Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Unbearable Burden of Being a Class XII Student in India

Image courtesy www.careerindia.com
If you are a parent of a teen who has just appeared for her board exams, you will know exactly what it feels like when the results are about to be declared. It’s like waiting for your own results. Only this time, you are not a carefree teen but a worry-wart adult plagued by ifs and buts and what will the world and its aunt think if your child scores an abysmal 85%. Even Mrs Chatterjee’s useless son scored a 97%! Oh, the triumphant look in her eyes when she distributed sweets in the neighbourhood. Too bad she got the mithai from a third rate halwai.

The thing is, we all seem to think scoring in 90’s is a breeze, till it’s your own teen’s turn to appear for her boards. It’s then you find out how much pressure we put on our kids by making abnormally high scores the new normal. Fact is only those who score high share it on social media. The rest keep mum. Consider this. Out of a total of 1,067,900 candidates registered for this year for class 12 exam, 89,000 students scored more than 90% in aggregate. Which means only 8% managed to breach the 90’s barrier. 

So, where does it leave the remaining 92%? Why don’t we talk about them? Why don’t newspapers follow their life journeys and come out with reassuring stories that scoring ‘low’ was not the end of their life? I wish more and more parents would tell their children that marks secured in exams do not define them. A child who obtains 78% may have a better grasp of a select few subjects and the ones who score a 99% may simply be able to memorise better. Many school teachers have mastered training their students in the art of answering correctly. Plus, the structure of the question papers is such that some students can work around the format and get high scores. Your exam score is certainly not the only indicator of your intelligence or the lack of it.

They will tell you high scores let you pick and choose the subject and college of your choice. Sadly this is not always true. When anyone who does reasonably well in exams opts for a handful of courses in a handful of premier colleges, there’s a mad scramble for their limited seats and not everyone manages to get in.  It’s quite likely that after battling stress and anxiety and studying for 12 hours a day for months, you secure 95% and will still not get into the college of your choice.

It’s not your fault. You did your best. But so did 7,000 odd students who scored above 95%.


Interestingly, despite the mad number of students doing exceptionally well in class XII exams and getting through engineering and other top notch institutes, 47% of our graduates and a whopping 80% of engineeringgraduates are unemployable. According to the industry, poor communication and cognitive skills are to be blamed. And yet we have our kids believe that higher education is the only route to success. We are failing our student community, when we make them go through higher education irrespective of the fact whether they are cut out for the grind of higher studies.

It’s firmly ingrained in our psyche that those with exceptional results should go for engineering, medical studies, commerce or law. Most students end up choosing subjects not according to their aptitude but according to the marks they get and what their parents think is right. I mean that’s what an ideal child is meant to do - make her parents happy and relatives jealous!

Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Because medical and engineering have become the de-facto graduate degrees for a large chunk of students today and the competition to get into elite colleges is more fierce, there’s a huge demand for study centres. But when you put a bunch of kids through gruelling schedules, frequent tests and the unbearable stress of parents’ expectations to do well, many of them crumble under the burden.  73 students - including five this year - have taken their lives in Kota (famous for its coaching centres) in the past five years. A lot of them realise they do not have the aptitude for the subject but are afraid to tell their parents because they have invested huge sums of money despite financial constraints.

When did we stop listening to our children? When did we make them slaves to our own unfulfilled desires or fears?

Most youngsters at this stage have little or no idea what they want from their lives. As adults who have experienced the troughs and crests of life, learnt as much from our failures as we did from our triumphs, it becomes our duty as parents to become enablers to help them realize their dreams, instead of dictating their choices under the garb of ‘we know better’. This should stop, shouldn’t it? Our role as parents is to help them utilize their capabilities to their fullest and lead a good life as responsible members of society.

Of course the system sucks. There’s an urgent necessity of intervention at school and college levels for improving basic skills of students. I don’t understand why there’s no focus on imparting vocational training alongside theoretical learning that will make them employable.

