Losing the warmth — Not cool!

‘Okay, you’ve got 30 minutes to make your friendships useful. Remember, I am not friends with you as and when someone enters the room during this time. Be smart and don’t let me catch you.’

Little did this teacher, playing with the future of these kids, know that they had already exhibited their smartness when (s)he got convinced to let them use unfair means in the examination that was supposed to be invigilated by him/her and not to be used as a means to earn brownie points with the students. This is just a glimpse of the sad scheme of things going around today.

Now, going a little back — there was a time when being a backbencher was nothing to be proud of, not that all backbenchers do things that they shouldn’t be proud of. Nevertheless, there was a connotation to it. Studying for exams was not looked down upon and partying a day before exams was not cool, yes it was uncool, irresponsible and definitely not a thing that a student would proudly brag about on social media or make self-validation memes about. Students with good scores weren’t classed out, although there was always a wrong classification of low-scoring students as ‘under-performers’ or even worst — ‘average’. Because as an under-performer, child at least had an option of clearly stating an alternate interest, which this supposedly ‘average’ kid, could not. There is a famous analogy that goes around, which says that judging a student’s excellence in the current education set up is like judging a fish’s excellence by its ability to climb a tree. I agree, the deficiencies in our education system warrant attention, that will definitely need an article just like this one, and in fact, a lot better one.

However, what I intend to address is something else that is wrong not only with our education system but on a larger scope. As mentioned above, in my school days it was not cool to cheat in an exam, which today has become a mandatory exercise for several reasons. If your friends tend to score well, it is their moral obligation to help you — not during pre-examination period — instead during exams in the classroom. Non-conformation to this may also invite ultimatums of ending friendships and strained relations. Most of the times, it is more about the feeling of being guilty of not helping your friend who was entitled to it because (s)he wasn’t supposed to study; the subject isn’t supposed to be his/her career choice; the teacher has a personal vendetta; the syllabus is too tough to follow; and several other ‘genuine’ explanations.

“Heard you scored 79, well mine is 90. ‘Honesty is the best policy’ has an asterisk of terms and conditions, my friend. I won’t get into ‘told you so’, rather I’m ‘telling you so’, be real.” Well, this might have satisfied his urge for a higher score, but I was happy to have scored a 79 off my 100% efforts. However, it did pinch, not because I scored lesser, but because nobody cared. Nobody cared about the modus operandi. Nobody cared about the hit that the morale of students who don’t cheat (yes, they exist) took. Nobody cared to recognise the efforts of these students who weren’t ‘pragmatic’ enough. It pinched the worst because out of all the people concerned, there are those whom you hope to care about this — teachers, but ‘nobody’ used here and before is inclusive of them. Teachers didn’t care. Moreover, some of them had encouraged the UFM (unfair means, as ‘cool’ people call it today), in order to close the generation gap as they say, or may be to find acceptance amongst the students. It is a sheer shame to see some of the teachers and invigilators turning a blind eye to the menace. Inadvertently, in their appeasement efforts, they demonise the invigilators who do their job sincerely and thereby face irk of students. Now not all of this is for the sake of marks or that they mean everything. Like I said before, it’s more than that. It is about the moral degradation of studying. It is about moral degradation of teaching. If it is a suicide on the part of students to cheat, it is an abetment to suicide by teachers and abetment to not only ones who cheat but also to those who do not. The address of the problem should be extended to educational institutes and parents too. The focus is on ‘how much marks are being scored?’ and not ‘how marks are being scored?’ There is an utter need to drop or at the least make ‘much’ secondary. For institutes it’s about rankings and admissions while for parents it’s about society.

Apart from cheating, there’s another component in the scenario — the coolness. The coolness that’s knotted to stupidity and dishonesty. As mentioned before, being successful at cheating in an examination is considered cool and is unwittingly hailed as an act of bravado. The tales are narrated, folk songs written, memes made, jokes cracked, supposed pragmatism taught and while all this happens there are talks of reforms in education system. It is a paradox. On one hand, we want a value based education, while on the other hand, basic value of honesty is completely ignored which can be achieved solely out of personal choice and does not need a machinery reform. Although, there may be some who say all of it stems out of inefficient system of education — vast syllabus, absence of freedom in choice of careers, requirement of mugged up learning, marks being given more than due importance, defected system of examinations and the list doesn’t end. None of it justifies the act.

In addition to this, in the name of flawed system, students have developed a habit of grumbling. There is a constant pestering to disclose the questions beforehand, to reduce the syllabus, to overlook the importance of attendance in class, and all of this after the faculty is being far more reasonable than the requisite level. This baseless fussing attitude has to stop. Let us be ‘liberal’ towards career choices and subjects, not towards principles like punctuality and efforts.

Everything here is from personal experience with no hear-say. I’ve seen teachers letting the misdeeds pass, parents aiding their child’s transgression, some students taking advantage while other students losing confidence and hope. It is upon the parents and teachers to take it up seriously and address the root cause — undermining of values at the cost of goals and undermining means at the cost of results. To let these things pass may appear okay and appropriate at that point, but if not corrected at this stage, the addiction to easiness and disregard for efforts will be an affliction in the future. There has to be a system of rewards and punishments for this too. Students must be encouraged to report such incidents and in the process, they should be protected and not judged. If they report, it should be seen as an outcome of feeling cheated and not as frustration out of scoring less. Finally, it is upon the students to introspect and play fair (as they’d like to do in sports). Let us resist being cool at the stake of losing our warmth for honesty, hard work, and smart work (of the right kind).