What if I ask you to recall the scene of the whole classroom from your childhood during an examination. I remember when I was in 3rd standard, during examinations, there used to be pin drop silence in the class. The 2-3 hours of exam time used to be the most silent hours of the whole semester. I can still recollect the tick tock sounds of the clock during that time. The first bell was the exam start time, then after every half an hour, the teacher present in the class would remind us how much time was left. I used to have 3-4 well sharpened pencils in my pencil box so that my time was not wasted in sharpening the pencils during the exam. The invigilator used to keep an eye on each and every student and would usually scold the students, if they so much as looked up.
But recently, the image of whole classroom exam scene I mentioned, shattered. You must be wondering that why I was recalling my own examination experiences, and here is the other part of the story:-
Currently, I work in Samastipur in Bihar and I work with government schools in the area. As part of my project, me and my mentor go to these schools to conduct workshops with school teachers, helping them understand the objectives of our program. So that day, when I went to the office in the morning, my mentor said “Let’s go a bit early today to school”. I agreed, and both us headed towards the school, discussing about our workshop. My mentor also told me that it was exam time in the school.
As soon as we reached, I spoke to the headmaster, where I got to know that at that time, the exams of the primary class students were going on. So, I went to the 3rd standard classroom. While walking towards the class, I was similarly recalling my own examinations and how the environment used to be then. As I went nearer, I could hear the sound of some students and a teacher walked out of the class. Inside, all the students were sitting in a group on the floor in the class. Few students had one answer sheet with them which already had all the answers from the question paper. Students who did not know how to read and write were being helped by the senior students. The teacher was shouting and was repeating the meaning of each and every question again and again. I remember, there was some ‘match the following’ question and the teacher was telling the meaning of each English word in hindi and then explaining them how and which answer to mark for the answer. I could easily see that she was very annoyed and irritated at that moment. Seeing all these things, at first I was very surprised and alarm bells were continuously ringing in my mind. I was filled with questions like ”what is going on here?”, ”Is this an exam happening for real?”. Although , I could see that teacher present over there was already irritated but I could not stop myself from asking the questions which were bothering me since last 10-15 minutes. I went to the teacher and asked “ma’am, aree aaj exam hai bachchon ka?” (is today the examination?). She replied,
“Yes, but what does one do. Most of the students in the class do not know how to read and write. Plus, the question paper is tough for the students. They even cannot read the english words properly. How will they read the whole sentences and write the answers. How will they solve the whole question paper? Question paper should be set properly so that it is easier for the students to understand and write down the answers. Also, these students don’t have books to study. And because of no detention policy we are bound to pass each and every student. What do we do, as we are not allowed to fail them”.
With this I came to terms with the reality of an examination, so different from my own. It wasn’t for me to pronounce a verdict of how wrong it was, given the situation. But the thought that today these children have others to help them, but what happens to their future, did cross my mind.
Bihar is one of the state among the BIMARU states. BIMARU is an acronym formed from the first letters of the names of the India states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. This was used to refer to the poor economic conditions within those states. Several studies, including those by the UN, showed that the performance of the BIMARU states were dragging down the GDP growth rate of India
IndiaSpend reported in September 2016, that UP and Bihar will have India’s youngest populations over the next 10 years i.e. together accounting for 31% of Indians between five and 14 years. By 2020, India will have the world’s largest working population – 869 million – but an IndiaSpend analysis of these four states – with 43.6% of India’s school-age population between the age of five and 14 – revealed that India is unprepared to educate and train its young population.
This is our reality away from the homes in the city. Where education is just too tough for many to cope with. We set the rules of how education will be delivered, without thinking about the masses. And in the future the numbers will only increase. But will be of children comfortable with education and ready to be employed or of those who struggled with exam papers throughout school and aren’t prepared? The question is for all of us.