When we were kids we were taken to a school that parents thought was good enough and dad paid the fees and we were dispatched to a class where we whiled away the years scratching hearts into the desks and trying to tie Carol Lynley's plaits to the chair. Pre-assembly moments were spent feverishly cogging algebra answers from the class whiz on threat of ruining him in gym and things were fun.
It was a good education and the monthly report card which parents had to sign was strategically produced on Monday morning about 11 milliseconds before the school bus arrived and the marks (or lack of them) were not open to great debate.
Occasionally, one of us failed a test paper and was given a letter for our parents which never reached its destination. And we didn't do too badly in life. Some of us even did well.
Compare that stress-free academic journey with the madness which prevails today. Mass hysteria combined with mass idiocy in which children are stunned into becoming non-individual, cookie cutter assembly line products, that's what masquerades as education.
Perhaps India has the worst multiple system of education in the world and yet, ironically, the best. We cram knowledge like down into pillows, much of it redundant and we overload circuits and have allowed the foolishness to spiral into a death sentence. Okay so genius does rise to the fore but when the numbers are in the millions, whatever system you use, someone will succeed. But does it contribute to the greater good, that is the point no one wants to discuss.
Since parents in their competitiveness have created a fear psychosis and linked the child's success to their self esteem and reputation in the community, the poor kid suffers from severe tension. Failure is unacceptable and suicide has become "understandable." It has become a way out at the end of these annual public exams. What sort of dunderhead parents would scare a child into killing himself.
There is so much shame attached to this examination syndrome and, what is worse than failure, is to do well but not well enough. We used to get 60 per cent marks rarely and when we did we celebrated. Fifties were the general speed. I once recall getting 62 per cent in English essay and it was read out in class as an example of good writing by Brother Breen, English teacher of St. Joseph's College and I went home and Mum and Dad called the neighbours in and I read out the essay again while everyone said well done, budding Shakespeare. Well, even budding Shakespeare wouldn't have got 98 per cent like kids do now. In the arts. Tell me another.
Out there are children getting 83 per cent marks total and they are doomed into some never land of education, destroyed by their high mark which won't get them into the college of their choice. I am watching a TV debate as I write this and there is this school principal moaning the result of one of her best students who only got 78 per cent aggregate and this has shattered the principal and the school staff who thought she was a 90s' person.
Add to all this absurdity the fear that parents have of not getting a child into a school and then having this brilliant kid falling short of some ghoulish exercise engaged in by colleges called the cut off point.
The cut off point is sharper with the more prestigious colleges. So you find everyone getting in has a 94 per cent mark and this supposedly maintains the institution's exclusivity.
So what if there is blood on your hands and you warp millions of young minds and discard talent for the ability to memorise and regurgitate, that's part of the Big Plan. So far as they are paying the fees and the parents can score over their neighbours and friends, it is small price to pay. After all, education is a business and like the kitchen, if you find it too hot, get out of it.
Article by Bikram Vohra
Courtesy: Gulf Today