we received our child's first-ever Progress Report Card, I
knew we had not fared well. A sealed envelope was handed to
me when I went to collect my child from school. From the faint
nervousness I felt while taking it, I knew it didn't feel
any different from the times when the teacher would unceremoniously
distribute our report cards in class, more often than not
accompanied with a dissatisfied frown. The frown said a lot
then; it said even more now, when to my seemingly casual query
of 'so, how is it?', all she managed was a faint smile and
a 'I've put down everything, you'll see'. (To the parent standing
before me, she'd said, 'oh very good, no complaints whatsoever'.)
reaction was to tear open the envelope, but I checked myself.
There were other parents too. And, if I failed to detect the
same tentativeness in their reactions, the only explanation
is that they were confident about their child's performance.
Or, that they are clever in hiding their emotions.
of my parents and their undetermined anticipation before opening
three sets of Report Cards at least three times a year, year
after year, for nearly two decades. At that time, to us children,
their going through our Cards looked like a fleeting punctuation
in their daily routines. We would think that once having studied
every ingredient (though we certainly hoped they didn't) on
the thick-papered assessment sheet, and having made their
comments, they would forget about it for the rest of the term.
The parent-teacher meeting was the only other formality that
came close to this debilitating (it was never a pleasant one
for me) experience; but again, so fully dependant was it on
that same scrap of paper, that the two were necessary evils
to be seen as partners in scheming against our happiness.
Not once would it occur to us that our supposed and recorded
progress at school touches the lives of our parents in more
ways than one, and at times, more acutely than it may have
Report Card is the sum total of any student's perceived performance
at school, and therefore, perhaps the only measure of his
success as a student. Since the other parameters of evaluation
are too fluid to be assigned any tangible quantifiable values,
parents see too, rightly or wrongly, in the Cards a measure
of their success or failure as parents.
my eyes fell on largely D's and E's decorating the page, my
heart sank. I read, shaken, that, which no parent ever wishes
to be confronted with. The report card is the one place where
mere alphabets assume the power to hit you in unimaginable
ways. In my case, these letters came as a series of unpleasant,
unanticipated slaps. So, is this how he spends his three hours
in school every day?
surge of emotions tided over, stage two saw me poring over
the specifics. That's when my eyes fell on an indicator legend
in one corner of the page. To a mind conditioned to believing
that the grades can only be assigned randomly among any of
the five letters from A to E, a crisp evaluation scheme comprising
just four grades of C, D, E, and the incongruous Ex (!) seemed
times have changed. And with it, the assessment criteria.
When we were at school an idiot-proof numerical marking system
clearly showed us where we stood in class. The grades system
that gradually phased this out was something that I saw my
parents grappling with with my younger siblings. For their
minds trained on relying on marks to tell them how their daughter
was better than her, her and her, but not quite the same calibre
as some other one (the teacher's impartiality was usually
suspect in such cases), and from the uncomplicated P (for
Pass or Promoted) and F (Failed, what else?), the newly introduced
grade-system was insufficient. And unfair.
this system where more than half of the class would be slotted
in a B or a C, and that a few alphabets decided your ward's
performance! How was it possible that their neighbour's child,
who they believed was not a patch on theirs, was being placed
in the same band as their child? Paradigm shifts in practices
will always cause uncertainty among non-believers.
then, my bafflement when confronted with a grading system
where E doesn't quite mean that you have missed your calling
in life, but rather that you are at the key learning stage
Emergent, where the basic skills and knowledge are beginning
to be demonstrated or observed. Cut the euphemism, and it
still pretty much means what an E in the earlier system meant,
and that this E is still ranked lower than a D (Key Learning
Stage Developing, the basic skills are usually demonstrated).
If I have understood this grading system in its most elementary
intent, a C is still to be read as being an improvement over
D, but not because an alphabetical-sorting command on your
desktop would place C above D. C (Consolidating, where basic
skills are consistently demonstrated) is where most parents
would want to see their children placed in class; my son has
one C amidst an orgiastic assault of D's and E's. There are
31 heads under which the students have been assessed. That
may put my not-so-premature concern in perspective.
is one more grade, Ex, which could easily be misinterpreted
as Excellent or Exceptional, but is instead, Learning stage
Extending. In practice however, parents would be happy mistaking
it for either, because, clearly, it is reserved for students
who have attained the Nirvana equivalent of their studentship
endeavours. I don't see my son gaining enlightenment anytime
shouldn't be complaining. As long as my child wakes up bright-eyed
for school every morning, I know he's enjoying school. And
that is reason enough for any parent to feel happy.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004