Pressure to Excel?

Yesterday the CBSE 12th board results were announced and my nephew Dhanush is a school topper ! We all were absolutely thrilled and I posted on FB saying he made us proud. I also mentioned about waiting for him to get a rank in his chartered accountancy program. One of my FB friends immediately reacted to the post saying “let the child do whatever he wants to, don’t put pressure on him” and I completely appreciate the comment because there is tremendous pressure on children to be toppers. I have a huge problem with the crazy focus on “marks”…. yes, there is no other measure to figure out academic brilliance but pushing children to cram up and do tests after tests after tests just to get to 99% is plain torture. It should fall under the category of “harassment” !

Dhanush is a brilliant child who loves to study and is naturally gifted. My comment on FB that I am waiting to see him as a rank holder in CA is just to motivate him and not to put any pressure. My comment to him as his 12th board exams started was “Relax. You have prepared well and it is just another exam. The marks you get don’t signal success or failure in life. Just do the best you can.” Nachi and Kousalya, his parents or Krishnan and I, his periyappa and periyamma don’t put any pressure on Dhanush to get any rank – nor any pressure to choose a particular stream. He chose to do the Chartered Accountancy course and the only thing I have told him is to pursue his love for literature either through a formal degree or informally.

When I read my FB friend’s comment on not to put pressure, the thought running in my head was, there has to be pressure to excel…. not pressure to get certain marks or get a certain degree, but to excel. Unfortunately for school students, in India especially, academic excellence is equated with ranks and marks obtained. Later in life, excellence is equated with position and money. Excellence according to me is doing what you do, to the best of your ability – give it your 100% and some more. Each of us excels in something – could be singing, could be playing basket ball or it could be in public speaking. We do need to inculcate the habit of excellence in children. The pressure to excel is important, otherwise we will soon become a nation of mediocrity… and in some ways we already are. We lament about how the plumber leaves things undone, how the roof leaks in a new house, how the blouse that was stitched did not fit, how the politicians do not deliver and on and on … forgetting for a minute that we don’t put pressure on children to excel in what they do. We put pressure on children to get more marks – which is meaningless. Teach children to take pride in their work and stamp it with excellence – whether its cleaning the toilet or washing their clothes or studying their least favourite subject.

We dont have a great system to identify each child’s talent and purpose in life – so the school system is a necessary evil and marks are the only way to differentiate. But, nothing stops us and the teachers to ensure that the child pursues excellence, some may top the class because they are genuinely brilliant and some others may top the class in other areas and thats just fine. The world cannot be full of Engineers only, or singers only or plumbers only … we need diversity!! We are born diverse and its our birthright to be different. Every profession is great if it is your chosen one. Teach children to excel and take pride in what they do – tell them to strive and hone their talent – whatever talent it is. Teach them to rejoice in their ability and uniqueness – every individual is incomparable.

So my dear Dhanush – you do have the pressure to excel in your chosen field. None of us will be upset if you don’t get a gold medal or a rank in CA, but we certainly expect you to put in 100% of yourself. We will certainly expect you to excel and share your unique talent with the world. You have unlimited potential and our only wish and prayer is that you reach to your fullest potential. Only do what you love to do, follow and charter your own path. Remember Will Durant’s quote “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. So be a caring human being repeatedly, put in 100% into whatever you do repeatedly and stick to your values repeatedly, define and redefine success in your own terms and strive towards it – that is success, its not living upto someone else’s idea of success. And remember, just like the IPL teams have a bunch of cheerleaders, you have all of us as your personal cheerleaders (Periyappa and I can dance even) – everytime you put in 100% into anything, we are all right behind you to cheer you on, pat your back, dance with the pom-poms and enjoy your success. Congratulations on your 12th board results!

Congratulations to all the students who took the exams and put in all their efforts – all of you are super stars irrespective of whatever marks you got and your personal cheerleaders hopefully danced around you :). Focus on excellence, not marks.


1 thought on “Pressure to Excel?”

  1. Nicely put. Putting pressure on children is subjective. And it should not confine to academic excellence, as said rightly. If we don’t teach to excel/perform, how can they survive in the pragmatic society.


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