Test of Education

(from book “Hindi Patti- Patan Ki Partal” – publisher, Medha Books)

 

These days, the entire nation is preoccupied with examinations. 10th, 12th, graduation, Post graduation, IIT, Medical entrance, etc.—all simultaneously. It is the hour of test for the entire nation .We realize it the hard way when our children appear in any of these exams, the mothers’ orders keep echoing in the ears of the fathers months before the actual exams – “Please don’t invite your friends to come over for tea/lunch/dinner—there’s enough time for these activities later on.” “where are you going ? Can’t you go later on ? Can’t you sit with him for some more time? Will his exams come again and again?” “How to go about his studies? Shall we go for tuitions? To whom shall we send him? How will he commute? I am not going to allow him to use the two-wheeler. These youngsters drive so recklessly !” “Oh God ! The neighbour’s son has contracted chicken pox. Isn’t there any preventive injection which can be administered to our son? Please find out. There could be some preventive Homoeopathic medicine. Please find out. I will offer Puja, I will distribute prasad !” These are only illustrative, not exhaustive, orders/ appeals that keep on coming out of over-anxious mothers.

 

A few days before the exams are to begin, the telephones begin ringing repeatedly. All the calls are meant for the candidates appearing in the exams. Aunty from Delhi conveys her best wishes, Grandma chants from the Holy text into their ears, Uncle from Ahmedabad cheers them up. Oh ! why don’t they realize that in the process they are only distracting the children and wasting their valuable study time ? Parents from the neighbourhood convey their best wishes to each other’s children- as though they are going to the battlefield. Mothers put on hold their usual discussions on TV serials, fashion, sale, beauty parlour, dieting, etc. and limit their conversation to their children’s exams only. Fitness can be taken care of later on. Socializing can wait till the exams are over. Everything else can be resumed after the exams.

 

Some children, on their part start putting post exams condition—“I want total freedom for one month after the exams. Please don’t ask me where I am going, what I am doing.” The mother’s normal smiling response is, “Okay. I won’t ask any questions. But you’ll have to secure first position in the exams.”

 

With the pressure of such huge expectations and unreasonable demands from the parents, what will happen to the already tensed up children? To ease the tension amongst the children, the Board wanted to introduce the grade system. But that was met with a lot of opposition. Perhaps the intention was to perpetuate the tension on the tender minds, not to speak of the parents also.

 

Prof. R.L. Richardson teaches in Manchester Business School in England. He keeps on visiting India as a part of the bilateral exchange programme and is aware of the education scenario in this country. According to him, “The month of March and April sees imposition of curfew in the Indian households. Children are immersed in their studies and the parents are concerned about their children’s future. The amount of time Indian children spend on studies is unseen anywhere else in the world. In England, if parents force their children to study beyond 9 PM, they can face police action. The question that naturally comes up in one’s mind is, are the citizens of England less intelligent or responsible than Indians. Looked from the functional and practical aspects of education, they are way ahead.

 

Is this the last exam? I wonder. Actually, there are so many exams to follow. Are we going to create similar scenes when our children appear for their XII Board exams. Engg./Medical entrance exams, Graduation or Post Graduation exams? How long can their brains sustain this much of strain? Given the present scenario of unemployment and cut throat competition, this may go on for decades. And yet they may end up with empty hands. This is why when they ultimately land up with a job, they tend to take a break from life—a period of rest and relaxation, of keeping away from responsibility for the time being. There is a case of a probationer of a Central Service mostly dozing off on the class room during his training period. A sort of dangerous carelessness had overcome his attitude. On being asked, he said, “Frankly speaking, for the last three years, I had been frantically preparing day and night for this service. Things were no better even prior to that. So I had decided that once I get into the service, I will not even look at the books for one full year.”

 

Is our education and examination system preparing responsible citizens and public servants or destroying their personalities with successive loads of fear and boredom? Once an Invigilator was on duty in one of the departmental exams. On hearing murmurs in the exam hall, he had to ask the employee candidates to remain silent. One of them said, “Sir, if I fail, my boss has warned me of spoiling my Confidential Report.” Yet another added, Sir, our boss says that he will report the matter to our department head and call us again and again. That would be very embarrassing.” Can this kind of terror create any kind of attachment or devotion towards any noble cause or mission? Is knowledge earned through a few hours of rigour an end in itself, an achievement by itself? Are we not moving away from the purpose of exams by continuously running after these exams ? When will our examiners realize that instead of creating terror, exams can provide a meaningful alternative ?

 

This terror has its own stages—it begins with parents, then come teachers and then the bosses. Parents fear loss of face if their children perform worse than their neighbour’s children. The teachers take over from the parents, fearing that this is the sure way to maintain discipline. And then the boss unleashes terror on his subordinates as a cover up for his own efficiency. In this backdrop, it is almost impossible for someone to remain creative, positive and responsive to the needs of the society.
What can be more shameful for us and our country when this terror unleashes by exams drives. Young children to commit suicide ? Whether you agree or not, we as parents, teachers, examiners, bosses etc. are regular partners in this crime. If any child commits suicide this year, we shall have a collective responsibility to share.

 
(Translation from Hindi by Sh. A.K.Sen )

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