‘The subjects which were dearest to the examiners were almost invariably the ones I fancied least. I would have liked to have been examined in history, poetry and writing essays. The examiners, on the other hand, were partial towards Latin and Maths. And their will prevailed. Moreover, the questions which they asked on both these subjects were almost invariably those to which I was unable to suggest a satisfactory answer. I should have liked to say what I knew. They always tried to ask what I did not know.
When I would have willingly displayed my knowledge, they sought to expose my ignorance.’
– Winston Churchill, a famous orator, eminent British Prime Minister & a Nobel laureate.
This year I will be writing my H.S.C. exams. My parents, like everyone else’s, wants me to perform and pass the exams with flying colors. They cite to me examples saying that the son of ‘so-and-so’ has got 93 % and had figured in the Merit List. I am happy for him and the other toppers and rather in awe of their performance. But then not everyone can get such a high percentage and every one has his own capacity according to which he should plan his future. In fact if all of us get 90 % and above, it won’t remain special would it?
But my parents counter that they don’t care about others and that I should focus on doing well. So we keep going round and round in circles on this. Now with my parents being so adamant, I take this opportunity to record my voice of dissent.
These days the words, ‘Board Exams’ instill a sense of fear and confusion in an average student. Summer vacations, fun and frolic is replaced with classes and extra classes. There is a curfew on outings and watching TV and the video. My desk is decked with various refreshers, question banks, solved papers and other assorted study material. The child’s extra curricular activities and other interests are shed off completely or at least put on the back burner. Instead he is busy attending tuitions. You see everywhere around you a sea of serious and haggard faces.
These exams have proved to be boon for publishers who through reference books, refreshers, guides, solved papers and expected questions sets have struck gold. The tutorial business too is booming with many offers of regular batches as well as crash courses. And they too are minting money.
The cut throat competition leads to a ‘no holds barred’ contest to get a sharper edge over others. Even old bosom friends don’t share their knowledge and notes with each other lest the other one score better than him.
This kind of sustained stress can be bad for the children. I have known instances of mental trauma and nervous breakdowns, even of attempted suicides. The problem with the parents and all of us is to expect too much from the child. In a way the parents too are under social and peer pressure and don’t want to lose their face in the public.
And once the results are out, the catty people have a field day going around asking about the results and shooting bitter comments from their acidic tongues.
Every year a batch is smitten by this disease. The child is the central piece of attraction and under great stress to perform. All are watching including his parents and teachers, friends and relatives and he can feel their presence. In the end the results say everything for nothing succeeds as success and failures have no followers.
The piece appeared in the column ‘Young Eye’ in the youth supplement of The Indian Express on August 6, 1994 in Pune India.
Guess I was under a lot of stress then and so let off my steam through this article. I must have felt some cathartic relief by pouring it all out on the paper.