Note: This is a post where fiction has been mixed with facts. It is clearly understood that given the costs of testing the enormous number of students who enroll in schools and to make the system uniform and consistent exams may be one of the better ways. Also this is only about the exams with pen and paper or viva's and not the other types, definitely not the exams of life!
A friend of mine X recently appeared for an exam which he thinks and prays is the last one of his life. The day he and many others of his era in his country die and their soul is asked to show its resume to someone above, their exam count would definitely acquire a big weight.
It started with Chatterjee Miss, his first and perhaps the best teacher who never took his exam but did prepare him for the first one of his life through Nursery, KG and Prep: getting into the first standard in a reputed missionary school in the town. His written test went well but because of a stammering problem he got rejected in the oral. Then he got through the exams of two other schools and chose the one where classes started at 7 in the morning. It was 5 for the one he did not go into.
The real count starts from here. From class 1 to Class 6 in his new school, it was class tests, Viva’s, half yearly’s and final exams every year just like the seasons summer, winter and rains come and go. He kept studying and kept passing like most of the students of his generation would be doing all around the country and like many young people are doing it now. It would have been fine if such a cyclical schedule would have continued without much fuss but the funny thing with exams is that they are not absolute. As they say the devil lies in the details.
Once results are out, you get a rank. This rank one gets is a public property free to be used and discussed throughout the school and the Uncles and Aunties of your colony. For a few days you become the rank and the rank becomes you. But that is not enough. Some people take it upon themselves to predict the future of young children and go to the lengths of dissecting the report card for subject wise marks “This girl is good at math. Maybe she should sit early for the Olympiads.” “This boy has performed brilliantly in Social Sciences. Make sure he takes economics as it’s a booming subject.” And so on. All this happens over a cup of tea which the elders are enjoying while the subject (child) can only sit and listen to.
In class VII, X shifted to a new school considered among the best in the area. Of course through an exam. He had already given an exam last year for admission into the same school but had failed. At that time there were only two seats. This time they were opening a whole new section. So the word which every student nowadays is well aware of was much less. The word as you might have guessed it is the hail and mighty ‘competition.’
Competition for this, Competition for that! And how does competition manifest itself, through exams. So to all the kinds of tests from the last school was added another one, Monday test. Every Monday there was a test on a subject which meant that the Sunday’s more or less went for a toss.
Exams are a victim of their own doing as well. Just like they produce ranks, they themselves get entangled into ranks. Moving through 8th and 9th standard, the rank of exams like Social Sciences and humanities decreases whereas those of science and math increase. For the bright students Olympiads are the immediate toppers. But in general as you move through your 9th, everybody in the world slowly and silently, in the loudest but most discrete of ways makes you aware of the devil in disguise. The first exam of your life which they say will stay throughout and if you do well in it you have made a wonderful start and secured your future. It’s the big daddy, the class Xth board exam.
Throughout Class Xth, speculations of how to write the best answers, which books to consult, what kind of questions have been asked in the previous year’s, where to take tuition classes etc. rang in the ears of my good friend X. He gets scared very easily and hence got scared of what the hell is happening. Still out of habit he kept appearing for all the exams in the run up to the big daddy exam. In pre-boards he secured above 90%. But big daddy was not satisfied with his efforts and in the boards he got just above 80%.
These creatures ‘percentage’ and ‘rank’ are brothers/sisters in arm. One cannot exist without the other. X got a percentage close to being considered failure among the people he was with. The board results had gone helter skelter as if ‘rank’ and ‘percentage’ had decided to have a bit of fun. X had a pretty bad time as it was the lowest percentage he had received in his whole academic career. And naturally the lowest rank as well.
Promoted to Class XIth, X had already understood that things had just warmed up. Big Daddy was out only to make way for ‘God Superior.’ The exam which is or was (at least in his times) the father-mother of all exams: IIT Joint Entrance Examination. It had to be taken at the end of two years and because it was a ‘very tough and competitive exam' and because X had shown ‘promise in Math and Science’ he had to start preparation after Class Xth results had come out.
These two years or three in the case of X deserve a novel and dedicating a small part of a blog would be gross injustice and cruelty. Hence it would be fair to say that only if there are sufficient readers can the story be continued. Basically if this post has more than 20 different user comments, next parts would be written. In either case thanks for reading the post.