Where else in the world will you witness the CBSE Grade 12 results become the front-page news, but in India. And surely, not without a reason! With the percentages touching as high as 99, it has become a rat race for parents and students alike. Its now a matter of prestige and pride; a sign of brilliance – irrespective of the stress on today’s young minds with the inherent need to excel.
Education in India is also branded like clothes. The branding of the College, University, Programs – you name it and we have a tag attached to it. It no surprise then that the parents who visit my office for counseling wish to know the standing (or was it branding?) of the Canadian Universities. My raison d’état that they are all world-class public universities is often met with disbelief. I can understand that in the Indian context, where even an IIT or an IIM is fighting for the top spot against its own brand. It’s a mindset, too deeply entrenched in our genes. What more, anything expensive is believed to be automatically good!
In India, the status of the parents amidst their community and friends circle is also defined by the subject their child chooses to study - Engineering and Medicine topping the charts, Commerce/Business courses not willing to lag behind and Liberal Arts picking pace. Of course, the Facebook status has to reflect a college/university, that is worth bragging about. The substance to the education program is lost in the glitterati of names and ranking.
I remember that (not) many years ago, my decision to do a Liberal Arts degree was initially met with strong disapproval till it became of no consequence and not really a subject for discussion in the aftermath of the CBSE result ‘Judgment Day’. In the eyes of my family and friends, I was just not “brilliant enough” to understand the great scientific theories and mathematical theorems. My ultimate destiny was to complete a ‘mandatory’ degree and find a good groom for myself and settle down to the benefits of an engineer or IAS husband catering to all my legitimate needs for a lifetime. Education, be dammed! Of course my enrolment in one of the top-notch colleges in Delhi University made everyone feel much better. I was now part of the elite circle. What a relief that was!
It is indeed tough for students today to survive without being anything but ‘brilliant’. Don’t be mistaken here - even brilliance is categorized. It is rather unfortunate that even a 94% does not get you a college or a course of your choice in the Delhi University, let alone make you eligible for scholarship. India did witness, to the utter dismay of community at large, a spate in suicide among young students, as they did not succeed. It became a matter of shame for them. The day CBSE results are declared in schools in Delhi-NCR, all school counselors are geared to “de-stress” the environment.
Mr. Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister for Human Resource and Development, has attempted to reduce the anxiety of the Class 12 boards on students, but it will take a long time to see good results. Understandably, when one has so few good public (read government) universities with good infrastructure; private universities are mushrooming in large numbers having a field day with steep tuition fees (even though they claim to be non-profit). Education itself has become a business. The noble profession is now a money-minting machine.
As one of the leading national daily wrote today as its front-page headlines: ‘The race to Delhi University begins’.
So students, on your marks…get set…go! You might not win the race to a college admission in the Delhi University, but you will certainly understand the meaning of the term ‘marathon’.