages and marks and/or the economic challenges of such achievers is that we ignore the person here completely. We tell them that their worth comes from the marks they achieve and by implication those that have less marks are given the message that they are less worthy.
Most often streams are also chosen as per “societal expectations” and not as per the student’s aptitude or interest, and yet when a student doesn’t do comparatively well in spite hard work, tuitions, coaching and what not it hits their self-esteem in the worst possible way.
The toppers also remain in the “pressure” to maintain that coveted spot throughout their academic life and are given no room to do less than 100% ever.
The mental health implications of such a cut-throat system are already well-known, and become only worse when parents and families that are supposed to be a young adult’s safe space become the place where they are cherished and respected only if they score well.
Celebrate the child, sans the grades and the stats!
If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
Image source: Biswarup Ganguly / CC BY
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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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