By Kalsang Dhondup
April 21, 2016
In many countries with highly developed education systems, examination marks are not held as the most important area to impart a holistic education to students. Rather, a student’s sense of responsibility for society, ability to think critically and capacity to express their passion in various innovative and artistic mediums are held in higher regard than examination results.
The new scholarship scheme announced by the Central Tibetan Administration’s Department of Education (DOE) is mainly based on examination results. It clearly shows that Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and the decision makers of DOE’s scholarship section are infatuated and obsessed over examination marks.
Not all Tibetan students score high in examinations; every one of them has different passion in life and dpriving scholarship just because of their examination marks is not a visionary decision but one that reeks of conservatism and conventionalism.
In our exile community, much focus and importance is given to examination which results in competition among parents and schools; it puts so much pressure on students to score high marks. In order to score high marks in exams, many students tend to focus more on text books rather than other books on literature and philosophy which provide them with different perspectives and enhance their ability to think critically. The main reason for the outcry in our exile community that many college graduates have poor standard of education is related to focusing too much on scoring high marks in exams. So I think the Sikyong and DOE should focus more on giving our students a holistic education rather than on examination results. It should not become a political tool to brag about raising the standard of education in our community, which in the long run would result in disaster.
I do acknowledge that without good examination marks, a student won’t be able to join good colleges after finishing school but having too much obsession over it will produce students who only have a piece of paper called degree but without the quality of education to match it. So the present decision makers have to own up to the responsibility over such nightmares that are bound to come in the future.
Sikyong Lobsang Sangay had studied in Havard University and I am sure he knows that examination results are not given the highest priority by the best universities in the world. Yet, he still started the so-called Sikyong scholarship, which might help and inspire Tibetan students to score higher marks or at par with the Indian students, but on the contrary, it also sends a wrong message to parents and students that scoring high marks is indispensible for success. So it does more harm than help in making sure that a holistic education is imparted to our students.
It is not a big deal that the Department of Education is giving scholarships as most of the money comes from funds provided by outside sources and it is also their duty to do so as students are our future hope. Rather than announcing a scholarship scheme which appears to be very appealing but ineffective in reality, they need to provide scholarships by keeping in mind the various potentials of the Tibetan students and the prevalent conditions in our society such as economic and collective mental attitude toward education. Their decisions should leave a positive impact on the education of Tibetan students in the long run. And I am not saying that the scholarships offered by the Department of education have not brought any worthy results; I am sure it has to some extent but focusing and propagating too much on examination results is not a sensible approach to bring up the future generations.
Another disturbing part in the scholarship scheme announced by the Education Department is that it says any student who scores below 50% in class XII board examination has to join the Indian army’s Tibetan division. This rule in a way snatches away the opportunity for any student who has aspiration for further studies by limiting their options based only on their examination results. Some students do have passion and talent for other fields that are not included in the present education system in the Tibetan schools in India. Some are passionate about filmmaking and arts; these students usually do not score high marks in the usual subjects taught in class XII and many of them give up from the start due to pressure that comes along with such high expectations. The current scholarship scheme for students from poor economic background states that those who score below 50% have to first go to army and if they fail the fitness test for army and their overall percentage in board exam is above 40%, only then they will be considered for scholarship to continue their studies. If students from good economic back ground are not given scholarships based on their poor examination results, they could still manage on their own and it’s not a big deal for them. But forcing such a rule on students from poor economic background is an insensible and harsh decision. If such students have the will to continue their studies, then the current decision makers are robbing them of their aspirations, which is a moral crime.
In a nutshell, even if Sikyong Lobsang Sangay is able to produce thousands of Tibetan professionals in five years, many of them will be professionals with high degrees who will not be able to earn their own livelihood, let alone contributing to the community. So in order make sure that these students can contribute positively to our society in the future and also to equip these students to stand on their own feet, it is imperative for our decision makers to think wisely before making such decisions and accept that it would not be possible to judge a student’s true potential by merely looking at his/her examination results.
Kalsang Dhondup is a Tibetan journalist for Bod-Kyi-Bangchen newspaper.
Opinions expressed in the article are personal and should not be attributed to Tibet Express.
Click here to read the original article in Tibetan language.