Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
We can see that every year a large number of candidates cannot come out successful in matric, higher secondary and other examinations. Many of them, even though they pass, do not get brilliant marks. At a time when even 70 per cent marks are not good enough for admission into some of the most sought-after institutes, since different institutes have their own stipulated marks for admission, imagination boggles at the thought of the pitiable condition faced by the second and third divisioners.
I have read somewhere that in a major and famed US university, the president-elect of the university was given this parting advice by his predecessor: “Treat your ‘A’ student well, because some day he will come back and be a professor. But treat your ‘B’ and ‘C’ students equally well, because some day they will donate you a million-dollar lab.”
The advice is not funny, because it has a deep and poignant implication. We might also add that some day a ‘B’ or ‘C’ student may join politics and perhaps become a minister, making some handsome allowance to the institute where he once studied but could not fare well.
In our country, we applaud and idolize the candidates who secure brilliant marks and achieve distinguished positions in their respective examinations. In diverse places, felicitation functions are held to honour these achievers, and gifts are showered on them. Then, of course, they get computers etc from the government in recognition of their brilliant performance, as in Assam. I do think these gifts encourage the successful candidates to do better in the future. But the way I think it is that if the second divisioners are eligible for these gifts, then why not the third divisioners as well?
Here gifts, bouquets, citations etc are showered on a section of students who have done well in their respective examinations. But in European countries or in the United States, such felicitations for the brilliant achievers are unheard of. As a result of such extravaganzas in Assam, for instance, some of the brilliant achievers might acquire a bloated ego, which will harm them in the long run.
What about those who do not qualify? They fall short of the highest category. Some of them fall into deep depression at the thought of a possible dark and uncertain future. The pitiable condition and sad plight of these unsuccessful candidates is a matter of grave concern. There are some who pass their graduate and postgraduate examinations with far less than 50 per cent marks. They constitute the majority of our educated young people. Only a very small minority can be placed in the category of brilliant achievers. Then what kind of future the majority can expect? It is soothing to hear that cliché “failures are the pillars of success”, but in the practical field it does not much work. The families accuse such non-achievers for whiling away their time or look down at them with contempt, and the others consider them a failure as well as a liability.
Actually we display an appalling lack of sensibility and imagination in considering these young people who are unable to do well in their respective examinations. We should note that there are many educated young people with a wide range of interests. Some may be interested in art, some may prefer music, some may be interested in photography, some may like to do social work, and so on. The possibilities are enormous. It is unfortunate that parents often impose their will on their children and force them to choose a course which might be totally against the will and interest of the young person. Parents should note that their children are not their extensions, but that they are individuals with their own interests and desires.
Perhaps if they were allowed to pursue their own interests and inclinations, they would have succeeded magnificently in their chosen line; but as it is, they had to tread the path chalked out by the parents, and hence the resulting calamity. These young people may lack the knack for securing brilliant marks in the examination. So what is their future?
The distressing feature is that our education system uses harsh measures to close every door of opportunity to those who do not possess a certain degree of academic achievement. Yet the final selection is made entirely on the basis of the performance in competitive examinations without giving the least importance to the marks obtained in board and university examinations. Then it does not seem reasonable to insist upon a certain percentage of marks in board or university examinations. If we do that, we are depriving our educated young people of an opportunity to prove themselves by not giving them a second chance.
There is another problem. Can we claim that our boards or universities are consistent in their standard of evaluation? Can we say that 95 per cent marks of Class XII in CBSE is comparable to 95 per cent marks in the HS examination conducted by, say, the State Council of Assam?
Even if we assume that board and university examinations are a reliable index of measuring the ability of a person, the question remains: What sort of ability do they measure? Do they measure a person’s intelligence, ability, creativity, imagination, and the capacity of critical thinking? According to Emerson, a person’s ability can never be measured. Psychologists use intelligence tests, introduced by Binet. But they say that only a certain level of intelligence can be measured by these examinations, though they may not be accurate. These tests assess only academic intelligence, and not the general intelligence of the person concerned.
There are many examples of persons who could not fare well in board and university examinations but did very well and distinguished themselves by brilliant performances in their chosen fields. Therefore, fewer marks in board and university examinations do not in any way imply a lack of intelligence and creativity, since these examinations cannot correctly measure the ability of a person.
A person’s intellectual ability is not a static phenomenon and cannot be judged finally, since it is a dynamic process. A man’s intellectual ability grows and develops with the passage of time and through hard work and dedication. Hence getting fewer marks in board or university examinations does not imply lack of ability or intelligence. There are instances galore to prove that a person may earn distinction in some job, though academically he could not fare well in some examination.
Possibly the real reason for stipulating minimum marks for taking some entrance examinations is to eliminate the majority of the candidates and to make the conduct of the examination process easier. But it is not fair to destroy the future of a large number of young people for selfish motives, since it deprives a large number of our educated youth of job opportunities. If a young person with only 40 per cent marks in board or university examination can succeed in the entrance test for admission, then he should certainly be applauded.
There is no adulation of toppers in Western countries, nor is there any evidence of indifference or insensibility towards those with average results. Due to the callous attitude witnessed in this country towards those with poor results, the life, career and happiness of lakhs of students are put in jeopardy. These unfortunate young people need to be treated sympathetically. We all deserve a second chance, even a third chance. If a student gets a few chances, he may go a long way in the path of success.
(The writer is a former Head of the Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)