I could go and on with what’s wrong with the system that doesn’t let a student flourish. It focuses more on making students slaves of the syllabus. The emphasis is on scoring than opening up minds or training them to explore, discover and seek answers on their own. Isn’t it the schools’ responsibility to equip pupils with life skills that prepare them for a life outside the safe confines of their homes? And now that we have the cow writing letters to primary students telling them why she’s such an awesome Mom and each ruling party busy rewriting history, I doubt things will change anytime soon.

Does that mean we should be mute spectators and indulge in blame game? Absolutely not.

Help your youngster understand herself. Each one of them has a gift, maybe a flair for languages, an intuitive ability to understand people or a natural affinity to visual arts. As a witness to her life, it’s you who understands her abilities the best. Don’t push her into a sea of mediocrity when she can excel in one. Let her explore and discover the choices she should be making for a fulfilling life.  I know it’s tough to let go. But if you can’t trust your son or daughter to take the right decisions, how can you expect them to believe in themselves?

We cannot be bystanders to our teen’s life. They do need our guidance, if need be, a firm push in the right direction. They do need to know scoring well is the ticket to a good life. But what they don’t need is the unbearable pressure. Especially at this young age, when we all know this is just the beginning of a long arduous journey to seek a life of their choosing. If they face a burnout in high school, develop a deep aversion towards studying, suffer from depression because they are unable to cope, how will they survive the rest of their lives?

Think about it!




64 comments:

  1. Absolutely. We are getting only engeneers and mbas joining our clerical cadres. And the kind of marks I got to get into Stephens won't get

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    Replies
    1. I feel sorry for our kids. No teen should go through this much pressure.

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  2. Distance education courses nowadays

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  3. Even though we all know that every word of this post is true, we conveniently think it is for other people's children and continue torturing our own. System will not change and today a 92% is not considered party worthy. Even my attendance percentage was not that much.I am so happy I finished all that shit in good time and am not a high school student today.

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    Replies
    1. I know what what my daughter went through while preparing for her XIIth boards. The pressure to perform is tremendous.

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  4. Unfortunately in India the theory of 'demand and supply' prevails everywhere leaving very little room for most to explore their talent. Even most parents are very skeptical of trying less beaten paths which their child may dream to pursue! Good analysis, Purba!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our kids are smarter than what we think. A little push is necessary but so is support in whatever they choose.

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  5. Very needed read for today's parents.It's mad herd we are caught up in these days. Go where everybody's going and make sure you get ahead. Inspite of so many of us who have gone through such kind of pressures, we still do the same to our kids.I believe if we had plenty of resources and less people, things might not have been so bad as it is now.

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    Replies
    1. The mad scramble for limited number seats does add to the pressure. And only a few explore the unconventional career paths.

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  6. For some reason parents in our country can not think beyond Engineering and MBBS, leaving millions of kids under a pressure they are not able to withstand....

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    Replies
    1. Even the streams are so straightjacketed! What if a kid loves Physics but wants to pursue liberal arts as well?

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  7. How to guest post for your blog?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What will you write about?

      Delete
    2. Dear Purba,

      I have been visiting your blog for a while, as humour blogs in india, arent much popular. I know the people behind these types of blogs work very hard to deliver funny content of a great quality. But, still according to me it hasnt rose much it should have. So even I want to make blogging in humour category popular and basically your blogs have things picked up from different situations, I can write some funny posts in my own way.. in a desi way.. :P, something differently, I am still a teenager so you will get to see things in a good and funny way through my eyes.. Something simple, from daily life situations, good humor, through which people can easily connect.. :D

      Delete
    3. Sure. My email address is mentioned in my blogger bio

      Delete
    4. Please mention here.. or mail on amantyagi1@outlook.com

      Delete
    5. It's my full name at gmail

      Delete
    6. Kindly check ur mail

      Regards,
      Aman

      Delete
    7. got no reply? Please reply..

