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Mind over marks

Board results are out across the country. Number of students inching towards 100 per cent is increasing every year. Besides students, different Boards are getting into the competition. When it comes to admission after 12 th , even the colleges and universities are part of the competition. Besides marriages in India, board exams and its results are something where not only the nuclear family, but the extended family members are also involved along with the students. With everyone involved and watching students for super-duper performance in this score race, every single student has to go through a tremendous pressure to perform.

Unfortunately, the common assessment system in our country has left young kids with different inherent qualities to be judged through a single examination system. It is like comparing apples with oranges; bananas with grapes and so on. However, our conventionally governed education system has many supporters including parents, who truly believe in the charm of marks and not in the infinite expansion of children’s mind.

This method of assessment leave students with no choice but to focus on academics. Some parents who want to support their kids in pursuing their passion or talent, do not find feasible options to bypass this common assessment system. Due to this fierce race of marks, students are not encouraged to try different things and fail; learn from experiments in and outside the school; conduct research that are not only controlled by books and teachers but are guided with their own curiosity and excitement. The system does not allow them to bring out the best, which is lying inside the kids. Instead, the system rewards them to depend on books and the prescribed syllabus. In short, a child’s possibilities are controlled in this intense marks race. The possibility to expand student’s own mind is getting limited even though we claim that now we have more learning opportunities then our previous generations. The experts and the policy makers have been claiming to care about the load on young minds, all prescriptions and experimentations appear to be old wine in a new bottle. As the number game is increasing every year, we are nowhere closer to allow every student to be part of experiential learning.

While the system does not encourage students to pursue their own passion or talent in which they are good, the parents have a larger responsibility. Many middle-class parents want their children to pursue subjects and careers, which they themselves could not pursue due to various reasons. They now want their kids to chase the dreams that they wanted to accomplish. It is important to understand that different people are born with different abilities and not everyone can become engineers, doctors, IAS and so on. Moreover, there is a demand for different kind of skillsets all around the world. Many talented youngsters can even create new demand for the kind of talent they have, if they get opportunity, freedom and support.

Students should not get into societal and family pressure. Many people would cheer-up for their immediate achievement but most of them would not be supportive of their aspirations and the kind of career they really want to explore. Everyone’s definition of success differs. The same set of people who would cheer-up for high marks in the board might get disappointed from them, if they suddenly choose to become a traveler, a food blogger or a content writer. People have tendency to look at the achievements in quantitative terms. Most commonly, the traditional sectors are still looked as most lucrative opportunities for youngsters, even though they are not suitable for what they are forced to choose. Not every engineering and medical student is happy after they get into the institutions and many of them are unable to cope-up with the pressure of heavy syllabus and jobs. The society hardly care about the mental health of students. They appear to be fit but they might not be enjoying the career they never wanted to pursue.

One more year of cheer and sadness loom across the country. But no student should worry. Even the parents and the extended family. Life moves on. There are thousands of examples when people failed, dropped out or did not do well in exams. However, nothing forced them to stop there. They moved on and have surprised people with their talent and work. Do we know or care about marks of ten successful people in each sector in India or in the world? Definitely not. People are eventually not judged by their marks but by their work and the elements of humanity in them. Then why do we challenge self-worth of students at such a young age, which lead to depression for many and even suicidal deaths for few? It breaks them for few years, and it becomes harder for them to bounce back. If we just leave them the way they are progressing with learning, they will find their own way. Learning by experience with time is much better than just be focused on the syllabus. Marks is just one of the means so we must stop treating it as a goal. I had got only 59 per cent in my first board exam from Bihar Board. That was not even a first division. Neither my parents nor I cared much about it and that was fine. I moved on with whatever I had, and life is reasonably good today.

As a matter of fact, it is the mind, which has the capacity to grow and expand exponentially, whereas the marks can restrict students to think beyond syllabus and exams. Therefore, we need to support students in a way that they can think creatively and critically, question the theories that exist and learn life-skills that will always help them maneuver their life. Cheer them up with whatever marks they score and try to understand what unique skills and talent that they have and help them with unlimited and unconditional support. It is sane to be more human with young minds. Let us prioritize mind over marks. Marks stop at 100 per cent whereas mind can be infinite.

- Sanjay Kumar, founder of Edjustice and India Country Director of The Mittal Institute, Harvard University.

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