It has been an established fact for quite some time now, that the Indian Education System is beyond flawed. When I entered grade 11th, I was determined to ensure that I do better than previous years simply because I wanted to prove to myself that I was a better student than I allowed myself to truly be. Now, I have faced enough looks and frowns for being a humanities student without Math. To me, Math, while an important subject, is also one that requires a very specific skill set and mental aptitude. If one goes through the books, you will realize that it is in ones best interest to drop math (if you absolutely do not wish to pursue it) in order to retain your sanity.
Coming back to class 11. Now this is a year that most Indian students who wish to study in India take very lightly, simply because these grades don’t really account for anything when applying to an Indian college. For this reason, class 11 becomes a sort of preparatory year for class 12, wherein you follow a similar format and are put face to face with extremely challenging test papers to help prepare you for class 12 board examinations. I have never quite had a problem with such a format since board exams can be unpredictable and leave very little scope for clarifications.
However, this is not class 12. Regardless of whether it is made to prepare you or mentally unhinge you the fact that remains is that these two years of school life simply cannot and should not be equated. In my first few months, I met multiple teachers and students who confessed to me that the papers were designed in a manner that your grades were bound to fall. I know everyone will say things like, “yeah but if you study it’ll be fine” or “you just have to work harder”. I have no problems with hard work. I don’t even have a problem with difficult papers, however, what I do have a problem with is being expected to do this all by yourself.
Let’s take for example my economic exam today. Saying that it was ‘shitty’ would be an understatement. A multitude of factors have a bearing on such a critical view. Let’s start with the paper itself, the question paper is an 80 mark exam divided into two equal halves of Indian Economics and Statistics, with a grand total of 22 chapters and two days to prepare for the exam. As a non math student, I have always had a challenge with statistics, and yes, you can say that I should have taken tuitions or practiced more but both of those things are not always possible or desirable. I genuinely fear math, so much so that looking at the 15-20 long formulas that I was expected to not just solve (without calculator) but also remember by heart, was enough to give me severe anxiety. The paper was not just twisted in multiple ways but was also extremely disheartening. It makes me terribly upset to see that we consider mugging up the years when policies were formed, or the Gross Domestic Product China, as quality education. While my school is not to blame for disparities in syllabus, the very least I would expect them to do is pay special attention to topics that actually do help students. In addition to that, I don’t think I will ever understand India’s obsession with manual calculation of mathematical concepts that one will not remember or use.
Another very important factor is teachers. This is an extremely sensitive subject since Indian teachers are known for being too involved in a students life, and not in the way they should be. From taking screenshots of their social media, to discussing what they wear outside school premises, to making the social lives of students the highlight of theirs. Not just that, you will often also find students facing disciplinary action for having an opinion. If that wasn’t enough, I have also found teachers shaming and humiliating students for having doubts or not understanding concepts. I don’t know about you but I don’t consider that very conducive environment for learning. In fact, I have also known teachers who brag about how tough they made the paper and how many students failed under their reign of terror.
I have always considered teaching to be a very noble pursuit, and I have extremely high respect for most teachers, and while I understand that it is only natural for one to lose their temper once in a while, but if a teacher finds it hard to be patient or at the very least decent and professional, I suggest they find a different profession.
The quality of teachers can make or break a student. It is extremely important for a teacher to have some amount of passion towards their subject and a desire to pass on some of this knowledge instead of doing the bare minimum and reading the content of the books out loud and call it teaching. Reiterating something I read a few days ago, “Minimum attendance of 75% in Indian schools is a brilliant way of hiding how bad the quality of teachers and teaching really is.” If you were in my class, I feel that this would be evident by the looks of students faces before an economics class versus say, political science. Of course, this is not to say that all the blame automatically shifts to teachers, the student, their efforts, and their interests are also key in this process.
Another important factor, is the learning conditions. Take for example my school, the commerce and humanities students have a combined economics class which has about 40+ students for one teacher to mange, whereas the science students have a class with about 20 students. This creates a large disparity not just within the classes and environments but also impacts the grades of students when placed in relation to one another at the same school where all students pay the same fee to receive the same level of education.
To add to that, students are expected to score well, participate in activities which often clash with their classes, have a relatively active social life, handle extracurriculars like the SATs and council body, and other absolutely ridiculous projects schools take on to show off their ‘exposure and commitment to learning’, pursue their own interests and hobbies, AND still expect to get enough sleep; all so we can get higher education and a very feeble sense of future security. And they call us lazy. Brilliant.
I have always been someone who loves school. I have always loved most of my teachers, and in fact, I love being challenged and pushed to my limits. I am not an academic achiever, and I am certainly not an ideal student but we need to start acknowledging is that all children are different, we have different strengths and different weaknesses, and we need to find a common ground to balance that out. We are killing creativity and originality, driving students into depression, and making learning a draining and toxic process.
And for fucks sake, I beg you to stop pushing students so much, mentally and emotionally, to a point where all-nighters, six cups of coffee in one day, drugs, being made to believe they are stupid, and having nervous breakdowns are seen as something that go hand in hand with trying to get a decent education.