India is a country obsessed with marks. From a young age, we are made to believe that marks should be the ultimate and only goal of a student’s life. When this vulgar chase for marks ends we enter college only to realize that marks are not enough.
Back in 10th grade, for a month or two, every Friday, we had an hour-long workshop organized by The Hindu publication in my school. In one of the workshops, the facilitator handed us a newspaper clipping of a report which said that a laboratory in Bihar has produced an interesting hybrid of mangoes. It was a very scientific 50-75 words report and we were asked to experiment with it. I transformed that technical report into a story from the mango’s point of view. The facilitator loved my piece, took pictures of it, and made the rest of the students clap for me.
Fast forward to 2020, I assume the facilitator has long forgotten about me or my essay. However, for a person whose only focus was to get the best marks in every subject, that was a breath of fresh air. That was the first time I realized that I could do something else, something that was not just about studying or cramming extensively. My dear William Shakespeare once wrote, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them“. I believe, there’s another kind as well, the one that could be great but remains oblivious of it.
Our Indian Education System is deeply flawed. It focuses too much on the perfect marks and solid competition rather than the students’ talents and skills. We have seen multiple movies on this issue, have read various articles on it but we still fail to do anything about the problem. Yes, there are schools that give equal attention to co-curricular activities however, not everybody can pay for those schools. Hence, a system has formed that benefits one particular section of society by nurturing their creative sensibilities. On the other hand, there is another group that has little to no access to these opportunities.
Inequality of opportunity occurs when people living in the same society do not have access to the same opportunities. It prevents people from making the best use of their skills. Now, can this concept apply to our schools? I say, why not? I went to a school where the drawing and the sports period only functioned as a break. We had sports competitions, elections, annual day celebrations where some students would give speeches, some would dance and some would sing. However, these programs were only contained to a day. Students would start practicing a week before the program. Sometimes, they had to leave a class or two for practice at the request of which, the teachers would reprimand them and tell them that they are wasting their time. For most of the teachers, extracurricular did not mean a thing. It was just EXTRA for them. We had clubs only for the sake of it. I remember being thrilled when the idea of forming clubs was introduced in my school. The excitement soon turned to disappointment when I realized that those clubs were nothing but an excuse for classroom fun.
It was only after the workshop incident where the facilitator liked my piece that I realized that I could be creative, that I had the potential. I could write. From there on, I started writing and I was happy that I found a retreat for myself. I was happy to include writing in my long hours of studying. It has been six years since that incident and three years since I graduated from school. I have finally accepted that it is not necessary for me to get better marks than everybody else. Still, every time before my exams, I get extremely anxious and study day and night. You see, no matter how much you fight it, this education system, honed and strengthened over the years, has been drilled inside the students. I spent twelve years in an environment where scoring above ninety was awarded more than anything else. Now, even though I disapprove of this system, I still get deeply anxious because of it.
When I joined college in 2017, my class was full of an insane amount of talented individuals. This was a completely different environment than what I had in school. Some of the students could write really well, some could sing and some could act. Once somebody asked me what my talent was and I replied, “I can study for hours“. In that one classroom, I met writers who could move you with their words. In front of them, I forgot that I could write. I looked up to them, I wanted to be them. I found myself compensating for 12 years of lost opportunities. I feel that no matter what I do and where I go in the future, I will always carry my hardbound insecurity of not-being-good-enough, stapled inside me.
I am sharing this because I know there are a lot of students out there who were absolute stars in their school only to realize just how much they have missed out on once they stepped out of their cocoon. Why don’t we make it a point to celebrate art, creativity and talent every year just like we celebrate our CBSE toppers? Why don’t we encourage our students to experiment outside of academics? It is imperative that we come up with a system that focuses on the extra-curricular as much as the normal curriculum of school. A child has unlimited potential and the way our schools are functioning, these potentials are being suppressed so much so that he/she ends up wishing to be more than just “studious”.
Yes, some are born great but some can BECOME great with the right amount of support and exposure. We need to provide our students with a system that allows them to thrive outside of academics and nurtures their inherent skills. The world outside of our four walls of school appreciates talent as much as academics and we need to prepare our students for that world.
Ramsha Khan is a student pursuing Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
edited by: Maryam Ahmed
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.