Which pearl is hidden is which oyster??

August, 2020

Any guess what this %s could indicate ? Corona deaths ? Corona recoveries ? Economy health ? We have had enough of these parameters ad nauseam. This time I turn my attention and yours to marks percentage scored by children. Amidst the gloom of COVID19 and several other catastrophes, many households in India have been celebrating the success of their children in the 10th and 12th standard board exams. Why not when almost every child seems to be scoring upwards of 90% ? My question is why not even if they score below the coveted 90 ?

This is exactly what one of my dear friends (nay, soul-sister) Alka (name changed) did when her only son scored 81% in the 10th standard boards. After spending sleepless nights waiting for the ‘seemingly life-changing marks’ she broke down with tears of joy. Surprised that 81% is reason to celebrate ? Read on, you will know why. She shared a picture of a cake that she baked lovingly for her son with 81 iced on it with a sheepish comment “Sharada, people must be thinking I am crazy and laughing out loud ..but you can understand the happiness behind this silliness??so sharing it with you”. It was neither silly nor crazy. It was the expression of relief and happiness of a mother who underwent 2 years of agony along with her son thanks to the unforgivable attitude of his school teachers and management. Alka’s son Alaap started deteriorating in his school performance since 9th standard. He started scoring low marks in maths, became the butt of jokes of his classmates, chiding remarks of his teachers and eventually started withdrawing himself from his friends and all forms of socialising. So much so that he stopped talking to his parents as well. Friction between Alka and her husband rose. All her attempts to bring him out of the shell failed. What caused this sudden change in his performance is still not clear but what is clear is that school managements have started treating students as commodities with a price tag, sorry ‘marks tag’. Anyone with a low marks is relegated to the backend, derided and discouraged. Worse still, in this case, the school refused to allow him to even sit for the 9th class exams unless Alaap improved his Math scores. Instead of counselling him and helping him to improve his performance, teachers and management started drilling negative thoughts into his head and questioned his ability to learn math. The child loved math as a subject and didn’t want to opt out of it at any cost, but thanks to the constant bombarding of “No, you cant do it”, he lost all confidence and started going from bad to worse. I was shocked when Alka told me that even as late as in Jan, 20 when he had improved to a large extent (but was still short of the ambitious 90% target of the school) the school was creating trouble to issue his hall-ticket. All this because they felt one single student’s low marks could pull down the overall average of the school scores ! They cannot then claim a 99% or 100% achievement in their marketing collaterals.

For last 2 years I have been with Alka on this journey and have seen her go from pillar to post – exploring alternative schools, specialised tuitions, counselling for son and herself, prayers, visits to temples, secret confessions to friends like me since she couldn’t express her anxiety before her son. All this because some teacher somewhere, some Principal somewhere thought her son is not fit to take the exams. There was communication break-down within the family. Her health failed. Desperation levels hit rock bottom when I heard the boy sometimes showed suicidal tendencies and at yet other times extreme rage at the teachers for belittling him.

Whatever may be the reason for Alaap’s downhill performance, how can a school in a city like Bangalore threaten not to issue hall-ticket ? What right do we as adults have to dampen the spirits of a young 15 year old and mess around with his life ? Long story short. Alaap did pass his math exam with 65% and an overall 81% that has got him an entry to his college of choice. I wish my friend takes up the matter with the school management and highlights the wrongdoing so that other parents and children do not suffer. I am sure you will agree how special this 81% is to a mother who has undergone a school-inflicted trauma for 2 years.

There are many such stories thanks to our illogical education system and the greed of money-making private educational institutions. Hopefully things will get better with the newly announced New Education Policy, 2020. Learning will truly become a joy. School will remain a place with happy memories and life-long relationships. I would like to leave you all with a positive message that these marks hardly matter in the long run. I have heard it before. Experienced it myself. Fully convinced when I recently heard Food Anthropologist, Successful Entrepreneur & Celebrity Chef Sabsyachi Gorai on a webinar being moderated by my son. He said as a dyslexic he failed in Math, English, History, Geography, French and almost in every other subject but he never allowed what others thought about him to get into him. He spoke at ease about profit & loss, funding and many other number-related topics as he addressed young Hotel Management students about opportunities as a Food Entrepreneur. His school teachers may be squirming in their seats and wringing their hands for writing him off back then. No doubt he must be his school role model now. We don’t know which pearl is hidden in which oyster, which diamond is covered in which coal. All that we must do is to uncover and allow our children to bloom to their full potential !!

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