I remember a recent conversation I had with a family friend regarding my Class 12 Board examinations. My immediate and first reaction conveyed a sense of relief. I did not utter a word about how I had actually performed – which did not seem to matter at all.
And that makes one wonder, whether something is really wrong with our education system that makes a student want to just shrug off the topic of education in aversion, rather than discuss it with the enthusiasm, which a privilege like education deserves.
Sadly, this seems to be the reaction of almost every student who has had to tackle the Board examinations conducted by the CBSE. In my case, this is despite some of the best teachers that I had the privilege of learning from.
Yesterday, the results came out and I scored 96.5 per cent (best of four subjects). While I was very thrilled and relieved, I wonder if this is really reflective of my true abilities. Does the present system best represent holistic education?
Well, for starters it pushes each student to score rather than to learn. And these two words, as the thesaurus suggests, are not synonyms of each other. The system very obviously emphasises on fact-based learning and scoring rather than developing analytical abilities and a deeper understanding.
The system encourages rote learning. That limits the opportunity for students to employ the skills that they may have acquired. Instead, as a compulsion created by the system, students are forced to restrict their answers to mere reproductions of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbook. I spent endless hours mugging up my textbooks, to score well, especially in the last few months before the Board examinations.
It was a shock when I first came to learn that even languages like English required memorising key phrases and answers. As a result, individual understanding of text, which in reality better reflects personal capabilities, became a casualty. The subject was robbed of its interpretative latitude, which should otherwise allow each student to deduce poems, passages and lessons in the way they understand it.
The system of rote learning is not only illogical because it destroys the essence of education, which is to learn, but also because it expects every student, regardless of their individual abilities, to memorise pages and pages of their textbooks. And the failure to do so is bound to reflect in poor marks.
While an education system can’t be suited to the needs and abilities of every student, it can at least adopt a more reasonable method of teaching and testing.
It is not just the method of studying where we have gone wrong. But it is also the method of correcting these rote learnt answers, which involves the usage of standardised answer keys. This, in turn, has led to a skyrocketing of percentages earned by students.
Such exaggerated marks not only decrease their value but also put unnecessary pressure on students and affect their self-esteem. Students, in a city like Delhi, despite performing exceptionally well do not get admission in some of the better known colleges of the city.
It is only when we remedy these problems that education in India can become a more enriching experience rather than a chore. Don’t believe me? Believe Albert Einstein, who said, "Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think."