The Intolerable Indian Education System
So apparently the world thinks that Indians are smart. And that it has something to do with our nifty education system. Well here’s the thing, I speak as a fresh product of this factory, and I’m sorry to shatter that illusion. The education system is as inept and incompetent as any other but the reason it’s still working is the sheer number of students.
Let me explain. The tenth grade examinations (SSC) conducted by the Secondary Education Board and the twelfth grade examinations (HSC) conducted by the Higher Secondary Education Board are about the only things you’ve done your entire schooling for. Till tenth, you’re in school, monitored by teachers who know you well enough to tell you what your favorite movie is, and you’re doing brilliantly and pass the SSC with more than 90%. Great. But after that, you no longer go to school but get admission in a junior college for eleventh and twelfth grade. And this is where it all starts falling apart.
All kids are not mature enough to make the right decisions even though they might have passed ten years of schooling. Sure there are some genius exceptions out there, but the majority of children, like myself, won’t make the right choices every time. I’m not talking about huge things like smoking or drugs (although I do know a fair number of cases) but little things like the sudden freedom to choose what you do. As in, you get your own vehicle, attending classes is not mandatory, you don’t have much homework to deal with (except for any private tuitions you may have joined) so for the better part of the day, you’re left to your own devices.
That’s where I lost my edge. I am also to blame, no doubt, as sitting in the library reading books that had nothing to do with my syllabus was my own fault. But I can’t help but think that nothing like that would have happened had there been some kind of restriction or expectation from me. Which there wasn’t.
Then the next year, you face the HSC, which is more life determining than the now easy-peasy SSC. But you’ve lost one year in between, completing Jane Austen or whatever, and now you have to catch up if you don’t want to get left behind.
And this is what I’m talking about when I say numbers. Around 3,00,000 children appear for the HSC every year and around 75% of them pass. That leaves you with 22,50,000 children to compete with for further qualifying examinations like the CET (common entrance test), AIEEE (all india engineering entrance exam), IIT-JEE (indian institute of technology joint entrance exam), AIPMT (all india pre medical test) and countless others.
You compete not only for the best score, but for a score better than the best. Because this is India, and us folks believe in ‘unity in diversity’ and all so we are quite liberal in handing out reservations for ‘downtrodden’ classes. By which I refer to the castes that were believed to be low, back when monocles were all the rage. Oh sure, I’m not saying don’t help low income groups or people from villages, but these other backward classes (fondly called OBCs) who have a near 50% of reservation claims are people who go to the same classes as I do, and are more often than not, financially better off as well. Thus, if you are in the open category like myself, you’d better buck up and buckle down to business or else you’ll be left out of the rat race. And this is why, pressurized with doing the best or nothing, Indian students emerge as hard-working or widely known as smart. Who said living in the most populated democracy was an easy feat?
It is this stress combined with the great expectations of parents, teachers, friends and even yourself, that lead to various stress related problems. The student suicide rate has increased by a shocking 26% in the last four years. Even if the child does not take such drastic action as suicide, the stress finds a way to ruin living for him or her.
The saddest part I find is that the education system only pushes towards academic (so called) excellence. But what about sports? Art? Drama and theater? Literature? Music? It’s more than disappointing that the education Board finds these as worthless and time wasting pursuits. The Board virtually refuses to acknowledge any extra achievement by the students.
As for a solution to this unholy mess, my personal opinion is very simple.
- Instead of considering the tenth and twelfth grade examinations only, the deciding marks should be an average of the final examination results from tenth to twelfth grade. That way, students will be compelled to perform well even if they are given the freedom to do whatever they choose. Also, there won’t be excess pressure on the HSC especially, which will save the students from drastic action like taking their lives.
- Extra curricular activities must be taken seriously by the Board and due credit must be awarded to the respective student.
- The jumble of entrance examinations students have to give after their HSC must be cut down to only the necessary (like the SAT or ACT). Every college must not have its own entrance exam and admissions should be through a unified process. This will ensure the sanity of students as well as their parents while applying for various institutes.
- Reservation must be reserved only to the financially low and backward classes like villagers.
Honestly speaking, if the above points are considered and duly addressed, I don’t see why the Indian Education System can’t become one of the best. I’ll admit, the changes brought about recently by the Board have heightened the standard quite a bit and brought education up to a higher level, so a little order in the chaos is all that’s wanting. I mean after all, I didn’t turn out half as bad as I could have, did I?