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Today’s Adolescents have become Examinees, Preferably Learners

Education is a process, while knowledge (Vidya) is the wisdom gained from that process

Niraj Krishna

In an age of intense rivalry and rigorous testing, the nature of education has undergone a significant transformation. The perception of today’s adolescents as examinees rather than students has a substantial negative influence on their growth and wellbeing. Significant concerns concerning the goal of education and its impact on developing minds are brought up by this shift from a learning-centered to an exam-centered educational system.

Education is a process, while knowledge (Vidya) is the wisdom gained from that process. Therefore, a student (Vidyaarthi) is someone who seeks to acquire that Vidya (knowledge, experience, skills, and awareness) through education. However, as the Gita states, change is the law of the world. Similarly, the definition of a student has now changed. A student’s sole characteristic is now defined by how many marks they can score in class.

Almost all board exam results have been announced. Social media was filled with praise for high achievers and messages of sympathy for those who scored slightly lower. The praise messages were more or less standard, as is customary, but the messages of sympathy also tried to reinterpret the meaning of success and failure. For students who scored lower, many aphorisms were written to reassure them that a mark sheet does not determine one’s success or failure in life. It is merely a milestone, and there will be many opportunities to succeed in the future.

To give these aphorisms a practical form, numerous examples were cited of students who scored low in board exams but achieved great success later in life. The most frequently and authentically cited examples were those who passed the civil service exams. Many civil servants shared their board mark sheets on Twitter, explaining how they became administrative officers despite their low board exam scores.

The central theme of all these expressions was that scoring low in board exams does not mean failure. Additionally, examples of personalities who achieved significant positions in the fields of arts and sports were given, illustrating how they did not score well in board exams but are successful in their professions today. These examples were undoubtedly shared with a good intention to prevent students from feeling undue pressure from their scores. They were encouraged to view it as a milestone and move forward from there. However, despite all this, the way success was defined in this entire discourse is problematic. A closer look reveals that the fundamental meaning of success in this discourse never actually changed but was merely postponed.

The report card you have now might not be a measure of success, but the future one could be. If this notion didn’t exist, then why would examples of civil servants be given? If their marks in the civil service exams were low, they wouldn’t have become officers, and they wouldn’t be cited as examples. So, the secret to success lies hidden in the report card! Only the time and form of the report card have changed, but its power remains. Thus, success means getting good marks, whether in this exam or that one. Those who get low marks and don’t become examples are considered unsuccessful.

According to this reasoning, those who get low marks are failures; it’s just a matter of the degree of failure. The marks in board exams are at the beginning of this range, so the scope of failure is sparse, but it becomes more intense in future competitions. Ultimately, the matter rests on the fact that success in a dense field overshadows failure in a sparse field, so one should not mourn the sparse field. In such a system, only a few people will ultimately succeed, and the rest will be considered failures.

A common curiosity here might be that in fields like art, sports, or similar areas, marks are not needed for success, so how should that be viewed? If we look closely, there’s a system here too. What differentiates an artist from a successful artist? Some artistic skill, the reinforcement of that skill, and a lot of achievements create the difference between a successful artist and an ordinary artist.

Surely, these differences are fundamental and real, but are they truly determinants of success and failure? Can an ordinary sculptor, who gives concrete shape to their aesthetic sense, not be successful without excessive achievements? Is completing this entire process with dedication not success? Is the joy an artist derives from their creation any less than the joy of a successful artist? If not, then how is this criterion of success and failure established?

Most children fail in school, and for many, this failure appears to be complete. Forty percent of children enrolled in school do not complete their school-level education. One in three students enrolled at the college level drops out before finishing.

But clearly, apart from these visibly failing children, many others also fail. Not in terms of marks, but in another, deeper sense. They are able to complete their schooling merely because we, as teachers, give them marks with our consent, pushing them out of school. Whether they know something or not, The truth is, the number of these implicitly failing children is much higher than we estimate. If we raise the “standard of school education” a bit, as many educationists want to do, we might immediately discover the true number of implicitly failing children. All our classrooms would be filled with students who could not pass exams.

No matter what our exam results show, only a small fraction of what is taught in schools is actually learned or remembered. And of what is remembered, only a small part is useful. What we learn, remember, and use are all things that we seek or find in life outside of school.

Exams allow teachers to assess how much children have actually learned. Both arguments are incorrect. The more children fear exams, the worse their performance becomes. Children shouldn’t be crammed for exams, but that’s what happens, especially in schools where high scores are emphasized and high standards are made intimidating.

About 40–50 years ago, even getting 60% was considered a big achievement. But times have changed so much that today, even a student scoring 80–85% feels more cheated than those who failed. Those who failed or passed with low scores should not be disheartened. The world is full of people who didn’t do well academically but amazed the world with their talent.

Many people around the world were never good at school studies. However, due to their other skills and hard work, they have reached high levels today. We all have some talent; we just need to bring it out. In the Gita, Lord Krishna says that work that suits your nature brings joy, while work against your nature is a punishment. One proof of this is that most heart attacks happen on Monday mornings because people often find their work burdensome. If the work suits their nature, it feels like a blessing. So, is your work a burden or a blessing to you—joy or punishment?

In this world, knowledge can be obtained for two reasons. The first and foremost reason is wealth. Wealth doesn’t just mean money; it includes fame, respect, and reputation. The second reason, which few people follow, is study for the sake of study, meaning those who find joy in learning itself.

Look at your own life. You have extensive knowledge on many subjects, and if those subjects were part of the school curriculum, you would score the highest marks. You study those subjects because you enjoy them. Studying a subject just for the sake of marks feels like a punishment.

Have we ever considered how many unsuccessful people line up behind the few successful ones? And it’s not these successful few who make the world. The world is made up of all those who didn’t come first or failed. Certainly, when a society is built by sad and defeated people, that society (or country) won’t be very good or happy. But we only look at those who succeeded.

If these failed students or people fill with anger and start causing destruction everywhere, who will be responsible? Certainly, our education and education system will have to take responsibility for it.

Education is the art of living. However, we learn nothing under the guise of art. Those who don’t learn to read and write but learn some skill are seen to be much ahead in every matter. Nowadays, people excelling in business are skilled in this kind of art. The kind of education being imparted in schools these days has no direct connection with practical life.

Today, studying means sitting in a chair and giving orders. Educated people feel ashamed to work. Therefore, society’s condition is deteriorating day by day. The intellect and hands are not being used properly. It can only be called India’s misfortune that today there is a complete disconnect between knowledge and work. Those who work do not have knowledge, and those with knowledge do not want to work. Nowadays, students are no longer learners; they have become examinees.

Macaulay clearly stated that to keep India perpetually enslaved, its indigenous and cultural education system must be completely destroyed and replaced with the English education system. Only then will we produce Indians in body but English in mind, who, when they come out of the university, will work in our favor. Even after 76 years of independence, we can clearly see and suffer the consequences of Lord Macaulay’s successful education policy. I read somewhere that if a person is not proper, certainly his education is not proper either.

 

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