To score or not to score:

Greeshma Sukumaran
Published: August 2019

A look into the psychological pressure on academic scores and how students are coping with heightened stress and anxiety

In the last couple of months, and particularly in the month of May, newspapers and television screens have been inundated with results of various examinations conducted across the country, with many applauding and reveling in the high scores of students in their examinations.

In equal measure too, there have been reports of students opting to take their lives unable to face their parents, guardians or the society, and a sizeable number sinking into depression because of their ‘not-so-good’ scores in the examinations. While politicians use every platform to gloat about their children’s high scores, parents are frenzied on social media in praise of their children. And in this unbridled frenzy, we as a society put fear and dread in our children, shackling them into just one aspect of their ability.

If scores alone can determine the future of our children, then what about the role of education and values in life, as well as creativity and imagination? How do we prepare our children to acquire skills for various tasks? How do we know whether what they have opted for is the only career they can have in their lifetime? What happens to their creativity and thinking? Though issues related to scoring ‘high’ grades and pursuit of ‘marketable’ careers have often been discussed in the public sphere, the actual scenario on the ground paints a different picture.

What is fuelling this obsession with ‘high’ scores and what are its implications in the lives of our children? In this issue, we look at the uncalled for pressure we exert on our children as a society because of an incessant quest for specific careers; the responsibility we have towards them in shaping their future; and the reasons why we should refrain from imposing our needs and instead stand by them to achieve what they are capable of using their creativity and imagination.

Children should be prepared to accept challenges in life rather be labelled based on their scores and grades.

“They (kids) all will become something according to their taste and skills. If you don’t exert pressure on them, at least your children will always be with you,” says Kerala’s Excise Commissioner Rishiraj Singh in a video that has gone viral on social media. Rishiraj, Ex-Director General of Police (DGP), was narrating the path his son has trodden from childhood. Growing up, the boy registered low grades in his studies but went on to become an artist with a much-acclaimed animation studio because he was allowed to follow what he was passionate about – art.

The World Economic Forum’s 2016 ‘The Future of Jobs’ report says that a greater number of children in primary schools now will ultimately work in new job types and functions that don’t yet exist, which will require them to have technical, social and analytical skills. The report goes on to add that globally, new industries and business models are emerging that will require new talents to fulfill diverse roles in the coming years.

Shrijan, a youngster in his second year of college admits that the pressure on him to score high grades in his final examinations is too real to be ignored. “Although we take seriously what our parents tell us, I feel that they should not impose their choices on us.” His classmate Ambadas shares the same view. “I have now decided to follow my passion rather than merely going by the choices made by my parents or the society,” he continues, “Though I choose to ignore advice on how important it is to get good marks, I feel, most of the times, more than my parents, it is relatives and the larger society that are more concerned with my scores.”
Monish, also in his second year of college, says that more than anything else, it is the comparison that irks him. “I think it is important for our parents to understand we have different capabilities instead of imposing their choices on us,” he says. Like every other parent, Monish believes his parents too have high expectations of him but he has made it abundantly clear that he would pursue a career of his choice.

Another student, Megha Gopal, who is all set to begin her college days says “Every single person whom I know, used to scare me in the name of board examinations. Everybody advised me to score higher and that it would be a turning point in my life. I was not allowed to enjoy the small pleasures in life such as attending a cousin’s wedding or travelling during summer vacations because all I had to do was to study. I gave my best during my exams and just like every year I passed with distinction. After the examinations, I felt that there was no need to create that hype around the board examinations, because it is just like every other examination, at least it was for me.”