The cover story of the latest India Today is about the ridiculous cut-off marks that many colleges in our country require for admission, making it a disappointing affair for students who miss out on joining their dream college because of a few marks.
The main cover page had a line that caught my eye- Exams have made a mockery of the education system.
And that triggered off another memory in my mind.
When: Circa 2009
I was nearing completion of my M.A. I had a definite idea in mind that I wanted to get into radio, but because of the whole recession charade, there was hire-freeze everywhere, and the chances of anyone in our batch getting a job looked slim.
So one day, Acha called up and asked me what I was planning to do, etc.
Acha: So what are you planning to do,mole?
Me: I don’t know, Acha. I’m really not sure. I guess I’ll look for a job…
Acha: What about higher studies? Don’t you want to study more? If getting a job now looks difficult, then apply for another course.
Frankly, I had had enough by then. I didn’t want to go any higher than M.A.
Me: Hmmm..ya, that’s an option I guess. But the problem is, Acha, I’m sick and tired of writing exams. I hate them. If I’m studying more, I want to study for the joy of learning, not for passing an exam. The whole concept is skewed. I’ve had enough of cramming the day before the exams just so that I could get marks. Where am I learning anything? For me, knowledge matters more than education.
Ya ya, I know what you’re thinking. Save it.
Acha (the wise-crack): Ok..that’s nice. Why don’t you do one thing? Come back here to TVM…
Me: (waiting for the pearls of wisdom)
Acha: … and enroll for one of those courses that they hold for prisoners in the Central Jail here. They don’t have exams there, from what I’ve heard. (and breaks into laughter)
Didn’t I tell you? Wise-crack.
The point is, I hate exams. When I was in school, till about 6th- 7th standard, I didn’t have much of a problem with exams. Because I used to be an expert at learning things by rote. I can still do it pretty well, but choose not to.
But the older I got, I started having an aversion towards this pressure cooker called examination. It wasn’t even fear, like some people I know had. It was just plain hatred. What is the point of having exams? Especially when some of our teachers used to give us most of the questions beforehand itself. What exactly am I learning? By the time I reached 11th and 12th standard, I actually started to fear exams, because I used to fail consistently in Physics and Chemistry. I lost sleep. I became a recluse.
Exams in college were a different matter altogether. If any of you have studied English Literature, you’ll know what I’m talking about. When Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Yeats were writing their best works, would they have wanted it to be a thing of beauty, or a tool to judge future generations of students?For a 10 marks questions, you’re expected to write 3-4 pages of answer. The more, the better. By the end of three hours, I couldn’t even feel my fingers. They were beyond numb with pain. Students didn’t discuss what they had written and how well. They discussed how many pages they had written, how many extra sheets were taken. We would look up in envy at the person taking the most number of extra sheets. The more someone else took, the more we panicked that we’re not writing enough. The one with the most number of pages would be the hero for the day.
Even I’ve done that. Written 27-28 pages.Pages after pages of essays and annotations. Essays and annotations that could be explained just as clearly in even two pages even. But that’s not the point, is it? The sad part is, Kerala University is very unpredictable. You can write 50pages and still get only 50marks.
But the real aversion for exams came after I joined HCU. In a semester of 4-5 months, we would have ample assignments, term papers, production work etc to keep us busy through the whole sem. As a result, when exams dates are announced, there is a mad scramble to get Xerox copies of notes, mostly the day or two before the exam. That’s when the Xerox centers in the university do maximum business. And the day before, armed with our notes, we go to the library to try and make sense of what was taught in an entire semester in just one day. We would try to read, have umpteen number of chai-samosa breaks, drink plenty of water, go to the loo, and generally waste time.
More often than not, my friend Arun and I used to end up chucking the entire thing and go out for dinner to Kairali. It’s another thing that the ass***e got a 9-point average and I got a 7.6. Anyways.
But after I left HCU, I realized- I didn’t learn anything. Really. I didn’t learn anything that I could apply to my field of choice. My first job was in the radio, something that they didn’t teach us. I learnt it on the job. My current job is in Corp Comm, something that we were taught to shun. There are so many of my friends, really intelligent types (not geeks), who joined engineering because they wanted to learn it, but now are battling with numerous backlogs.
I would love to study more.. Honestly..But exams…? You and I don’t get along, buddy… Let’s not cross each other’s paths, shall we? If I want to know about something, I would much rather Google it and read up about it. At least, Google won’t expect me to write 300 words about Victorian poets and ICT’s.
Much as people ridicule Bollywood, you can’t help but agree with what ‘3 Idiots’ was trying to convey, can you? And that’s the main reason I love that movie.
Isn’t there a solution to this madness?
P.S:- I realize that this post has been a test to your patience. Apologies...