April 16, 2009
Whoever drew this brilliant cartoon (do click on it) has my full sympathy ... and absolute understanding. Actually I'm not too sure it is a cartoon. It looks more like a page from my son's notebook. Or that of any of the thousands of 16-year olds in India.
I've been stewing all of this past year, not because of anything I have to do, but because my son was preparing for his Board exams this year. Now, if you're not from India, chances are that you won't know the sheer hell of this phase!
Last June, I checked out the papers and magazines to research what percentage was likely to guarantee an easy admission into the best colleges. Then I had to double-back and check which were considered the good colleges. It didn't help that he had no clue what he wanted to do with his life except play football and cricket ! Okay, so he's good at those, but a career built on them ... ?
After collecting paper cuttings, scraping every website on the subject, and compiling reams of statistics on colleges, courses and percentages, I realised that some of the good colleges were quoting a cut-off mark of 90% for Arts !
That meant if you get 89% (which is fantastic in my personal opinion) you don't need to even bother putting in an application?
And that was for the Arts stream which has always been considered the soft one... the one you could apply for if you're not particularly strong in academics. What would my son with his dreams of Science do?
Then started the marathon! Every day of the week had an allotted special tutorial class, sometimes in school, sometimes elsewhere.
He struggled, I cringed with guilt. This was not what I wanted for my child. I wanted him to enjoy his childhood.
But then I also want him to enjoy his adulthood too. I don't want him to feel held back at any point because a lack of a few measly marks prevent him from doing what he wants to do. What a cruel world we have built for our children!
Then it came to the portions allotted. If I could get my hands on the brainiac who sets the syllabus, I'm going to make them make a list of the times when a person is ever likely to use half the stuff they make the children learn.
How many times have you used logarithms after you left school? Or trignometry, for that matter ?
How many times have you used a topographical map of a place to find out what the main occupation of that place is likely to be?
I'll stand up and clap if they'll teach our children to survive the mean streets of Mumbai. Or teach them to really use their imagination and creative skills constructively.
But if they're trying to stuff the kids with a zillion never-to-be-used facts just to plump up the syllabus, I feel like throwing rotten tomatoes.
Now the major part of this Herculean labour is over; the books were learnt and the exams were written. Who knows what lies ahead?
But one thing I'm very sure of : if there was a task that could've made Hercules stumble, surely it would have been the attempt at modern education.