Birthday… a day of celebration, a gathering of family& friends… the list goes on. But the most inevitable part of your birthday is the cake, right? What would you like to see on your birthday cake? Something you fancy the most… something that makes you smile?
Yesterday I came across the image of a birthday cake. Rather creative one. From a 6 year old child to her mom. It was not shaped like a Barbie or a family picture or anything you see at a regular cake shop. It was the child’s mark list of various terms – marked Excellent in all terms.
A print out of the progress report pasted on top of the cake saying – “This is for you, mom. Happy Birthday.”
As I said, it was a rather creative cake – but at the same time very much disturbing!
My first failure
The cake and the disturbing image took me back to a childhood memory. My mom was a single parent. She had a hard time raising us. The only contribution of happiness I could provide was my progress report from school. And I always felt that there is a direct relation between my marks and her happiness. I slowly learnt, that the only way to bring her happiness was by getting good marks. Fortunately I remained within the top 10% throughout my high school days. And I got into Engineering. The first integrated results of 2 semesters were out. I was at home enjoying the semester break. One of our family friends called me at home and told me the results. “You have more than 70%, however you failed in one paper- Graphics”.
My first ever failure in studies. I still remember how my body and mind reacted to that news. I failed. Not just in an exam. In front of my mother. I could imagine her face, her comments and her overall disappointment when she comes home from work that evening.
My hands were trembling. I felt so scared …so ashamed of myself…of not being able to please my parent whose happiness was mostly linked to my performance in studies. Many options came to my mind- starting with running away from home to hurting myself. I was completely broken – mentally and emotionally. Somehow I summoned up the courage to stay home until that evening and face my mother. The stress I went through during those couple of hours – was rather unbearable. When my mom came home that evening I timidly approached her and disclosed the status of my results. She was of course disappointed, but not to the extent that I would have had to kill myself.
Kerala’s obsession with Marks & Grades
In Kerala, we tend to assess a child’s success through the marks and grades he/she gets in school and college. Once the child grows up to become an adult, the success is measured by the salary he/she brings home. Somewhere in this journey to get good marks and good salary we ignore the being – the true nature or essence of the person.
Most times we under-estimate the reasoning and thought processes of children. But look at this kid – She would have thought her marks would make her mom happy than anything else. How can a 6 year old draw such a conclusion? And if this child grows up and fails in any of the exams, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
In Kerala most child suicides happen around May when the 10th class exam results are published. In order to reduce the burden and take the mental stress off the children, government introduced the grading system. But what is the point in narrowing the focus of stress to just class 10 when it all begins in kindergarten?
Imagine if this is how a 6 year old think, who is there to blame?