Manufactured Medalists

By Malik Javid

AT a time when athletes from all over the globe are competing for medals in Tokyo Olympics to bring laurels to their nation, Kashmir University held its long awaited 19th convocation ceremony to award gold medals to its toppers from previous years. I am not going to waste newspaper space here on comparing Olympic medals with medals being awarded at University convocation ceremonies as it equates to comparing proverbial apples with oranges. Being an academic product of Kashmir University myself, I know and understand the working of Kashmir University and I don’t hesitate in calling these gold medallists as “Manufactured Medallists.” I don’t want to play spoilsport here but want to vent my spleen of long growing resentment against the working of our university especially with regard to criteria for deciding the subject toppers for awarding gold medals.

Our university is still quantifying the quality of students by comparing their three digits i.e. marks earned in exams, instead of doing an overall assessment of student’s performance.

Let me turn the clock back. I vividly remember the day when I entered the picturesque campus of Kashmir University for admission in my master’s program. High on confidence after scoring top rank in entrance examination, I was on cloud nine albeit transiently. Before I could find my feet on the ground to study my subject in-depth, I felt I had landed in the wrong place. I had heard that universities tend to liberate students from shackles of rote learning endorsed in our schools and colleges but I was wrong. Instead, I witnessed a worst-case scenario at KU. Like many of batch mates, I received an advice in the form pep talk from my seniors. The advice went like: if one wants to survive and finish with good grades from this university, one must stop studying from books and instead cram whatever is being taught by professor in classrooms from his worn out and faded yellow paper notes which is to be then reproduced verbatim in answer scripts during examination. The second advice was to never dare to question the professor as that equates to challenging professor’s ego and if you crush their ego by repeatedly asking questions you are asking for trouble, as evaluation of your internal and external assessment answer scripts is done by the same professors. Third, is to be a sycophant of your teachers, praise them even if they don’t deserve it and try to develop good rapport with them as this will certainly pay you off in getting good grades in internal assessment and practical marks.

Quite contrary to advice of my senior fellows, in my first semester, I didn’t pay any heed to their advice. I trusted my own way of learning and kept exploring books instead of cramming class notes for learning without knowing I might have to pay price for doing so. My ignorance changed into reality, when results of my first semester examination were declared and I had only somehow managed to cross a line with meagre percentage. Being once beaten and twice shy, I didn’t want to repeat my old mistake and I started doing what my seniors had asked me to do and it paid off in my next three semesters. My grades saw a sudden spike and I finished with first division. But this time, I had to pay bigger price — I got good grades at the cost of compromising on superficial knowledge gained from notes over classified knowledge from books.

I realised that after two years of my stay in university, the mantra for getting gold medal is simple: be a master of rote learning, shun books prefer notes, prefer silence over questioning, prefer sycophancy over denunciation. Need of the hour is for our university to amend these archaic rules and come up with a better evaluation system which takes into account all aspects of being “meritorious” and move beyond numbers.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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