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How many of you have been pestered by your parents about your grades? Maybe pestering might be too extreme but you get my point. Obviously, the answer is everyone right? Every one of us has been pressurized again and again to get good marks in our entire academic career. And of course, this is pretty normal, right? What parent wouldn’t want their child to be a high achiever?
Now let me rephrase the question a bit. How many of you have grown up basing your life around marks ONLY and not education? Not learning. Not growing and developing skills. Just marks. Because I know I have. I was taught that grades meant everything. That achieving good grades would automatically secure your future, your career, your whole life in fact.
So I spent my entire life buried around textbooks and assignments. My parents didn’t let me participate in extra-curricular activities, dramas, debates, and all the other stuff. I shunned away parties, hangouts with friends, family gatherings, and whatnot. The result? I became a socially awkward guy who had difficulty in conversing with people and didn’t know how to carry himself in front of others. I am an introvert but I had almost become a hermit. I would stammer, mix up my words, look confused most of the time around people and always tried to please others.
I didn’t know any of the technical skills that are practically mandatory to learn in life. Like driving, negotiating with shopkeepers or storeowners was completely out of the question when I had difficulty in stringing two sentences together coherently. I didn’t know my surrounding areas, didn’t know my way around the neighborhood. Would you believe that I traveled in public transport for the first time in the final year of my school?
My naivety had reached a point where I was perhaps one of the most targeted students of my class for pranks. But perhaps the most disastrous effect of all this was… I didn’t know how to say NO because I was afraid I might offend others. I just couldn’t. I was the typical “good boy” of our class and as such, I was also completing my friends’ assignments and projects.
I would see my friends having a carefree attitude, not bothering to study at all during the class and were always ready for a hangout. I would scoff at them, at their non-serious attitudes towards studies and would avoid them always. As you may have already guessed, it wasn’t that long that I got the label of “mummy-daddy”
And then came the first shock when I was preparing for my college interview. Obviously, the question came about my strengths and weaknesses. And I was… blank. I didn’t know what my strengths or my skills were. A college interview still made my grades relevant but what happens when I step into the professional life? Which organization would take a socially awkward guy who cannot carry a conversation for more than 2 minutes? Sure you could talk to me about my favorite author or the number of books I have read but that is worth nothing in the professional life. And that was the first time I actually became aware of how much behind I am compared to my colleagues.
I wonder, is this something common in South Asia? Were my parents too overprotective? Why are grades everything for a parent instead of a good upbringing and growth of a child? Why aren’t men taught to perform basic household chores? We rely on our sisters and mothers to prepare the iftaar table and do the dishes while we can slouch off lazily on the bed with our mobiles. Why aren’t we taught actual skills which would help us in our professional life? In university, I began to realize that grades, while important for passing your semesters, won’t be of much help when you are, say, dealing with a client or giving a presentation to your boss.
When I stepped into my university life, I saw people like me. And I saw people having their own businesses, their jobs or simply having a life outside of their academic circle. They were enrolled in online courses, they had to run their family business, they were content writers and bloggers and so much more. They had won so and so competitions attended so and so workshops. You could just see that from their faces that they had already started their professional life. It was hard for me to not get an inferiority complex. I could either mope in my own misery and complain about my life or I could at least learn from peers and colleagues. Thankfully I chose the latter.
But I could see that I wasn’t the only case. That they are many people out there who are brought up to believe grades are your ticket to a good life. That having a good grade in matric or O levels automatically entitles you to a six-figure salary and a decent house with a loving family. This mentality is so much more damaging than we realize. How many people are committing suicides when they are unable to achieve the grade their parents would be satisfied with?
Too many times we are compared with our cousins or our neighbors’ kids on how brilliant THEY are and WE are not because they got 95% and we got 80%. A couple of years later, our grades don’t matter in the least. But we carry that rebuke with us. Because at the moment where we are looking for appreciation and support most, we are admonished. We are made to feel that all our efforts were worthless.
I am not disregarding the importance of grades. They do matter for the present. All I am asking is the parents to be involved in your child’s growth. Experiential growth. Capacity building. Skill development. These things matter in the long run, not your mark sheets or your transcripts. Because when your child doesn’t receive proper attention and care when he doesn’t have any practical skills, no one would want to be with him. Because he is probably making fake profiles on Facebook and messaging girls to “fraandship” with them.