Disclaimer: If you scored lower than you expected in your board exams, if you failed, even, don’t lose hope. You’ll figure it out. This article is a commentary on unchecked privilege and the flaws in the Indian educational system. It doesn’t mean that you won’t make it if you didn’t get high marks in your boards.
On Sunday, the CBSE announced the 12th standard board exam results. Immediately, social media pages, celebrities, and comedians began to put up posts with the message “marks don’t matter.”
My message to school-leavers: Marks don't matter in the long run.The pursuit of knowledge & excellence are lifelong & their own best rewards
— Siddhartha Basu (@babubasu) May 30, 2017
Now, I understand that their intention is to encourage students who had scored less marks than they expected or worse, failed. As someone who did pretty badly in her 12th boards, I truly understand how these positive posts can impact students and help them cope.
Realistically speaking, though, there’s one problem.
The Indian educational and grading system is flawed.
Quite often, a student who scores well is perceived to be “intelligent.” While that may be true, it doesn’t mean that someone who has scored 60% is of less value.
The Indian education system is badly designed, and it has a one-dimensional way of judging a student’s performance.
Students can mug up, practice previous years’ test papers, and pass with flying colours. And they will invariably be in higher demand when applications time rolls around.
The system doesn’t give importance to analytical skills or true learning.
For instance, if a well-performing student falls ill just before their board exams, they wouldn’t be able to do as well as they could have. Consequently, they’d score low marks, which their entire academic future depends on.
And god forbid if you’re a smart kid who just doesn’t test well.
Ideally, colleges and schools should recognise students for their true knowledge, interests, and potential, and not how much they scored in a particular test. Students should be graded on a variety of factors, and with nuance.
But, that’s not the case, yet. This is the system we’re in, until there’s a revolution. And for many students, they can’t afford to operate outside of it.
Because it’s easier to disregard marks when you come from privilege, or you have a family whom you can fall back on.
They can support you till you figure out your future or they can even put you in touch with people who can give your career a push.
In case of kids who don’t have these opportunities, they have to use their marks to move ahead. Marks are crucial for students who have nothing else going for them, who need to secure a college degree that will lead to a good job, and eventually, financial stability.
I hate to say this, but in the current educational ecosystem, marks do matter.
When my 12th board results were announced, my father was pretty devastated because I hadn’t done as well as he had expected me to. There was an eerie silence at home and my parents avoided phone calls from relatives, neighbours, and family friends.
After a few days, I realised that my college admissions weren’t going to be affected by my marks.
The system is such, when it comes to engineering, that your board marks are less important than your entrance exam scores. But those entrance exam scores? They matter.
Thankfully, I had scored more than the entrance exams’ requisite percentage in my 12th board and had done well in COMEDK.
I realise why my parents were scared, though. They were worried that they couldn’t pay the management fee to get me into a good engineering college.
Because that’s how this works: either you lose your mind trying to score highly on a standardised test that isn’t designed to factor your individual skills or interests in, or your parents pay through the nose to get you into college.
The onus was completely on my performance (not on how much I actually knew or understood, I’d like to add) and I had to compete against lakhs of other capable students for one seat.
Since today is the day of results I'll tell you again. Your marks don't matter. How rich your parents are, does.
— PT (@peeteeonyou) May 28, 2017
In 2014, the IITs changed their eligibility criteria. Since then, a student would either need to be in the top-20 percentile of their board or score 75%, whichever is lower. This was done to ensure that students didn’t neglect their 12th studies to focus on JEE preparation, because that’s how badly the entrance-exam structure affected students’ learning.
It’s one of the reasons India has such a high number of unemployable engineers, as well, in case you’re wondering.
Board exam results don’t matter? Sure. If admission into good college and then IIT/IIM types aren’t priorities then yes, marks don’t matter.
— Anupam Gupta (@b50) May 26, 2015
Non-engineering students, who want to pursue Bsc, B.A., or B.Com. have to rely completely on their 12th board results to secure admission.
If you’ve been a student in India, you’d already know about the crazy cutoffs of DU and other such top universities. Sometimes, students who score more than 90% but less than 95% find it difficult to get into the college of their dreams.
DU cut off at 98%, insane. That's why the world is at Sharda University ;) :P #DUCutoffs
— kunal manek (@kunalmanek) June 18, 2014
So, until we build a better educational system, this is a sad truth that we have to deal with.
Listen, if you haven’t done well enough, don’t lose your self-esteem. You’re not a fool. You have value. Your chance will come.
But to those who have been telling students, “marks don’t matter”, let’s tweak that to: “Marks matter to an extent right now, sorry about that. But they don’t define you.”