For this time of the year, the temperature in the last few days in Mumbai has been few degrees higher than normal. One tends to attribute the same to the usual suspect called “Global Warming”. But I suspect that the higher temperature this time overall is due to the “Exam fever” every house hold is seemingly suffering from – these days! In India this is the season for the SSC (10th) exam and the “life threatening” HSC (12th) exams now and my best wishes at the outset to all the students who are going through the rigmarole. Absenteeism in companies is at a high as parents take leave in turns to be with their kids and provide moral support as they prepare for the ‘board’ exams. Film makers who aspire to be in the 100 Crore club avoid release of their movies in this tense period. In these highly competitive times, board exam times are becoming “testing” times for the parents, grandparents and the ilk.
I’m not sure if this aura around ‘Board’ exam is only in India or it is a universal phenomenon. India made a 1st step towards easing the burden on students when Kapil Sibal, the then minister for HRD, made the board exam for 10th standard an optional affair from 2011. I’m not well-informed on how this optional thing works or doesn’t work. However the tyranny of the board exam continues for 12th Std to this day.
I have vivid memories of my tryst with board exams which started with the 10th way back in 1983. In our predominantly Hindu – Brahmin school in Trichy (by name E.R.Higher Secondary School), the hall tickets were handed over after a puja at the temple. On the appointed day, all the students and respective teachers of the 10th class were taken to the temple for the Puja. My neighbour and friend who used to be in a Catholic school said that in their school, the hall tickets were handed over after a prayer at the church. So I concluded that all religions took board exams seriously and board exams by nature were secular! By the time I came to 12th there was no need to take the walk to the temple for collecting the hall ticket. The school by then made strides and collected enough funds to build a small temple within the school premises itself. To take care of the Saivite and Vaishnavite sensibilities or rather their academic aspirations, the temple was built with 2 presiding deities – Ganesh and Hanuman.
In a neighbourhood Ganesh Temple the priest – an old pious man would give us specially worshipped ‘vibhudhi’ individually to each of us to be applied just before we open the question paper. During exam time, he reminded us kids not to forget to collect the same before the exam begins and we did so religiously. As quaint as it may seem, the lines to collect this ‘vibhudhi’ from him were quite long during board exam times with even non regulars to the temple queuing up. That the old man was carrying out this practice without expecting any monetary consideration is in stark contrast to the materialistic world of today.
As soon as the 11th exams were over, the preparation for 12th started. The idea was to start early and complete the portions by Dec. In preparation for the 12th board exam in April, the classes get over by Dec and the next 3 months one is at home to prepare for the final kill. I must admit here that though the board exam fever was running high, we were quite relaxed and taking it easy. So much so that we didn’t resist watching the entire “Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket” which took place in March 1985 in Australia. Following the World Cup win in 1983, India continued its winning stretch in One Dayers beating Pakistan in the finals in this tournament. Watching almost all the matches live on TV with mates that too at a friend’s place and rooting for India bring back unforgettable memories. Ravi Shastri became a (to borrow today’s vocab) “hash tag” overnight after being crowned as “Champion of Champions” in that tournament and ‘Audi’ got into the lexicon of the Indian youth. Looking back I realize that this tournament provided for a much needed break in between our continuous study routine and acted as a stress buster.
While one starts getting into the trappings of the board exams – the refrain all around is “prepare well for this one last time, get good marks and you are set for life”!!! But the truth is far from it. The competitive rat race of life continues post the board exams as well. Only that you start getting used to it!!! The jury is still out on whether academic excellence matters at the end of the day and is the passport to success. As somebody said, academic excellence may well provide you the “Passport” but you still need the “Visa”!!!
It is nobody’s case that there is no need for an assessment in the form of an exam. It’s just that a complete focus on one final exam puts so much pressure and one bad day in office or rather the exam hall can put paid to an aspirant’s career hopes in today’s system. A movement to a continuous and regular assessment is the way forward. Can our pragmatic and hardworking minister Shashi Tharoor ring in a change ???
On a Sunday as I am writing this post, my six year old daughter is quite engrossed in the movie “3 Idiots” for the “N+1”th time. As the main protagonist Aamir Khan launches his diatribe on the present education system which gives so much weightage to marks and marks alone, I’m not sure if she realizes what’s in store for her. I hope by the time she is in her 10th, the so called ‘board’ exams have lived their lives and have been consigned to history. The selfish thought being we as parents will be freed of the ‘board’ Exam fever!!!
Let me close this piece now as I have to rush my daughter to the dance class for well ………. an exam 🙂 🙂 🙂
Postscript: If people who are in Twitter are “Tweeples”, people who suffer from Exams are “Examples” 😦 😦 😦
- Two years on, CBSE exam system continues to test parents, students (thehindu.com)
- Students, teachers brace for board exams (thehindu.com)
- Stay calm, be happy (thehindu.com)