In Telangana this year 9 Lakh students wrote the Intermediate Public Examinations. 62.29% passed. Do you know what that also means. Close to 3.4 Lakh were marked failed. 

Newspaper Article on Student Deaths
Times of India

20 kids decided to kill themselves over this failure.  

Was the failure an issue with the teaching methods, correction mechanisms, careless tallying of scores, errors of data entry or technological mess ups by the company, Globarena Technologies Pvt. Ltd, that was hired by TSBIE to provide technical assistance?

Meanwhile the courts and BIE decide whether the kids who killed themselves, actually failed the Intermediate exams! While people squabble over which agency is responsible, my head screams with questions.  

20 kids thought their lives were equal to the grades they got in this one exam. Their failure was equal to a failed life.
20 kids didn’t see any options beyond death. 
20 kids were able to find resources to kill themselves rather than find answers on how to get past this failure.
20 kids didn’t have anyone to reach out to who could tell them life was more than a test. 

More kids must have contemplated suicide. More must have tried. Some may have failed to figure the know-how or resources. More may have failed to take that final step.

You and I are part of the problem.

We are building a world of pressure for kids and failing to prepare them for the tests of life. We have failed to tell our kids to work hard but to be prepared when life throws them a curve ball. Failures are a part of life and they will always be the best teachers. We are forgetting to teach them to lose as well as they win. To accept failure as a learning experience. 

We have failed to provide them safety nets in which they can fall into. We have failed to provide them resources when they fall through the cracks.   

three member enquiry into the Telengana exams reports that “No significant variation has been observed in the pass percentage of the 2019 compared with 2018”. The Pass percentage of the three years has been between 60-65%. 

What happens to the 35-40% who don’t make it?  What support do we provide them to deal with the trauma? Why do we engulf them in shame? What options do they have?   

Some will take up the challenge and beat it well. A few will try again and probably get through…but some will have no one to turn to, no answers, no options. 

What is the lesson for us. 

  • Stop building pressure. Exams are just assessments. When a child falls, they must be allowed to get up and try again. 
  • Do we really believe that getting 33-40% marks in a subject gives us credible knowledge of it?
  • Give them options. From the subjects they choose, the papers they struggle and the ones they fail. Can they direct their education to a more personalised chart of interests? And if not, how do they get past these struggles? How do they get up when they fall? Give them the know how…how do we help them rather than shame them?
  • And maybe it is time that we as people stop pretending that an exam changed our lives. Our interpretations and expectations are what tips off the scale. 

We are together responsible for the 20 deaths.
Parents that use their kids & their marks for a stamp of societal approval.
Schools that push these kids for their own selfish ‘100% pass’ stamps.
A community that told them they were worth what grade they got.
Politicians that use a public exam for their own agendas.
Media that uses these exams for TRP ratings and marketeers for product sales.

And this must stop with each one of us. Not passing an exam simply means you did not provide the expected response to a certain questions asked of you. It does not mean you as an individual are not capable of more. 

The opposite of pass need not be FAIL. 

The opposite of pass is another chance, another choice, a new direction    or a different road map.

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