May was the month for percentages and grades. That was when the results of examinations for Grades 10 and 12 were announced. Every parent would have breathed a huge sigh of relief if their children had sat for the Indian curriculum exams. That’s the kind of significance it assumes these days.
It made me wonder whether exams played such a pivotal role in my younger days. I remember distributing sweets for merely passing the exams and moving on to the next grade. Never once did anyone ask about the marks, nor was I interested in knowing them.
Special editions of local language dailies would publish the results. Only top-ranked students would be identified, and the rest remained anonymous in their exam numbers. Failure never brought about any pressure as the course could be completed in the next attempt. That’s a far cry from today when we hear about students committing suicide after failing their exams.
It doesn’t end there. Students and parents are not satisfied with a 90-plus percentage. It’s the pressure to get better results that stresses this generation. My daughter scored well in the science stream but was upset at having lost some marks in Chemistry. We resisted the urge to revalue the answer sheets since we believe that parents have to create the right kind of environment to make children feel proud. This is exactly what my parents would have done. I don’t remember them being very strict about our studies.
Sport teaches many life skills, like facing challenges without fear, but with patience, and so on. But the most important skill is how to handle failures. Sport allows you to come back stronger, no matter how many times you fail. You could always win the next time.
Our parents laid a lot of importance on core values, rather than marks. Yes, there were a couple of occasions when my parents were worried. The first was when they changed my second language from Hindi to Tamil following the anti-Hindi campaign in the 1980s in Chennai. Another source of concern was when I enrolled for undergrad studies. The popular choices were Engineering or Medicine. At my father’s suggestion, I had opted for science stream after Grade 10. My cricketing skills bloomed soon, and that meant missing classes for practice or matches.
So before my college admission, I convinced my dad of my intention to pursue cricket seriously, and told him that it would interfere with my studies. So the science stream would not be a wise choice. He agreed. I took up Arts (they call it Humanities these days) and represented my college and university.
Well, cricket didn’t become my career, but I was able to give it a good shot. I was able to invest my time and effort into my passion. Sport helped shape me into the person I am.
Many corporates bring their staff to the playgrounds for help in team-building, something that I learnt at a very young age. Sport teaches many life skills, like facing challenges without fear, but with patience, and so on. But the most important skill is how to handle failures. Sport allows you to come back stronger, no matter how many times you fail. You could always win the next time. It also helps you understand that bouquets and brickbats are two sides of a coin.
It is important to expose children to failures. And that will give them the strength to bounce back. And sport perhaps is the best avenue to drive home the message. Failing an examination is not the end of the world. Failures should be the spur to develop a winning attitude.