Another academic year is coming to an end and thus we prepare ourselves, the many high school graduates, for university admissions. As I sit down to fill in multiple application forms for various universities, I cannot help but sigh at the selection criteria. It is a shame that the education and admission system continues to fail its own students by putting them into quantitative boxes, which become the yardstick to measure their worth.
It was Albert Einstein who said that everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Yet many years later, we continue to judge all students by subjecting them to the same exams and assume this practice to be “fair”. In doing so, we cruelly forget to celebrate the differences that each individual has and force them to fit into one archetype.
To me, this process based on a certain ‘cut-off’ or ‘entrance test’ doesn’t feel like that of selection. It is in fact, ‘a process of elimination’. If you fail to meet this number, it doesn’t matter how much you know about the subject or if you are interested in the pursuit of knowledge.
Disregarding everything, you are pushed behind in this rat race. A student could know all about different political ideologies, schools of thought and might have read the works of political thinkers but they do not get a chance to communicate their strengths. There are qualities like objective measurements that cannot be quantified such as intellectual curiosity — how can it be translated into a grade?
I remember having a conversation with a friend who was able to get admission to one of the top universities in the US. I asked her why she chose to go abroad to study and she replied that it would have been very difficult for her to get admission to a university in India since she did not get the required percentage.
However, since the universities abroad also take into account written samples, essays and experiences — she was accepted in various renowned universities and finally went to her preferred one.
One thing that stands out to me was when she said that through the Indian admission processes she felt like she was being reduced to a number and her knowledge was not paid heed to, whereas while applying abroad she felt her experiences were of importance too.
While she was fortunate to have the resources to study in a foreign country, many students don’t. And while we complain of the ongoing brain drain we fail to acknowledge the reasons behind it.
Need for a holistic system
Students are actively encouraged to focus entirely on academics during their board years and not participate in non-academic events because these have been trivialised by the given system. And yet, after devaluing their strengths we continue to expect students to put in their best efforts.
Instead of an objective system that fails to look at students as individuals, we should adopt a more holistic and subjective system of admission. We should give students a chance to express their knowledge and intellect through essays because knowledge cannot, and more importantly should not, be confined to a school textbook.
This would also encourage them to develop a habit of writing, which is an essential skill as it fosters one’s ability to explain and refine one’s ideas. Extracurriculars such as the performing arts should also be given weightage in this system. We should give students a chance to highlight experiences that cannot be necessarily given a number but have contributed to their development. The hours they put into non-academic events such as social work should also be valued. This would not only give students an incentive to contribute more to society but also create an environment they would thrive in.
The need to change the education system is urgent. We cannot rely on an aged and inefficient system to create a favourable environment for students to grow in. We need a system that allows individuality to shine while creating circumstances for the advancement of the youth, a system that doesn’t ask us to become another brick in the wall.
Kirti Advani is a student of Laxman Public School, New Delhi