"If you do not do well in the upcoming exams, we will marry you off to someone. We are not investing such money behind your studies for this kind of result," these words were often hurled at me by my mother when I was growing up. For my brother, it was something like, "If you do not get good grades, there is no point studying. Go out in the real world and try to earn a living by yourself. Then you will realise how hard it is."
Now, at this point of our lives, both of us know our mother never really meant those words. However, it was not the same for us at that age; in fact, we experienced a minor trauma from time to time. I still remember how scared I was on days of annual results.
The chastising from my mother might be a funny memory now, but who knows even for once if I had just momentarily lost control over myself and done something irreversible – I might have also ended up on the list of the deceased.
This year's SSC exam result was published on May 31 and ten students committed suicide within just 72 hours for not securing their expected results.
No matter how gut-wrenching these incidents are; it is a fact that we are used to seeing this kind of news. Every year, suicide numbers go up just after board results are published. In almost every case, extreme pressure from a student's family and society are the prime reason behind that student committing suicide.
The reason behind most individuals of my generation receiving complete support from their families regarding education is because their parents did not have that opportunity in their time. They are investing every penny to provide a good education for their children. However, the problem is, our parents want their children to have a top-notch education as a method of securing a well-paid income source. Holding a completely wrong perception of education, they have tried to impose the idea on their children – big time. They have infiltrated the future generation's minds only with the tangible goals of education in such a way that students feel their life has no value if they do not achieve good results.
I would like to spill a secret to all students, irrespective of whether they secured GPA-5 or not, "Kid, your certificate does not matter." No, this is not a consolation speech or sharing empathy – it is a real hardcore truth.
"Education is the backbone of a nation" – each word of this hackneyed phrase is meaningful at its core. However, education alone does not build up a nation, quality education does. And our education system is a very fragile.
This so-called indispensable grade which is putting them through hell will not even matter in the next year. Because our lives are not just about grades but in the context of Bangladesh, it is a brutal truth. Our students enter the very first day at school with the dream of attaining the highest grades – not of learning something new. That is why even after securing GPA-5, our students are not qualified.
They get the grades by memorising mathematical formulas, they secure an A+ in English by practicing teachers' suggestions, they pass physics after getting the questions before the night of the exams, and millions of students get GPA-5 because the examiners are instructed to check copies leniently.
I am not implying that there is absolutely no student who actually deserves to get GPA-5. However, the grading system itself is so polluted that proper filtration is almost non-existent. And the grades do not carry any value because nobody trusts the numbers anymore.
Not only SSC results, even university grades matter very little in our practical lives. That is because our education system is too backdated to prepare students for their future. But the age-old system has successfully glorified the necessity of these grades, so much so that life is meaningless without those numbers. And the only thing that is more rotten than this system is our society. A functioning structure of materialistic people who always measure happiness with wealth. They have pushed the litany of misconceptions in our minds that, if you do not have excellent grades – you will not earn enough; if you do not earn enough - you will not have a secured life and without a secured life you will always remain unhappy.
That is why, your parents will never say grades do not matter.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are glorified for dropping out of college – but we often failed to take the right message from here. They dropped out from the conventional education system but they never stopped learning. They continued self-learning, chased their passion and kept working to improve their innovations. There is no doubt that education is the most important factor for any person's life to move forward, but that does not lie only in grades.
What you are learning from the books and lectures, that is education; trimming your creativity of thinking, writing or painting is education; making a car from watching a YouTube video is also education – a boy named Akash Ahmed from Narayanganj actually did it, without having any prior knowledge of engineering. Even from the perspective of the job sector, right now employers rely more on subject knowledge and skillset rather than the certificate.
Putting aside all these factors, there is more to a human life than just securing a golden GPA-5. Everybody is not supposed to stand first, society needs a doctor as much as they need a delivery man. Every job has its own responsibility, everybody has different priorities.
Not everyone finds happiness in wealth; some might just feel the happiest when they play with strings of a guitar; some souls might just light up after capturing beautiful moments with their camera; some might feel satiated in serving their signature dish to their customers – the jobs might pay less but they fill their hearts.
And that is the only important thing in life – to find peace in something that you love. Of course we should continuously try to grow, do better and to contribute to the integrated development of our community. At the end, you may really outshine others with your talent, passion and hard work.
However, till then, do not lose hope over your grades – let alone even think to take your own life. You need yourself and the world is waiting to see more of you. To be honest, sometimes this planet feels like a very constricting place to survive, but once you find your purpose, with the right people around, every moment seems meaningful. Till then, please bear with it for a while!