So Did My Education Teach Me Wrong?

Exam time is one of the most interesting times of the year. People do act differently during this time and that’s a real good thing – it is exam time after all and it does differ from other, easier, less-stressful times of the year. Or does it? It appears as if this is not true and well, I worry.

Now exams to me have always had an utmost importance attached to it. Maybe it is just my upbringing but I have rationalised and thought long and hard about this and I do agree what my parents taught me about exam time is indeed right. My family background was, one could say, of the typical Indian background which put education above anything else. If you want to make something of yourself – educate yourself. From the time we started them back in Standard 2 (or Standard 3 – not too sure…), when exams were around the corner, I learnt. I stayed at home, with my books and learnt. Even if I was “done” revising, I still was in this mode that I am writing exams and every other pleasure, as you interpret it, took a back seat. This worked fine until around Standard 9 and Matric but we will get to that. The time for me was really a time of sacrifice. As I was a child, this meant that I won’t be going outside to play cricket for maybe a week or that my TV time would be cut short. But, I accepted this for the simple reason that Education IS important. Without it, we really are nothing. Although Bill Gates did drop out of college, he wasn’t uneducated. He put the time, effort and sacrifices into making something of himself and he learnt and innovated along the way. This does fall into the realm of education – or at least I hope it does.

Now, is education important? I would think it is. In a country with a growing economy where people with the know-how end up making ludicrous amounts of money because of what they have learnt, it is the responsibility of one’s self to make sure you are not left behind. And even though education rewards you with a simple piece of paper to say you are competent even if you aren’t, this is your passport to success. Yes, some people without formal education have made it huge but I think statistically, a person with a sound education is more likely to get somewhere than someone without one.

Now back to my revelations of late High School – one thing I did notice was the “unimportance” a lot of people put on examinations. It appeared to me that other cultures, such as the White culture did not put as much as importance on exams as Indian families do. I remember when I was in Standard 9, the First XI Cricket team were scheduled to play matches during the Matric exams and there were Matrics in the team. As one can guess, this just boggled my mind. What’s even worse (well, in my view) was that during an assembly, our principal applauded the players for their commitment to the team. Granted, maybe the said person might be a candidate to play for the Provincial Team but well, the truth was that he really wasn’t. And, and this is important, I don’t have anything against cricket – it actually is my favourite sport to play. Yet, in my eyes, this person is jeopardising their Matric results all in the name of a game.

The ‘jeopardise’ part comes into the realm of, “If I used that time to study rather than on something else, I may have got a better mark.” It’s something quite a revelation even though the concept is simple – when you study, you put everything into studying so to make sure that with the limited time you’ve been given, you do the best you can – simple right? Well, then why do people insist on going out during exams? Granted, you wrote two heavy papers that week and your next paper is next Wednesday but going out on Friday means the whole ritual is required – the preparation and psyching yourself up and then the comedown of the next day. The actual time spent “out” is not time you lose – it’s the two days before and after the event that are truly lost. Then there is the whole mindset thing and you DO go into a specific mindset when you do study and it is an important element in allowing you to do well. Now, instead of the five odd hours you sacrificed, you have sacrificed two whole days plus whatever time it takes you to get back into the exam mode. My response to this is just why don’t people just sacrifice that single weekend and after exams, party like its 1999?

A trend nowadays, well, actually – it has been happening for a while, is that the best parties happen around exam time. Granted, most of the clientele attending these events aren’t necessarily the people that are writing exams but with tertiary education being accessible to so many people, a lot of the intended clientele would be exam-writing people. There might be a reason for these parties occurring during exams but as somebody who is writing, why can’t you just miss the party? It’s not really a big sacrifice in the greater scheme of things. Going to your paper still drunk or intoxicated by whatever substance that you abused is a major handicap. With the market for jobs being so competitive and reliant on people having the necessary skills, why shoot your self in the foot? It’s only going to come back and bite you and when it comes to living the life you envisaged, you won’t be able to because there is someone better than you out there. From what I have encountered, this person will basically just blame the government for a multitude of things but we won’t even go there. Something that this might be having an effect on is the skills shortage prevalent locally and internationally. A lack of focus is depriving the world of valuable human ingenuity which could have unfathomable disastrous effects.

It’s quite distressing even thinking about this. I guess that the world is changing and education is not seen as important as it once was. I know that although it did hinder me socially in some respects, being truly focused during exams has got me an amazing job that I can handle because of the intellect that I possess. And at least I know my kids will be given this seemingly “unfair” advantage. Maybe you should give your kids this advantage as well. 🙂