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The Toxic Topper Game

Ever heard of being a topper without having the fair chances of appearing for the exams? Or you appeared for the exams but your peers didn’t, so if you top such an exam, are you a “topper”? These questions don’t question your calibre but are just an introspection into our lives how we have equalized merit. The following article has explored that.  

Remember those times when the entire nation prepared its students for Class 10 and Class 12 board exams. The horror and the uncertainty around it literally made the nation sleep deprived. Running yourself through the various crash courses, going through the question bank of past year question papers, solving the questions given by your teacher, going to your school teacher for asking for the repeated questions in the board exam, asking your seniors the strategy to score the highest shot and what not, just to have that one “Perfect Score”.

But when you come out to the harder reality of this world you are introduced to the fact that no matter how hard you toil, your Class 10 certificate will just be a proof of your Birth Date and your Class 12 Certificate and Marksheet will just be an entry ticket to your college. After that college becomes the biggest equaliser for everyone, everyone’s life turns a turtle over here.

But have you noticed something during the past two years of the board’s cycles? The Examination Council (CBSE, ICSE or the State Boards) didn’t release any merit list as such, which is released every year when the results are declared. Isn’t it strange that one list which puts the names of all the appearing students in the ascending order was not released by the examination council?

For those who do not know what happened, let me help you out. Last year the COVID -19 pandemic started and due to security reasons the government cancelled some of the board exams. Exams before 17th May 2020 were taken smoothly, but after that the exams were put on hold. As the virus was new and the only initial information that the authority had about the virus was that it spreads through contact and especially in places where there are large gatherings. Exam centres where lakhs of students come at once, along with hundreds of invigilators and support staff along with whom parents are also included, one single outbread in such a vicinity would have just turtle downed the system.

So as a safety measure, the exam was supposed to be conducted after things went normal, But unfortunately, things never went normal and some other marking criteria was charted out by the examination board. The examination council didn’t release any merit list, but to no surprise of the common man, the media made some one among the students a “Topper”.

When everyone didn’t give all of their exams and when their marks were made only on the basis of a method that will be minimistially fair for all, how can one “top” an exam? Are we so obsessed with the term and tag of “topper” that no matter what happens we need to produce one?

This was the story of the batch of 2020 from school, but the batch of 2021 was a bigger joke. No one, I repeat NO ONE gave any of the decided frame of exam, the board didn’t release any merit list, but still the media houses were ready with their in-house “toppers”. Well, this article is not to question the calibre of those who managed to emerge as a “topper”, because I am one of them, but is to question our obsession as a nation to produce one.

I was my school’s stream topper, I always dreamt of that because come on, who doesn’t like that shine in their parents eyes, when they get to know that their child has some amazing achievement. But on the contrary, I strongly felt that many of my friends didn’t give their papers. If they had a fair chance like me, would my name have appeared in the toppers list of my school? I gave all my five exams, my marks were fair as my chances but were my friends who were able to appear only for two or three papers, didn’t they have the calibre of being a “topper”?

This is seriously the kalyug version of Eklavya and Arjun’s story. The Arjuns of today might have given the papers and got what they deserve, but the Eklavyas were held back because of their fate and maybe got more or less than what they deserved. This does not question Arjun’s calibre but definitely ponders what if Eklavya had all his chances?

And what is this obsession of releasing a topper? I mean, students give in their best shots to get everything they want, and especially during such testing times when humanity is being tested by a tiny virus, how fair is that to declare someone as a topper on the media stage?

There are always huge hues and cries about our education system, this very incident which is being noticed from past two cycles of batches is remaining unquestioned, We all yell Indian education system didn’t evolved after colonisation, but why are we silenced when we clearly see a circus of topper merit list being broadcasted. We seriously need to introspect how we judge and equalise merit, because we all know how the education system has tarnished during these times. 

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Abhivyakti Mishra

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