#MommyTalks | Results & Marks

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The season of the 10th and 12th board results is upon us. It is a season of apprehension, expectations, hope and sometimes despair. A little over a decade ago, I was in the same boat. But things have changed from then to now and changed a lot, I must say. I’m not sure if it’s for the better though.


Results are now not limited to something that is between the student, her family and teachers. It has become a tool for show-off and ridicule. It has become the starting point of many things vicious. I truly don’t recall it being so in my time. There was competition, of course, fierce too but the nastiness that accompanies it today, I don’t think it was present then.


Results these days are a tool of mockery and show off, not just about the student’s future.


Today the need to flaunt a child’s performance is at such a point that childhood suffers. The curriculum, anxious parents and teachers are robbing that one precious and sacred aspect of our life, a carefree childhood. Children of 5 are having to give computer exams. Students do not have any time to just be themselves without having to keep a schedule. There are before school activities, school activities and then after school activities. Where is the time to live then? They are getting a glimpse into the grown-up life too early in life and it’s not fair at all. And then there is the burden to score only above 90 because anything below just seems unacceptable to all, educational institutions, teachers, parents and even students.


There is something wrong with our approach to education and also the way education is imparted. Marks have become the sole focus. Believe me, that’s no measure or guarantee of success. I scored more than my husband during Engineering but today he is more successful than me. See my point?


These blinkers we have put on to concentrate on marks have even made scoring as high as 99% in languages a reality which honestly I’m unable to fathom. Any literature student will tell you how ridiculous it sounds. Unless of course, it’s a multiple choice question paper which has become the pattern these days then maybe yes. Even that is absurd if you ask me. But when you write essays, summaries or interpretation of adages, which were a part of the curriculum in my time, how can you score so high? It makes no sense. I remember scoring in the 90s in Mathematics & Science but when it came to languages it was pretty unusual to even get above 70 for that’s how the scoring was done. And it made sense too.


Then there is the ludicrous saga of cut-offs these days. Again, ridiculously high. As a result, we end up putting more pressure on the children. In doing so we inadvertently teach them that marks are everything. Surely that cannot be good? And it just pushes other dominos down. Getting admission in a good college becomes impossible pushing us towards colleges which charge humongous amounts for the same. The byproduct of all these is an education industry which is driven by money and not by the concern of educating the next generation.


The rot is not only in educational institutions but has seeped into our mindset as well. I recently overheard a conversation between two mothers who wanted to find an IIT coaching institute for their kids who are in the 8th standard. I have also heard parents planning the same for children just in the 4th or 5th standards. Why are we pushing the kids so hard instead of letting them discover themselves?


We don’t give any free time to kids. We don’t let them get bored so that they can find themselves. If Alice lived in today’s world, I tell you, she would have never found her wonderland. There is always some must-do activity or device to keep the children hooked. How will the children find their interests or inclinations if we just don’t let them be?


This dash for marks is slowly drawing the breath out of childhood and I don’t find that comforting at all.


There is another dark side to this focus on marks. A couple of years back, probably in 2013, I was watching a panel discussion on TV about marks and results. The panel had toppers who had scored 99% or some such. Then there were teachers, parents and some students who had got about 80%. A question was posed to one of the toppers. What would she do if she had got ‘just 80%’? Very nonchalantly she added that she had never scored less than 90 in her academic life. But she didn’t stop there. She went on to point at her classmate in the panel who had scored around 80% to say that probably she would have an idea on what to do when you scored badly.


Do we now have to worry about marks-shamming? #Education Click To Tweet


What irked me was neither the parents nor the teachers flinched at this. A social worker in the audience pointed it out but by then the damage was done. I don’t blame the girl because that’s what she has been taught all her life. Marks are important. Scoring in the 90s is good but anything else is bad. That’s why on national television she was able to point at her classmate disparaging. Are we creating toppers who have no empathy or understanding? Are we just churning out robots? Do we now have to worry about marks-shamming?


It may sound strange now but students and even parents weren’t like this in my time. I was one of the toppers in my state but I never made fun or ridiculed anyone who scored less than me. But that doesn’t happen anymore, does it?


Condescension was never looked at as confidence back then but it is becoming more and more so now. There is something very wrong with this race for marks. We are smothering childhood and regard for another individual as a result. And somewhere I think the quality of education is also suffering in this hankering for marks.


