You are More than Your Marks 

Our education system has plagued school system with the cent percent mindset which may make students develop uncritical perfectionism that is ultimately unhealthy and fear inducing 

By Wasim Kakroo 

“FLYING Colours”, that’s what we term success in school exams. Given how many students have scored 500/500 in 10th class examinations, it seems that there are way too many colours around. But what of students who haven’t managed to score the perfect score? And What of those who have scored the perfect score?

Our grading system in examinations is extremely self-defeating. It not only puts pressure on students on account of competition but also overestimates the worth of a thousand students who have managed to score way too high.

Good performance of students in exams is important. Students who do well in school enjoy better health, make more money, and give more to society than students who do badly. However, our education system is becoming more and more unproductive and fruitless.

The trend of awarding 100% marks is senseless. If the evaluators find certain terms in the answers, they give the candidates full scores. The examiner does not assess the appropriateness or analytical skills even in the long-type essay-like answers. It promotes cramming tendencies that lead to flawless scores even in subjects such as English and History.

Schools, Colleges and Universities are setting up the highest cut-off to admit students in their institutes. However, there is a discrepancy in the percentages and marks awarded by school boards across the country. While the average lCSC score is 80 percent, few state boards would consider it an excellent performance.

The majority of students are unable to qualify for elite institutions as a result of this imbalance, resulting in increased mental stress and feelings of failure.

Personally, I believe we're setting a wrong example. We should put greater emphasis on learning. Learning and comprehending topics are more crucial than cramming for exams. The emphasis on good grades is systematically destroying critical thinking. Is it really possible to get a perfect score in English literature? I don’t think so. But it is not an uncommon occurrence. How is it happening? This is only possible if each question has pre-determined model answers. Also, it is possible if the child can memorise the answers and write them verbatim. This way the evaluators are destroying the originality in creative thinking that a language encourages.

In addition, in the pursuit of high grades, we often overlook emotional intelligence, social skills, and other factors. As discussed above, this tendency is affecting cut-off marks at different institutions as well.

In my opinion, I feel the process of evaluation should be changed. There should not be excessive scoring in the marking scheme as is the trend in our valley currently. Questions should be more difficult and based on assertion and reasoning so that you have to think about them rather than cram them. I don't think an examiner would give full marks to a child who thinks and writes because the answer will differ from student to student. In the current exam pattern, students simply pick anything from the book and receive full marks. Learning by rote does not benefit a youngster in any manner. The educationists should go over the paper setting process again.

Current marking pattern is really percentage orientated. If a school's students scored more than 90% in exams especially the board exams, it is regarded as a very good. No one pays attention to students who earn less than 90% these days. This deluge of above 90% scores makes it difficult to judge the capability of students and thus it hurts those students who truly deserve to have an educational opportunity. Such a situation causes marks/grade inflation, much like usual market inflation. In marks/grade inflation, high marks such as 90% become worthless because more students are awarded high scores.

Students who received average grades should not be concerned about their grades and should instead focus on their studies. My advice to those students who scored 90% or above: don't get too excited. It's simply that you do exceptionally well on occasion, but ultimately, learning is more essential than grades. My honest advice to parents is to not put pressure on their children to achieve high grades. We must nurture a child's inherent ability to innovate and be their natural self for which lateral thinking is more critical than cramming and parroting of content from prescribed books in order to become a top scorer.

Another aspect of marks/grade race is it might lead to the development of self criticism and perfectionism in students which can ultimately lead to fear of failure. One of the reasons for this is that a student with perfectionistic tendencies can tell him/herself that they could have accomplished more if they had worked harder or for longer and thus they continuously have a very negative attitude towards failures. Perfectionism can lead to a near-complete withdrawal from studies – and, in some cases, from all other activities. It can lead to procrastination until the deadline approaches. For such perfectionist students, the transition to higher education can be a watershed moment. A requirement of self-learning, independent living, a lack of predictability and structure, fewer and less evident goals, and more brilliant and competitive peers can all upset a student who has been excelling in school. Such students might spend their entire lives attempting to achieve unrealistic perfection and might feel a sense of discontentment about whatever they do in their lives and hence open the possibilities of mental health issues, such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, OCD in their lives.

My sincere advice as a clinical psychologist to students is to keep in mind that you are not your scores in your exams. Having a degree isn't a reflection of your abilities or a guarantee of a wonderful life. If you don't perform well, that doesn't imply you won't be able to find work that is fascinating or gratifying. Focus more on deriving meaning from all the important areas of your life including your self-care, family relations, friendships, your contributions in community, your religion, your hobbies and obviously your education and profession. Successful life is about being better in all these areas. It is not just about having above 90% marks.


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

  • The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar). He works at Kashmir Life Line, a free mental health counseling service. Author can be reached at [email protected]

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