      Delete
    8. It's purbaray@gmail
      You sent it to the wrong address

      Delete
    9. Dear Purba,

      Acutally, I did send to the right address, its not copied, its purbaray@gmail.com, but got no reply.. , but still anyways this time I will send it to purbaray@gmail.com, :P. if it this time reaches tell me and also it will be from this mail amantyagi1@outlook.com

      Regards,
      Aman

      Delete
    10. Please do check spam, sometimes due too much mails, even I miss important ones, so check clearly and tell me if u got then you can reply, so I would not keep sitting waiting for the mail to arrive.. :P

      Delete
    11. Please check mail, finally.. :D

      Regards,
      Aman

      Delete
  8. You cannot imagine how happy I am to read this, being a just-passed class XII student myself. I'm sending this to everyone I know right away! True by every word...and parents don't take their kids seriously when they try to explain the same to them.

    In fact, my last blog post is about my very reaction similar to this after my results came out. - http://dashyspeaks.blogspot.in/2016/05/the-phone-call.html

    Thanks for this post, and a perfect timing indeed! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I feel so proud that a girl your age relates to what I write.

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  9. You have nailed it. We could go on and on about what's wrong with our education system at every step. Many parents know it too. We have a small cake and everyone wants a piece. And education remains the only way to achieve success for most middle class students.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cake is bigger Alka. We need to see that.

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    2. The problem arises when we define success for our children.

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  10. This system of grading and marking is making so many youngsters commit suicide. :-( I have witnessed a very intelligent but partly dyslexic student's journey into depression and then suicide after being graded by this system. The most worrisome thing in all this chaos is the way parents boast about the marks their kid scored on social media. As if distributing mithai in the neighborhood was not enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is there anything more tragic than young kids taking their own lives because they couldn't handle the pressure!

      I can't even begin to imagine what the parents go through.

      Delete
  11. Very pertinent post, Purba. I have seen parents going overboard in pushing their kids. Sometimes it happens because this is the only way they know. They are worried. We all know that we put a lot of emphasis on qualifications for a good career in India. Vocational courses and different careers did not find too many tales due to the uncertainty involved. While l understand where they are coming from, they really need to see the effect this is having on their children. They need to chat with their children and be objective about their aptitude and interests. As a parent of a teen, l hope he finds the sky he wants to conquer. I want to guide him to achieve his potential and dreams whether it is a conventional career or something different. And his health, sanity and happiness will hopefully always be the drivers for his parents.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. My daughter often tells me, Maa it would have been so much better had you told me what to do! As parents we have to stop deluding ourselves into believing we know best and can do no wrong. In our single-minded pursuit of making our children excel we don't know when to stop.
      It helps if we talk to our children instead of talking down to them.

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. You said it all! Our children are put into a pressure cooker. One reason is that there exist a class division in the jobs in our country. A artist doesn't get respect if she is not rich and famous. A tradesman like carpenter or painter will never be at par with a engineer even though he is skilled with the engineer is a mediocre. We never wrap our arms around the shoulders of painter or gypsum carver, nor shall we sit on the same table for dinner or drinks. We do not see his talents .. unfortunately! But I have seen a good stone mason in Italy getting paid much more than a junior architect, I have seen them sitting and drinking together after works and being put up in similar accommodation by the hiring firms. We need to get the job and money based class divisions out of the society and stop judging people by the marks they got during the board exams.
    By the way there is a petition created by a college mate of mine in the change org. Stop student suicides - mandate career guidance in schools. Please support it if you can.
    https://www.change.org/p/mrs-smriti-irani-save-student-suicides-mandate-career-guidance-in-schools?recruiter=62075154&utm_source=petitions_show_components_action_panel_wrapper&utm_medium=copylink

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree. It's more complicated than we think. Our society is a million miles away from being egalitarian. We still judge people by their 'aukad'.

