Representative image. Source: Wikimedia Commons Photograph:( Others )
When it comes to preparing for board exams in India, students need to enjoy the entire process of studying for exams rather than emphasising on the end result only. Sadly, these exams are more about getting high marks rather than learning to think on one's own and applying what is learnt. This can only happen if students pick subjects for which they have aptitude and parents do not pressurise them to take up certain subjects like maths or science.
What is needed is a change in the approach to the exams by many teachers and parents who put unnecessary pressure on the child to come first, be among the toppers or score 90 per cent. Instead, students should be encouraged to put in their best effort and not bother about the end result. But the result is in turn linked to very high cut-offs in colleges which puts pressure on the students to rote memorise rather than focus on concept building. High cut offs in turn are linked to the inflated marks caused by the moderation policy of state boards where they give extra marks if students of a particular region have not done well. It is hoped that in the years to come, the CBSE and the state boards will chalk out an agreement whereby the marking system is uniform throughout the country and students of a particular board are not at an advantage or disadvantage.
The flip side of these exams is stress, anxiety, nervousness. These need to be tackled and managed in a healthy way and not be allowed to overpower preparation for the exam. The decision to dispense with the 10th board exam was taken after an increase in suicides by students but the exams have been reinstated now. The CBSE Board has started counselling service for students to deal with their anxiety. Since anxiety typically peaks just a month before the board exams, these counselling services are usually started in February. In my view these services should be started two years before the board year, from 9th standard itself so that students have a channel to vent out their stress and anxiety.
Should board exams be abolished? Not in my view. Between being bored of studies and the boards, I would prefer the latter than having nothing to strive for, no exam as a benchmark, no healthy competition. Board exams are a motivator for students. They can help the board to assess aptitude of students for a particular vocation later on. Discontinuing the exams can lead to the development of an attitude of indifference among students. Healthy competition is good and helps in motivating students to put in their best effort.
There should ideally be an overlap between building concepts and questions included in the board syllabus and in competitive examinations such as medical and engineering exams to prevent unnecessary pressure and burden on students. This will also reduce the scramble to take special coaching for competitive exams. Instead, the syllabus can be reduced by upto 50 per cent if required and the time taken to build concepts and application-based learning.
Emphasis should be on the pursuit of excellence rather than simply memorising and rote learning. This was precisely the reason why Einstein chose to drop out of school at the age of 15. He found it difficult to pursue the subjects in which he was interested in the rigid environment of school. He would have thoroughly agreed with Mark Twain, who himself was not educated beyond elementary school and who famously remarked, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education".
Boards are not sole criteria of measuring talent or success. Everyone cannot be a topper and it is not necessary those who are toppers will do well in life later on. Happiness cannot be tied to one exam. A change in attitude is required among those teachers and parents who pressurise students to become toppers. There are many cases of students committing suicide or becoming depressed if the result is not favourable. Educators should instead motivate disheartened students with success stories of those people who didn't necessarily score high marks in school but did well in life later on.
As the famous song from "3 Idiots", the coming of age drama and satire on the pressures of the Indian education system, goes, in the end students should be told that "All is well."
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)