It has been two years since I moved out of college and while I miss the good old school and college days, I also breathe a sigh of relief that I am not studying right now. I pity the kids who are, because the times are really tough.
Wonder why I am being so pessimistic? This morning, as I scrolled down my Twitter feed while sipping on some lemon tea, I almost spat out some of it when I came across this news report which stated that two-year-olds in Mumbai are taking coaching to clear nursery admissions. Wait, what?
The first thought in my head —
What the fuck? Are you kidding me?!
The second thought, a more processed one even, in my head —
Why am I surprised? Wasn’t this going to happen at some point in the future? This is just confirming the fact that I have indeed stepped into the future.
I can't fathom going for coaching for school admissions.
Back then, in school admissions or entrances, we were asked about our likes, interests and hobbies. Today the kids are grilled. And I can not fathom a two-year-old going through the rigours of coaching to get into nursery schools. Isn't primary education, the right of every child in this country? Then who are we to screen them and carry forth a selection process?
Yes, as we grew older, there was genuine pressure to perform well, get good grades but it wasn't this bad.
Back in the days, when I was in school, it wasn’t easy to attain a very high percentage in CBSE. Moreover, the cut-offs were not as high as they have got now. Students are losing onto and not making into big colleges because of 0.001%. In what world is this fair? How can the competition not become even more fierce if that 0.001% will be the deciding factor of someone’s future?
This pressure-cooker environment only leads to high stress levels.
The number of student suicides in India is on the rise. And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know why. When they can't handle the pressure, they succumb to it, and take the worst possible decision for themselves. Is there really no way out? There is, there always is. I remember once I had failed an exam and yes, I was heartbroken. But I remember my parents and my teacher come up to me, and instead of rebuking me, asked me to make a change. They told me that I should have studied more but that it was okay and repairable. All our mistakes are repairable. We better teach our kids that.
We turned out fine, to be honest.
While all of us scrambled hard to get good grades, get to good colleges, get a degree, find a decent job..in that rut, as you grow older, you realise that your grades can only take you so far. But your hard work and your strength of character is all that matter, ultimately. Life is not a race and you are not really competing with anyone but yourself.
The question really comes down to: Are we people or merely the number or the grade on a piece of paper? Who will answer these questions for us?
I came across this thoughtful comment on a Reddit thread, which I think is quite relevant.
By doing that, we will be targeting a symptom, not a disease. People send their kids to coaching centers because it's useful for their future career. In India, generally your degree, exams and institution matter a lot more than it should. To get into a good college, you need to get into a good school. Have you seen the cut-offs? It is near impossible to get into a good institution without training of that sort. I am not in favor of that. I think we are destroying the youth in this process. But I think we need to address the problem differently. In the West, one is free to open up a coaching center and parents are free to send their kids there. But it's a waste of money, time and childhood, since the marketplace values merit. We need a marketplace in India that values skills.
I am happy I am out of that rut but the one thing that I have learnt out of this whole experience is that you and only you are responsible for educating yourself at the end of the day. Tuitions or coaching classes may help one get good grades and clear their nursery class exams, but I am afraid it might not help you clear the exam called life.