Marks are important but not so much. People can do well in life even if they score less. And it’s a fact. Why do we forget to tell the children that? Every time I read a newspaper article about a student suicide whether due to bad results or not being able to crack that entrance exam, that panel discussion comes to my mind. What have we done that marks now lead innocent children to death?


We are missing the point here completely. Education is not the same as the percentage one scores. One’s character is not the same as the percentage one scores. Percentages do not ensure success and happiness in life. Having one does not ensure the other. But I wonder how many students know this now? I wonder how many parents believe this. I worry because I have a daughter to raise in this environment.


Your views?



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21 thoughts on “#MommyTalks | Results & Marks

  1. I agree marks are important but they should educate and increase empathy make you able to be independent.But as you said the rot is in the system.Saying that I have to say children need to have a childhood but during boards, they need to be serious.

  2. Naba, I am seeing it unfold all around me as I watch helplessly. My elder son has gone into 10th standard and he says that even if we parents are quite chilled, he feels the stress as it percolates from teachers, his peers and their parents. Everyone gets into the Board exams and you must score mode. I also have friends whose kids sat for 12th Boards. It is crazy, the rush, the mark sharing and shaming, then all the entrances and the wait for approval and rejection. I don’t know if I can blame the parents because the system is so crazy. What if your child does wish to do Engineering? And if not, the cutoffs for colleges are such crap. The situation is hopeless. I feel so sorry that they will have to go through this, Naba.

  3. The marks and the cutoff problem is like the chicken and egg problem. We don’t know whether the pressure for marks is high because the cutoffs are high. Or whether the cutoffs are high because everyone is hyped up about the marks.

    There’s one thing I’d like to tell all toppers: high marks does not mean you are smarter than anyone else. Through my own experience, I have understood that classmates with lesser marks than me have a firmer grasp on all things non-syllabus. They have brilliant life skills, and more often than not turn out to be pretty successful. They know how to interact with people, how to get things done, and generally make me feel ashamed of just being a topper. I hope you’ve read that tweet by Sapan Verma on the CBSE Results day. That tweet says it all.

  4. This craze for marks is making kids robot. I really wish there was more emphasis on nurturing their character, improve communication skills, and physical exercise. Marks don’t guarantee success.

  5. This craze for marks is making kids robot. I really wish there was more emphasis on nurturing their character, improve communication skills, and physical exercise. Marks don’t guarantee success…

  6. Good that you wrote on this important topic, Naba! Yes, 99 in subjects like English!!! I too find this really crazy. I agree completely that all this craze for marks is totally ridiculous, and I am being very polite here. The college admissions process in universities like Delhi Univ with ridiculously high cutoffs and very, very limited seats has completely become a joke. Sadly, the well-to-do-classes have found a way out by sending their children to colleges abroad. And as long as these middle and high middle classes force the governments to do some serious thinking on this whole system of student assessment, no major reform will happen. On my blog I have also written a piece questioning the very need for this whole system of board exam.

  7. I so agree with all of this. I have been a teacher for 30 years (this year), and am currently in a prep room of 5 to 6 year olds. The pressure even at this young age to achieve is immense. Weekly testing of reading levels, fortnightly testing of all letter names and sounds, weekly maths testing, a go go go schedule every day. Some days I feel as if we’re all drowning in it. The first text book I bought 30 years ago as a fresh graduate was one about play and creativity. I still rely on it today and sneak in creative breaks and free time where I can so the kids can have time to just be. They need processing time, space, and down time to let their brains catch up!! No wonder they’re all so tired and bleary eyed some days.

  8. It’s distressing for sure, Naba. I know for one that my daughter may find it harder as the years progress. You’re so right about the condescension. I wonder if it’s the trickle-down effect of social media and the general arrogance we see online that is translating to kids offline too. It’s disturbing. Why would anyone shame another person for marks? It makes no sense. Then, the stress to perform well and the toll it takes on the kids. Sigh. I am all in favour of hard work because it builds character and discipline. But if it takes away empathy and replaces it with superiority, then it’s a wasted effort.

