The recently announced Class X and XII results reminded me of my time as a student. Class X was the biggest examination in school. It was also the final school exam before I entered college. My school did not have Class XI and XII. Some of my dearest friends were the best performers in school. And I was far behind. I remember being embarrassed then mostly because of societal pressures and expectations. More than my parents, it was their friends who had set expectations and built the pressure. It was not easy for me to keep close company with high-scoring friends and face questions about my performance immediately after them. I am sure my good friends were uncomfortable too with my plight. Thankfully, they were not just good students but equally good souls who didn’t judge me on the basis of my scores.
I didn’t give my parents a chance of thumping their chest and declaring with pride how well their son fared. But I was satisfied with my performance. I felt it did justice to the effort I had put in for only a few weeks. I was disappointed with my english marks where I thought I had performed better than what the marks revealed. Clearly, the examiner did not think so. In fact, I scored the lowest marks in english of all the subjects I was tested for. It played on my mind for several months. Perhaps longer.
In my time, examinations were not all objective-type questions. For instance, in english, you had to write an essay. Besides, there were other questions which needed descriptive answers. So there was enough subjectivity built in to the process of academic assessment.
I opted to study in the field of arts while almost all my close friends chose science. Most of those who desired to know my chosen stream of study demonstrated a standard response after hearing my choice. ‘Oh, must have fared badly in the examination’. I didn’t bother to explain that my choice would have remained the same even if I had topped my class.
Friends of my family judged me as less competent compared to my peers. At that time, engineering and medical were the two career paths to pursue if you were a good student. To achieve that, one had to enroll in science. And commerce was third in the pecking order if you aspired to be a chartered accountant or wished to join the corporate world after completing a degree or diploma in business management. If your choice fell outside of the three, you risked being perceived as a loser.
Subsequently, I made all unconventional choices in the following five years. For all those who then pursued a bachelor of arts, it was an accepted practice to major in economics if you fancied yourself as a good student or were seriously career-minded. I chose Sociology. Most people in my parents’ social circle gave up on me. They had no doubt that I had set myself on a path of self-ruin.
When I took up journalism as a career, no one known to my family had traversed this path. My father wasn’t sure if I had made the right choice given that no one in his social circle had been there or done that. But he allowed me to choose my calling. He had always made his own decisions and I inherited the same gene.
A few decades later, when I look back, I have no regrets whatsoever. I still feel I made the right decisions. If I could change something, I would probably put more effort in exam preparation than just four weeks which I invested all my student life. With such a paltry investment, I feel having secured a first class in all the major examinations in my academic life was the best I could hope for. And I am in peace with that.
Going forward, did my scores in any or all the major examinations play a major role in shaping my future? I don’t think so. Did it make a difference to my recruiter when he hired me? Absolutely not. Would I have performed better in my professional life if my scores were higher? Not really.
My intention while writing this is not to dismiss examinations in school and college as inconsequential. Or disparage our system of academic evaluation. Both my close friends Amit Sinha (now Singh) & Subrata Ghosh, who I alluded to, at the start of this blog, deserved the success they achieved in the school final exam. Subrata was the overall school topper in my class and also topped in english. He has a photographic memory and could reproduce word for word, page by page, whatever he put his mind to. I believe no one in our batch could write better in english than him. Amit’s academic consistency as a student is commendable. Much like a player who scores well in each match. He works hard too and deserves all success he has achieved not just in academics but professional life as well. In fact, both Amit & Subrata are very successful in their careers now and still remain humble.
My blog is meant for all those who did not secure top scores or close to it, in the recently declared school results. There is absolutely no reason to feel despondent or crestfallen. The world has not come to an end. There could be short-term obstacles in not being able to enroll in the stream of one’s liking or the school or college of one’s choice. It is at best a speed breaker, not a dead end. Some students who can’t cope with their dismal performance end up with severe mental health issues. Depression is one of the most common ailments which could arise out of unsatisfactory performance and adversely affect students if not handled properly.
Parents have a huge role to play in helping the child cope with trauma. They should not fall in the trap of setting too much expectations which create pressure that could harm their child’s mental health. In some cases, children who can’t face the ignominy, resort to drastic steps which are irreversible. No parent would want to lose their child forever because she or he could not live up to expectations or failed to score the desired marks. If your child falls short of the magic number, let it be. Let him or her know it is fine. The onus is on you to calm your child and create favourable conditions for a new beginning.
In our student life, examination has come to be a race. Rewinding to my childhood, I recollect the golden words I heard at the start of a race. On Your Marks. Get, Set, Go. I would urge all children while they get set on their marks, it is most important to know how to go about it.