It is heart-rending whenever I come across a lively and enterprising student whose academic progress gets cut short due to failure in one or two subjects in a Board exam. After years of studies, struggles, often including extra coaching, when a student is declared ‘failed’, it not only affect his or her higher studies, but also the very self-esteem and motivation to achieve something in life. Some of these students get so distracted that they get into bad habits or unwanted company, and then parents spend years trying to get them back on track.
We are in an era where the concept of multiple intelligences has taken a firm root, and we recognise that any outstanding competency, whether in pure academics or in so-called ‘extracurricular’ fields can lead to a fulfilling career. We have also observed how mediocre and borderline students have often overtaken the toppers not only in earning better but also in carving out very meaningful paths in their journey of life.
Hence the important question: is it fair to declare a student a failure just because he or she cannot succeed in memorising or mastering a particular subject, which may or may not be relevant to future life? If the answer is a ‘No’, then let us explore what options are available to many such otherwise talented children to move on in life towards their goals.
Since 10th and 12th standard certification is necessary for higher education and any other openings, one needs to ensure that these hurdles are overcome.
If children are in a comparatively more difficult curriculum like Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), they can be shifted to SSLC or in some cases, even to International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) where they can choose subjects of their choice.
For those with greater academic challenges, the NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) matriculation (and even 12th standard exam) is a boon because students can study and pass in any five subjects of their choice. They can even appear for more subjects and the best five will be chosen for the result. They can sit for individual subjects’ exams at their convenience and take time to complete all papers, as exams are held twice a year. They have the opportunity to select non-academic subjects such as Data Entry, Painting, Home Science, Indian Culture etc, and they need not study languages if they do not wish to do so.
Those who miss out on their 10th due to failure in one subject can approach NIOS to appear for that one subject (or even a different one if it is too difficult) and complete matriculation. They offer exams ‘on demand’ any time of the year. All details are available on www.nios.ac.in.
Those who are unable to complete their 12th, once they attain 18 years of age, can give a simple Bachelor Preparatory Program exam, and on clearing that, can directly enroll for a three-year Bachelor’s degree course in open universities like Indira Gandhi National Open University (www.ignou.org). Many established colleges offer Bachelor of Vocation (BVoc) degree courses which have more of practical work rather than theory, and one can complete the course one year at a time, getting a certificate, diploma and degree on completion of each year. The fees are also quite reasonable.
After 10th, polytechnic diploma courses offer an alternative to those who are not very academically oriented. After completing a three-year diploma, one can choose to either pursue part-time vocational skill-building courses to become more employable, or even seek admission directly into 2nd year BE degree through a special CET exam.
Similarly, there are many other private job-oriented courses that focus on practical skills which have come up due to the patronage of the Government of India’s skill development programmes. Most of these are continuously updated and their curriculum is based on industry requirements, hence, getting jobs is not difficult.
Unlike in earlier years, those without recognised university degrees but possessing practical skills in areas such as software, data analytics, office management and many others, can get fairly lucrative private-sector jobs and keep going up the ladder if they upgrade their skills from time to time.
Those who wish to start earning early and continue their education can enlist in military service as a non-commissioned officer (NCO). For example, if you can get selected as an Airman in Indian Air Force through the Airman Selection Exam after 12th (with any optional subjects) you start off straight away with a decent salary and many perks, and a respectable and secure Defence job. The government provides many easy opportunities for NCOs to complete graduation and any higher studies you wish to do. You can also appear for the officers’ exam and aspire to become a Commissioned Officer.
Many students who cannot make up their mind take a year off and explore various possibilities. This also happens to students who fail to qualify in both the Main and Supplementary exam in one or two subjects and decide to appear in the next academic year. If you wish to take the year off, you should have a clarity on how you will be spending that year, what skills you will learn and what type of apprenticeship is available to you. You should also ensure that a year off does not take you away permanently from academics, and you should have the determination to get back to higher studies.
As most of us are well aware, innumerable students select degree courses without analysing objectively, often getting carried away with what everyone else is doing. Subsequently, they either lament that they are in careers totally unsuited to them, or they take drastic decisions moving into untested careers away from their academic qualifications. Hence those who are struggling for good grades or admissions can take heart from the fact that it may be good in a way that they are struggling and questioning what they should do, as their final decision will be a much better one.
Many students who just do not connect to academics and cannot clear regular exams do find good careers eventually, but they are the ones who know what they are good at, are willing to work hard to sharpen their skills, and find out the right path to make a breakthrough in the field of their choice. I have also seen students who chase vague dreams like becoming a ‘gamer’, ‘Youtuber’ etc., without having gained sufficient insights into these fields, and getting carried away by a few celebrities who have made big money in a short time. Such dreams may result in your eventually waking up to the harsh reality that there is no short-cut to success, and you may have lost crucial time resulting in more struggles in future.
(The author is founder, Banjara Academy, Bengaluru)