In Defence of the Bihar Topper: The Fallen Star of a Rotten System
Bihar topper Ganesh is not a culprit. He is a victim of intense media scrutiny, writes Akshat Tyagi.
“Why did you disappear for three days after finding out that you topped the exams?
“Why isn’t your permanent residence address mentioned on your form?”
“Can you spell Psychology? What about Sociology?”
“Do you think you deserve such high marks for your Music practical exams; You think you’re that good a singer?”
“Dholak baja kar dikhaiye hume.”
“When was the battle of Panipat fought? And the Battle of Buxar?”
“Sanghya aur visheshan kya hote hain? (what is the difference between a noun and an adjective?)”
“When did modern psychology originate in India?”
“When was Premchand born?”
Bihar Board exams Arts topper, Ganesh Kumar struggled to answer the volley of the above questions, that media personnel bombarded him with. I am certain that if CBSE Class XII Board exam 2017 topper Raksha Gopal was asked these questions, she too, would fumble.
Journalists grill toppers with ridiculous questions like these in order to verify the student’s ability to ace an examination. Bihar topper Ganesh Kumar may be guilty of many things, including lying about his age and embezzling funds, but it’s not his fault that he failed the media trial against him.
Over the past few days, the media has been relentlessly chasing Ganesh. So much so that while being produced in a local court, he said that it was “innocent people” like him who went on to become terrorists and criminals. One anchor went to the extent of interpreting Ganesh’s statement as a threat.
It appears as though the journalists who want Ganesh to list the five principles of Sociology, could do with a refresher course or two about the ethics of journalism.
His prosecution by media is problematic on a number of levels. Bihar is but one of over 20 state boards in India. But how many other state board toppers are regularly humiliated on national television?
The Bihari Tag
Such scrutiny is guided by the stereotypes propagated by the likes of Half Girlfriend – where Biharis are portrayed as cunning, savage and uneducated people. For the media, Bihar is the stuff of amusing headlines, and not a state that is in dire need of education reform.
Students like Rubi Rai or Ganesh are not seen as achievers. Instead, they’re viewed as malefactors.
Students can score high grades in subjects like music and cooking – all vocational subjects under the ambit of the CBSE. Practical examinations are an eyewash. You could be physically unhealthy and still score 30 on 30 in a CBSE physical education practical.
Using Unfair Means
Critical examination is essential to journalism, but shoving microphones down student’s throats is not the way to do it. The fact that we gauge a student’s potential on their ability to remember dates, facts, definitions and principles exposes the flaws in our schooling system.
If cheating – be it copying off chits hidden in socks and sleeves, or being passed notes from desperate family members who climb up the walls of the exam centre – helps students clear their final examinations, then something is definitely wrong with the system, and not the children.
In fact, I find students who use unfair means in exams to be more sincere, since it shows their inkling for an upward social mobility.
This may sound too radical and philosophical for a resource-starved state like Bihar. But I find it very hard to reconcile with the fact that a hub of ancient wisdom and knowledge has been denigrated for its illiteracy. Despite the condescending nature of the questions being asked, Ganesh’s composed nature, according to me, is proof that he is more intelligent than the inquisitive reporter.
There are more important questions that we, as a society, need to ask ourselves. There are pressing issues to talk about, and questioning someone’s marksheet is not on that list.
(Akshat Tyagi is the author of ‘Naked Emperor of Education’. He tweets at @AshAkshat. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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