It is that time of the year. Results of the board exams of children who have given their 10th and 12th exams in the different boards are coming in. Following the announcement of the results is a surfeit of posts on social media that “Marks don’t matter” largely from those who are doing well in life now without top scores to boast of, when they were in school. And there are many who tend to agree with that premise.
Yes, a student’s future and success in life in the end don’t really depend on his or her scores in the school. It depends on a combination of factors, academic brilliance being just one. At the end of the day, your quality of work on the job counts if you are to be counted, which eventually paves the way for an individual’s growth. There, the school or college mark sheet or the CGPA is not going to help. Even as an entrepreneur, one’s ability to handle the day-today challenges and still come up with creative solutions matters more for success than the grades one got in Physics or Econometrics in school or college.
Having said that, is that so straight forward as it sounds? Well, not really. Access to better opportunities come through better educational institutions. The gateway to get into those revered institutions is the mark sheet. In a country where the aspirants are way too more compared to the seats available in good schools, marks come as the saviour for getting an entry. Once you are into a top rung college, the competitive environment plays a huge role in shaping one’s world view, outlook and aspirations. The collective quality of an institution in turn then helps to attract companies seeking top notch talent.
There is also another gateway other than marks to get into some of the Ivy schools which is, through the bank accounts of parents. Those who are with privileged backgrounds and have enough money in the bank can of course also get admissions into some of the top schools even with average marks. In this discussion, I am not considering such class of people. I am referring to the average middle class and below type of people, while making the case for importance of marks.
While arguing for “Marks don’t matter”, the most popular example often touted is of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. But Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard without completing his course to start Microsoft with some of his friends. So calling Gates a “school dropout’ is a misnomer. And where does Microsoft corporations recruit its people? From some of the really top institutions of course all over the world. And who do they recruit? Toppers of course. I have not seen Microsoft having a quota for bottom of the pile students or institutions.
There could be few others in India and outside who might not have been toppers or even passed their grades but have become extremely successful in life. There could be examples from the field of sports, literature and arts. But these are a different variety of people who had those respective skills and accordingly chose those areas to excel. Again, there could be eminent sportsmen who didn’t focus on studies but excelled in their sport of choosing. These are all exceptions and exceptions cannot be the rule. We are talking of the majority who don’t have “other” special skills to pursue them as passion. A Sachin Tendulkar or a Kamal Haasan who didn’t complete even their schooling but still who came out toppers in their chosen field, cannot be given as examples for talking down the importance of formal education.
There are often examples of successful entrepreneurs and businessmen which are given to drive home the point that even without academic brilliance (read as scores), one can reach a level of success. These are again exceptions and for every such successful person there are thousand other instances of those who have lost their way since they did not do well in their studies.
If marks really don’t matter, why are college admissions based on marks? Why are screening candidates for jobs in campuses happen based on marks? As long as supply exceeds demand by a long distance as the case it is in India, marks will continue to play the role of the numero uno filter. As I mentioned earlier, good marks ensure access to good institutions and thereby the probability of one’s success becomes higher. Probably once you are in a post graduate level, the actual scores or ranks do not matter. But till that level, your grades continue to be an active filter that separates those who make it and who don’t.
As a parent of a school going child, I am equally frustrated by the rat race over marks that determine the career path of a student. The cut offs in some of the top colleges in India can drive you towards insanity. Couple of years ago, the cut off for the B.A programme in Lady Shriram College, Delhi was 98.75%. Recently, admission for a coaching class in Mumbai starting April 2021 got closed last week in flat 30 minutes as parents rushed to ensure their wards got admission in that coaching class. So, apart from colleges now, even for admission to coaching classes, there is a rat race. And why? Just to ensure children get higher and higher marks that will enable them to secure admissions into some of the better colleges we have.
I agree that it is not fair on the part of the world to put pressure on children that marks are the ultimate. But equally, “Marks don’t matter” is a fallacy propounded by those who choose to ignore the ground reality in India. For the middle class and the aspiring class, the chasm between their dreams and reality can be bridged only if their children study and study well. So for this group, marks do matter. It may not be end of the world if one doesn’t score enough marks. Just that the struggle gets more intense and the probability of success gets lower.
#Marksdon’tmatter may be cool as a trending hashtag once a year. For rest of the year, M A R K S D O M A T T E R.
Original Image courtesy: The Quint