By Bhamy V. Shenoy
Since it is of utmost importance to get high marks in PU examinations, most serious students skip all their extra curricular activities. Like Arjuna, while trying to shoot the eye of the bird, was concentrating only on the eye, the current PU students concentrate only on securing high marks. Our students have no time for critical thinking, reading library books, finding out about the latest local, national and international development, getting involved in social work. These are the components of “true education” and not just passing examinations…
Any graduate in India before he or she completes studies would have taken hundreds of examinations. Of all the examinations, X and XII are the most important to get into the “reputed” Colleges. Even after getting into these so-called “leading” private Colleges, students are forced to take tuition paying huge fees.
Of these, XII or generally known as II PU examination is of critical importance to get into highly ranked professional or degree Colleges. Depending upon which College one gets into, it will have a far-reaching impact on one’s chances of securing good jobs or getting admissions into foreign Universities. Since what one will be able to do for the rest of his/her life, students and parents are concerned about these examinations. Should this be the case?
Since it is of utmost importance to get high marks in PU examinations, most serious students skip all their extra curricular activities. Like Arjuna, while trying to shoot the eye of the bird was concentrating only on the eye of the bird, current PU students concentrate only on securing high marks. Our students have no time for critical thinking, reading library books, finding out about the latest local, national and international development, getting involved in social work. These are the components of “true education” and not just passing examinations.
In the past only students who are unable to grasp the subjects or slow learners took tuition. Now it is the bright students who take tuition. They are in “coaching schools” from early in the morning before school starts and then later in the evening after school is over. In short they do not have time for anything else. They spend either in school or in tuition classes from six in the morning till 10 in the night. Under these circumstances can any one enjoy studies?
For those who have been preparing to get into IITs, life is even tougher. They have to compete for about 14,000 seats (few years back it was just around 5,000). Despite having two stages, about 2.5 lakh students take IIT entrance tests. Few years back what students got in XII did not matter to get into IITs and many students did not take them seriously. Since IIT admission is now based on the results of XII also, they have to take PU examinations seriously.
In China also admission to higher education and often to globally reputed Universities is dependent on the results of a National College Entrance Examination, commonly known as Gaokao. It is taken by 10 million Chinese youths. Gaokao creates an extremely stressful condition for students in China like the PU examinations in India. Gaokao has come under attack since it discourages critical thinking just like our rote based PU examination system. Like in India, testing time of Gaokao is the suicide season in China. One paper assigns 93% of all suicides of high school students to Gaokao.
In the US while entrance tests like Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) are taken into consideration for getting admission into Colleges, students are not under similar stress. It is possible to take SAT any number of times and the highest score secured by the students are taken into consideration. Students can appear for Gaokao and PU only once — really stressful.
In the US admission to Colleges is based on several factors. SAT is just one. Another factor is the overall performance of the student during the last four years of high school studies usually referred to as the Grade Point Average (GPA). There are other factors too. They are: leadership quality shown by the student by taking up any projects in the school or outside the school, contribution to the society by taking up any socially relevant projects, participation in sports, musical skills, artistic talents, etc.
In other words it is not just examination results and definitely not one test result which decides the destiny of a student. This makes the life of the students far more enjoyable compared to the stressful life of our PU students who have to worry all about getting top marks in the examinations.
We need to think of the hardships our rural or even urban students who did not have the luxury of attending private English medium schools. They have to switch over to English medium in PU College and master English to learn all subjects in English. I was one such student in 1959. I was under so much stress that I almost decided not to appear for the examination.
Having discussed why PU students spend enormous amount of time preparing to get admission into good schools, let me discuss why one can pursue other professions where one can excel without going through a stressful and strenuous student life. There are other professions like Accountancy, Sociology, Social Work ( NGO work is remunerative and fulfilling), Teaching, Pharmacy, Journalism, Management, Economics, Military, Fine Arts, Nursing, Hospitality, Agriculture, etc. All these can be as fulfilling and remunerative (depending upon one’s ability) as Engineering or Medicine or Law.
If a student is not interested in Engineering or Medicine, parents pushing their children to take those courses are doing a great harm to them. There are many painful stories of students who were forced to take courses they did not like. Parents should never assume that they know best and force their children to take courses they are not interested in. Anyone who has seen the famous movie, “Three Idiots” will appreciate this suggestion. Our society needs to take the difficult task of educating/counselling the parents when their children are in High Schools.
In conclusion, it is high time we as a society take the challenge of attending PU Colleges enjoyable and not painful or stressful as it is today.
As I have often written, we should start dismantling the whole edifice of these public examinations (SSLC and PU) which we have inherited from the British and replace them with Scholastic Aptitude Tests.