With the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level examination now into its third week and the pressure building up for next Sunday’s Grade five scholarship examination it would be educative and enlightening for parents, teachers and other authorities to reflect on this letter sent by a Kolkata school to the parents. It said:
The exams of children are to start soon. We know you are all really anxious for your child to do well. But, please do remember amongst the students who will sit the exams, there is a potential artist who does not need to understand maths. There is a potential entrepreneur who does not care about history or English literature. There is a potential musician whose chemistry marks won’t matter. There is a potential sports champion whose physical fitness is more important than physics. If your child does get top marks then great. But, if he or she does not, please don’t take away the child’s self- confidence. Tell them it’s okay, it’s just an exam. They are cut out for much bigger things in life.
Tell them, no matter what they score, you love them and will not judge them.
Please do this and if you do, watch your children conquer the world. One exam or a 90 per cent won’t take away their dreams and talent. And please do not think that doctors and engineers are the only happy people in the world. Wishing you all and the children the very best.
With Warm Regards,
We hope principals or class teachers who reflect on this will be inspired to read this or something like it to their students as an important step towards a major attitudinal change that is needed as the national unity or consensus government implements measures to restructure and reform the education process.
For too long, the education system and general attitudes taught directly or indirectly have been far too much oriented towards passing examinations. Specially during the past four decades of the globalised crony capitalist market economy, the vices of selfishness and self-centredness have created a moral crisis where children are being forced to pass exams with high marks at any cost. If they cannot do it by fair means, then even foul means are tolerated if not encouraged either in the family, in the school or society. Few of the children are committed to the hallowed, time tested principle that it is better to fail than to cheat. Competitiveness essentially is good but when it is taken too far to the levels of cut throat competition then it seriously damages the lives of the children and social values or standards.
A good place to start the reform or transformation process would be the grade five scholarship examination. Last year some 350,000 children sat this highly competitive examination which is also presumed to be prestigious. Knowingly or unknowingly the parents often put the children under pressure from grade 2 to push hard and study for longer hours so that they would go over the cut off mark which varies from district to district. The district quota system also has its plus and minus points with most social analysts agreeing that it was one of the issues that led to the student revolts and ethnic war which devastated Sri Lanka for more than 25 years.
Earlier this week, the government announced it was banning tuition classes, lectures, seminars and workshops for the grade 5 scholarships examination. We do not know how effective this ban would be or whether it came too late. But we know the huge profit making tuition industry has often found ways of unbanning the ban and the tuition business is able to do it only because the parents cooperate. Most educationists who see the higher vision and goals of character formation and good citizen building in education, are urging that the grade 5 scholarship exam be cancelled and it is hoped the government would do so from next year.
Due to lack of space we cannot reflect on other dimensions of secondary and higher education, but briefly we could say the best result would be for the education process to produce good eco-friendly citizens who would go beyond self and work for the welfare of all our people, for interracial and interreligious unity in diversity.