      I shall definitely sign the petition.

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    2. Thanks for signing the petition.

      Delete
  14. By exhorting our children to outperform their peers in the final exam, we only sow seeds of hatred and anger in their minds. This happens since we think scoring high percentage of marks is be all and end all of life.

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    Replies
    1. I wish this would stop. Not everyone is meant to excel.

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  15. Very pertinent post Purba.Today's children live a very stressful lifE and parents add to that pressure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Parents need to be educated on how to deal with their own kids.

      Delete
  16. Life is no competition. Let's teach our children to be better than themselves every single day, evolving from spiritual state of being and all round development. Parents must read this eye opening post and get some logic. Why make children achieve their unfulfilled dreams? Let them bloom like flowers. There are many who are socially inept and can't communicate effectively!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As Parents we have to stop thinking we know better. Because we do not.

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  17. Somehow feel the pressure was much less during our days compared to current generation.. If I ever go back to childhood, have no intention of repeating class 10 and 12

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think most of us are glad that we are not our kids.

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  18. So very true. I have a friend who has gone into depression because his daughter did not score as much as expected. And he is not open to any advice or reasoning. I pity the girl.

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  19. What an amazing post! Every Indian parent must read this.

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  20. Feeling pity on you---yah really, after reading this am sure you have taken initiatives to create awareness in parents..i can assure you nothing is going to change.i discussed this matter with some parents, they listen, they agreed but when it came to apply in practical life they started pressurizing their children. i am really fade up, still trying my level best, you cant make anything right until the base is right---the education system, the syllabuses, the way exams are taken well have great faults, education has became a business in India and after this the impact of society, the status etc are attached with education now-a-days. thanks for sharing such a nice thought, got courage to express my feeling and will surely share my view points in my blog post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure. Looking forward to reading your point of view.

      Delete
  21. Powerful post, Purba.
    I was one of those 92% I think. Always average; and eventually never following on the path that life set me on.
    I can only hope and pray that I won't be that kind of parent to my son. Though, I must admit - society makes it really tough when they pressurise parents who in turn put their kids into the pressure cooker and set the whistle

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    Replies
    1. I know. It's easier said than done. But then we learn from the mistakes our parents made.

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  22. A very relevant post, Purba. Parents as well as educators need to sit up and reflect. We are ruining a whole generation with our silly notions about education, career and assessment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But all our policy makers are interested in is propaganda.
      Shame!

      Delete
  23. Ugh!! This is the same story that occurred when I gave my class XII exams! Why have things not changed at all?! Sad state of affairs!

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  24. why our education system and society is in such state? to be frank,most of indians are not good people so they could not develop their own nation and failed to build a prosperous society. bringing change in society depends on number of good people,we just have 1.2 billion people and most of them are really bad and it reflects on everything.so i don't want to speak about impossible thing called changing indians.

    for an individual or school kid,parents are world,so if parents can present better world at home,kids will not have any burden or pressure to perform.how many parents behave like really educated?not many.being educated means understanding every circumstance and living without causing inconvenience to second person.if we go by this definition,not many can be considered as educated.

    my parents never forced me to do things,my dad was really mature and allowed kids to grow at their own pace and he din't rub his ambitions on us.during 10nth cbse exams, i was watching cricket world cup cuz i was really fond of cricket and i used to study while watching cricket.i scored 74% in board exams and my dad was happy. while having dinner,my dad told me that if i don't become successful while pursuing my subject,he would buy me acres of land and i can become a farmer and lead peaceful life.i never saw someone so super cool.from my childhood,i never gave up little things or natural process of my growth for marks.i used to get 3rd or 4th rank in my class and was most happiest and did grow into wholesome human. that's how we build society and the society which is built that way will be most successful,prosperous and happiest.my dad was honest govt official and he din't had so much savings compared to contemporary parents,but he still believed in kids growing in their own way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucky to have a father like your Dad.

      Delete
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