If you start an article with the word ‘education’ in the first sentence the odds are that people will switch off and stop reading. No hugely important issue like education gets so much lip service and yes, neither parents or often even teachers and the authorities want to create a bespoke system that addresses the student’s strengths and makes him the better for it. Let him or her flourish in that element rather than languish in mass and arbitrary education. The trouble with the mass system is that your abilities get crushed and you are measured by the teacher’s skills and likes and dislikes. During my school days I was very often mystified by how a teacher can at this tender age make or destroy a student’s self-confidence with a passing criticism. It is such a powerful position to be in, to tell a 14 year old he is not ‘good enough’ or ‘you will never mount to anything’ and expect it not to have a deep impact on the psyche.
In the Indian system this sort of cutting down is rife. Teachers do not have the luxury of giving individual attention and the teaching and the marking and the assessments sometimes depend entirely on mood. All your years from the time you start the 9th grade, you are told that your board exams are extremely important and your lack of discipline towards preparing for the yearly boards is a failure in your very character. There was no subject I loved more than English ever. I loved learning everything I could about the English language and never did I leave any stone unturned when it came to writing and grammar. I was so ahead of the game that I often considered pulling back a bit so as not to tee off the teacher.
In some ways I was threatening and needed(?) cutting to size. This teacher was good enough and had the confidence not to penalise me for being outstanding.
Yet, I was more crushed than ever when my English subject board grade was 88 and somebody else who had never worked as hard to learn about the English language as I did got a 96. My gut turned into a black deep hole and never not even my overall grade of 95% or a photograph in the newspaper can ever overturn or neutralise what I felt in that moment. Lost. Beaten. While preparing for the boards, we were always told that no matter how hard you study, your grade will not always be in the exact proportion to what you prepared for as you don’t know who is grading your paper.
It is this random nature of the marking and the cruel fact that we do not know who is judging us ensures that we do not have our day in court and are left to wonder what prejudices and biases the stranger whom we will never meet brings to bear to give us a grade. A grade that stays with us forever and often dictates the path our life will take into adulthood.
Surely, in any logical system at this formative level we, the students should be allowed to face our accuser so to speak and be convince of why a B+ grade failed to be an A.