  9. Oh gosh, it’s SO hard for children these days. I’m not a parent but have many friends with children and have nieces, nephews and godsons from the ages of 13 down to 1 and living in London am very aware of the fiercely competitive nature of parenting (as I’m sure is the case in many other places). Personally, I think it’s important to let children understand that it’s ok to fail, that they’re not going to go through life being told ‘yes’ all the time and to get bored. I didn’t have the best childhood or the best education but am ridiculously happy, independent and relatively successful since moving to London at 22. There’s so much more to life than education and grades but sadly we live in an increasingly judgemental society X #mg

  10. Like you, I am also concerned about how to raise my child in this environment which is obsessed with marks. High percentage and not a pinch of empathy for others is what driving the times crazy. A few years ago, when D was just 3, I knew somebody whom I called friend at that time who had a daughter in 1st Std. Both of us were moving back to India at the same time and she was deeply worried about which good school in Bangalore will she get her daughter admitted to. When I tried pacifying her about not worrying so much for her daughter was only in 1st Std, she was quick to counter me how can one be cool when there is immense competition and wasn’t I aiming for IITs for D myself? The answer to her question to this day is NO.

  11. With my daughter just entering high school here in Australia at a private school I am very conscious of the pressure placed on her, and she is a naturally high achiever and a perfectionist which makes me worry more. My husband and I are always telling her it is OK to make mistakes, in fact it is important. We learn that way. We encourage a lot of free time, we even pulled her out of her after school activities except for art as she loves being creative, and have given her lots of free time. It scares me how much she pushes herself, I am proud of her, but I also want her to enjoy her childhood. It is sad what so many parents do to their children. #mg

  12. These days even lower KG kids have their parents sharing question papers and discussing the performance of kinds. I think parents force their children to score marks so that they can show off or maintain a certain status in society. It hurts to think of the pressure kids these days have to face and that too at such a tender age.

    Hopefully sense will prevail in some parents soon and they notice that marks are not everything.

  13. Your post made me think..It’s a bit the same over here, but not that much…. I agree there should be other criteria to “measure” the kids – after all, they are like us right”Whole” human beings with so many layers and facets … How to see the whole person? Great write-up

  14. Your post is exactly the reasons why our kids are at a school for N-6 whose mission is progressive education. It is unbelievable. Childhood stays intact and they create a love of learning through a child-led experience. Me and the Mrs., we are blown away. Not like how I went to school. We are so fortunate!

  15. Grades are one piece of a puzzle, and I think they should be private; something the child decides whether or not to share. I don’t think schools should be posting marks in the newspaper (they do that here if you make straight As or honour roll). I don’t think parents should post their child’s test scores or marks online. It should be up to the individual to tell the people they want to tell.

  16. While I haven’t felt the fierce competition yet in regards to my son’s schooling, I am a product of being pushed too much to get good grades. It didn’t serve me well, when I got out of high school I didn’t know how to learn or interact with people, and I suffered academically and socially because of it. University was a huge struggle for me and now in my 40’s I’m working very hard on developing emotional intelligence that my parents thought wasn’t useful. Turns out, it is! Because of my background, I’m cognizant of giving my kids an education for succeding in life, not just grades. Like Mel says, grades are one piece of the puzzle, not the whole thing.

    p.s. I realize you’re making a point about you having higher marks than your husband, but he’s more successful. I feel like pointing out that gender-bias is still very real in the workplace and he has an added advantage no matter how good he is at his job.

  17. NOt really a good sign. The pressure on a child mounts well before he even enters the primary section. SOmething is seriously wrong with our education system. This fierce completetion may well fetch the child his marks(or maybe it is for the parents) but wheres the learning ? I seriously wonder!!!

  18. And the latest news says that there might be board exams for class 5 or class 8 students! I mean can you beat that?! A board exam at as early as in class 5 will just put the children in more pressure and where is it going to help them anyway? I don’t know where is the education system of our country going? Students getting 99.6% marks in class 12th… what is left now for them? And the ones who’re not able to get there struggle with their esteem all their lives!

    I wonder when will things start to change!


  19. Most of my kids’ 4th grade was just studying for standardized tests. The teachers weren’t teaching as much as they were doing test preparations. The teachers voiced their frustrations. I know it’s not how they wanted to teach. There also was one test that my daughter always did badly on throughout elementary school. She excelled in everything but this one test. I asked at the final meeting: “Will they be doing this test next year in middle school?” The asst. principal said; “No, they don’t do it in middle school.” I said: “Good. Then who cares? Leave her alone about it already.”

  20. This is the dread of my life. Another few years to go and the twins get into class 9 and the craziness shall begin. They are so very happy and carefree i’d hate to take that from them and pile on the worries and the stress. Can you imagine kids start taking coaching for engineering from class 8? This along with handling their regular studies. Why would anyone do that!! It is beyond me.

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