Academic excellence is not everything


ZK Pahrii Pou
Once upon a time, a child out of school was considered to be a child with no hope for the future. Therefore, everyone, including parents, activists, teachers, etc. encouraged every child to be in the school. The state emphasises on the right to education for all. While everyone talk about sending all children to school, whether the right kind of education is imparted in the school or not is hardly questioned. And today, a child in the school but without academic excellence (understood as securing high marks in exams) is considered to be a ‘hopeless child’. Such child is considered ‘useless’ who has no future at all. Therefore, every child is told to compete with each other to be at the top. The top ones (high rank holders in exam) were given celebrity status in just one day by media. In our school education system, hence exam’s mark becomes the stepping stone to a higher status as well as one’s future. The main aim of present education system is only to produce large number of students with high rank in common board examination. Preferences in admission are given according to first, second and third division. All these factors make us to think that academic excellence is everything in life.
Teachers, lecturers and professors rate the student’s strength only in accordance to their performance in examinations and test. Those who get high marks are considered to be ‘good students’. Better treatment and various incentives (including smiles, prizes and cash) are awarded to this so called ‘bright students’. Students are ‘rewarded’ or ‘punished’ on the basis of marks secured. Many schools and colleges provide free admission as well as exemption of full tuition fee to the toppers. The first divisioners are given 75 per cent or 50 per cent fee concession. This is injustice. The fee concession enjoyed by the toppers and the first divisioners are actually the money adjusted or rather extracted from the fees of second and third divisioners, who form the majority of the student’s population. This kind of unjust practice must be abolished in all institutions. Every student, whether toppers or simple pass students, must pay their own fees for their studies. No one has the right to build their empire by sucking the income of another person.
Our society needs to look beyond ‘high marks’ and ‘grades’ of exams as the only way to progress and bright future.  If all students secured first ranks or first division, then who will give them jobs? Since our school education system aimed at producing only high graders of exams, there are lakhs of educated unemployed youths in our society. This is a big headache for many parents and society. We need to appreciate the creativity of each child for the fact that there is much life to live beyond academic excellence. To be famous sportspersons, actors, poets, inventors, and orator, one need not be a topper in exams. Academic excellence is not a sure way to become a professional singer and dancer, a successful Christian minister, a spiritual person, a renowned politician, and an active leader. A person can become an expert chef, a smart mechanic or carpenter, a professional artist and a prosperous business person without getting 70 or 80 per cent in exams. Forgetting all these possibilities, children were advised to spend most (if not all) of their time to get good marks in exams. There is no space for children to invest their energy and time in developing their talent. Thus, today our education system is choking the many possibilities and creativity of life.
We need to accept the fact that academic excellence is mostly useful in preparing a person to become an ‘employ-able person’ in institutions. Many institutions are proud that their students got 100% placement right after their studies. This simply means that students were trained to depend on others rather than making them creative enough to stand on their own feet as a self-reliant and self-depending individual. I have a friend whose poor writing in exams would not allow him to get pass in first and second divisions in all exams. As far as exam results are concerned, I am much better than him. However, now he has established two Colleges and he wants me to serve in his College. An academically weak student (my friend) is now willing to give job to his friend (me) who is academically better than him. What a shame!! While we look at someone who topped the exams or has high degree (master or doctorate degrees) with respect, we often failed to check their contribution to society. Unfortunately, job preferences are also given according to the degree one holds rather than the person’s experience, creativity, wisdom and vision. We need to know that topping the exams or holding many high educational degrees is not everything. But it is the grit and commitment that bring change to oneself and to society. I am always amazed by Rev. Dr. V.K. Nuh, who did not study upto class X. However, his contribution to the establishment and growth of Chakhesang Baptist Church Council is tremendous. He not only played an important role in Naga National Movement, but also played an important role in bringing peace to the world. His contribution to Naga history and societal transformation through his writings are huge.  Like him, many famous scientists, business persons, inventors, politicians, theologians, singers, sportsperson, artists, etc. are not ‘academically excellent’ people. Many of these famous people are school drop-outs (academically not bright) and many of them have never attended university (holding no respected degree). But these are the people who know their talent, invest their time and energy in developing them. And therefore they became successful in their profession.  
It is high time that we rethink about the present school education system that gives importance solely to academic excellence. We need education system where the talent of each individual is respected and taken care of. We need education system that respects our peon or sweepers as much as we respect our teachers and principals for there is no greater or smaller profession. Although farmers produce everything for our survival, we do not respect them because they have no ‘certificate’ or ‘degrees’. This is wrong. Each job is equally important as the other.  We need education that provokes children to think and reason seriously. We need education that liberates and help each individual to live a better life.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]