Do your exam results really matter?
June 6, 2018 | 1:32 PM
by Times News Service

The recent results of CBSE, a national level board of education in India, has set the expectations too high in our result driven society. While getting good grades is a commendable achievement one must not forget that grades do not determine how well we do in life. After all success comes from passion, ambition, and commitment.

Wide smiles, celebrations galore, and schools flaunting their favourite “toppers” are what we have been reading, watching and hearing since the CBSE results of Grade 12 and 10 were announced. Students have scored marks as high as 499 out of 500 in their board examinations and teachers and parents alike can’t stop telling the world about it.

While a lot of students have passed with flying colours and have managed to make their families and institutions proud, we conveniently and sometimes deliberately fail to see the dark side of the whole system, in which the miseries of the greater majority, who dread being a part of this set-up, get obscured.

With more than 83% of students passing, out of the over 1 million students who appeared for the Grade 12 board examinations, undeniably a lot of students have scored good marks. But since when have passing or scoring just good marks been okay in the supremely competitive system that these young minds are enrolled in? Scores that are as high as 90% aren’t good enough anymore for parents who tend to compare them with the marks of their neighbour’s daughter, for relatives who are looking for opportunities to taunt, for schools who won’t so much as acknowledge the efforts of these “average” students, and colleges and universities whose cut-offs are as high as 98%.

While life must be miserable for the 17% who unfortunately did not manage to pass, it isn’t any better for those who have scored anywhere below 85%. In a system where the stakes are incredulously high, expectations are unrealistic and goals set are ridiculous, children turn into pressure cookers that are just waiting to explode.

Therefore, the two suicide cases reported in India after the results were declared, although very disheartening, come as no surprise. Every year, there are children across the world falling prey to the stress and pressure, who get into depression and end up taking extreme measures. The few who manage to surpass that phase, realise in a few years, that all that was for nothing and these examinations and scores don’t matter at all in the long run; but for a few, it unfortunately, is a little too late.

In the previous issue of T Magazine, we lauded the performance of the high flyers of the CBSE board examinations and in this issue we aim to tell all the students who did appear for the examinations this year or will do so in the next few years, that it’s going to be okay. On speaking to some of the teachers in schools across Oman, one thing that most teachers were proud of more than their school toppers were the “below average” students who managed to surpass everyone’s expectations.

Although this was refreshing to hear, it was the word average that caught on to us. Students’ calibres in life are measured on the basis of how much they score in the set of subjects that is limited in its reach and approach, at least until they graduate from school. A student is considered (and called) smart or dumb purely on the basis of his/her marks in class.

In the current system, instead of being encouraged to learn, children are being forced to study. The Finnish model of education is considered the best education system for a number of reasons. Their way of evaluation and testing isn’t rigid, with only one standardised testing taken at the age of 16, there aren’t too many stressful exams or homework, and finally the education system enjoys complete autonomy, where the schools and classes decide what needs to be taught without being influenced by the government or any ministerial body. “The main reason why the Finnish system works is because it is autonomous. There can’t be the involvement of politics in education,” said an Indian School teacher. She added, “With students scoring marks as high as 499 out of 500 in the board examinations, it sometimes feels as if the scoring process is fake. Honestly, without any offence meant to the students who have scored exceptionally well, we as teachers understand the academic abilities of students and often it doesn’t correspond to the marks they get.” Since we are talking about the CBSE board results, the education system prevalent under it isn’t just influenced by the aforementioned bodies, but before they even have a role to play, a child’s education needs to go through other tremendous hurdles.

A child’s marks are no more than him/her testing his/her knowledge or skills in a particular subject. It is a matter of pride and honour for the parent who uses it as a laurel that he/she can show off. Especially with the advent of social media apps such as WhatsApp, where communication has become so convenient, most parents in Oman are part of school groups and parent groups and are more involved in their children’s education and school activities, than in the children themselves.

WhatsApp makes it convenient for parents to compare marks and results, which is possibly the worst thing for a child’s self esteem. There are a number of mothers and fathers putting up posts about their child’s marks on social media; however, it is refreshing to see a few posts by parents who have been encouraging students who haven’t done too well, attempting to explain to them that examinations are not the end of the world.

“While all are celebrating the Grade 10 and 12 results, our heart goes out to all the children who scored less than they expected and are feeling sad about it.

Sharing similar thoughts interior designer Anu Shaikh said, “I scored 60% and I have never looked back since. I started my business with a small capital and now we have grown into one of the largest interior design and contracting companies in Oman. Success in life is based on your dedication towards what you want in life and how much effort you put into achieving it, not on the result of one exam. If you enjoy work and achieve your goals, however small they are in life, one must celebrate.”

We can’t deny the fact that knowledge is power, but it is important to gain the right kind of knowledge in the right possible way to yield the right kind of power. And marks and grades are a minuscule aspect of the different tests that life is going to present to you and the subjects learned in school comprise just a tiny portion of the lessons that you will learn in life with experience and exposure.

You should rejoice if you’ve scored good marks and throw a party for your friends, and it is completely okay to mourn if you haven’t scored according to your expectations.

However, it is important to realise that these joys and sorrows are momentary and everyone (including you) is going to forget about it in a few months. So, go to school to enjoy the whole experience and consider education as an important tool for knowledge and not as meaningless competition.

If you go to a corporate office today and ask the people around, you will be surprised to find out how many people who are in the top-level management now have failed in numerous subjects in school and were definitely not class toppers, but have managed to “top” in the real exams of life.

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