Marks are not everything

It was a joyous day for Asha when she received a doctorate for her study on mythology and classical dance. At a celebration dinner held that night, all her close family, friends and her many disciples gathered to shower her with flowers, praise and gifts. It was a moment of triumph for her, but her thoughts flew back in time, briefly, to dwell on her school days, when she got her Class XII mark sheet. She had been devastated — her total marks were dipping a bit, just low enough to ensure that it would be very difficult to get the B.Com. seat in a popular college that she had set her heart upon. At that moment, it had seemed like the end of the road for Asha who could only imagine a career in commerce and business. It would have been a terrible time for her, if only her teacher Alison had not noticed her crying in a corner and started talking to her.

New horizons

As she talked to Alison, Asha’s fears subsided. From being convinced that she was good for nothing, she came to see that she had many talents and capabilities, and even if she did not get a B.Com. seat, there would be a million possibilities available to her, if only she would open her mind’s eye and see them. As she received yet another bouquet of flowers, Asha’s mind jerked back to the present, but not before dwelling on the numerous bharatanatyam shows she had done, her huge network of rasikas, her dance school which had about 150 students and her latest achievement, a doctorate. In every sense, she had found success all because of her teacher’s guidance to seek new horizons, and because she had seen beyond the boundaries imposed by scoring low marks in one subject.

Asha’s story is far from unique. There would be a million examples of people who had done badly in their school exams and yet shone like stars in later life. Famous examples abound, from Srinivasa Ramanujan to Steve Jobs.

Know yourself

“Long ago, exams were devised to give the teacher a measure of how effective the teaching has been, but now it has evolved to a stage when everyone — students, parents, teachers and the managements — just use it to judge the capability of the student,” says Dr. T. S. Natarajan, professor in IIT Madras. While the obsession with marks is to be condemned, teachers and parents should rather understand what the student is good at and help him or her develop in that direction instead of pushing them towards their weak areas. Thus it is important to “know yourself” — not in the sense of knowing how much you are capable of scoring in an exam, but in knowing your own strengths and weaknesses.

Consulting elders

One of the things that hurts most about getting low marks in a subject is that it could upset the plans a student has made about which course to choose. If this happens, rather than trying to face the situation alone, it is good to talk to knowledgeable elders about it. Teachers often have ample information on options open to study further as well as train for jobs. Says one mathematics teacher who does not want to be named, “Nearly 20 per cent of the students from my school have opted for a diploma after Class XII, even though the necessary qualification is only Class X pass. Companies like TVS invite students to undergo a certificate training programme followed by a job in the company. Even some chartered accountant firms come forward to take up intelligent apprentices whom they train in accountancy and encourage to do B.Com. by correspondence.”

So there are options galore for one who has the mindset to look for them. A simple chat with an informed adult can remove the feeling that one is at a dead end.

Not everyone can do everything. For example, a student who does well in mathematics may be poor in chemistry. Another, who has brilliant language, may be lost when it comes to history, which may be someone else’s forte. Fortunately, at present, there are opportunities for doing well and gaining a good career in many fields. You just need to look around and find what suits you the best.

Class XII marks are very important, of course. If a student scores enough to gain admission in the course and college of his or her choice, there is nothing like it. But this almost serendipitous state of affairs is not something one can guarantee.

If this happy coincidence does not occur, instead of being resigned to what one perceives as a failure, one has to look beyond. Students must see that many years later, this will appear minute and insignificant to them, after they have gone about their own achievements.

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 6:57:19 PM |

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