Student life in India seems to be ruled by one thing; percentages. Ofcourse, that is if you don't consider the lousy teachers, overcrowded classrooms, "question banks", etc.
Right from our first exams in school (remember the red and blue lines pages?) we are expected to be first in our class regardless of whether we really can do it. A second ranker is ridiculed by his parents; they want him to work harder, and harder, and harder. And harder still, till the day that they see their beloved child hanging by the neck from the ceiling fan.
While what I say is jarring, it's a very disturbing trend. It's not a new thing, people have committed suicide due exam stress before. But it has become more and more frequent as years pass. Every year we see a new benchmark set for the students to follow. You see little 12-15 year olds studying a whopping 12 hours a day to mug up every word, every punctuation mark in every book. Their aim is simple; get as many marks as possible. Who cares if they understand a word of what they're reading. What matters is that they remember all the junk. So cram we will.
What does a child study for 12 hours? If one actually has to understand what is given in the books, it will most definitely not take 12 hours a day of an entire year. The parents are proud though. They rarely understand that their child is burning up inside. While they mean well; they want their child to be successful after all; they succumb to their inner wishes to see their child as a doctor/engineer even if he/she doesn't have the aptitude for it.
The situation of colleges in India is not too great either. Junior college seats in Delhi University (as I saw today on CNN-IBN) fill up at 85% on an average for each and every stream in all the decent colleges. Engineering colleges in Mumbai fill up at staggering 94% marks. A friend had to struggle for a seat in Mumbai with 91.67% marks. If someone can't feel secure at 92% marks then what's the worth of studying all that much?
And once we finish college we look for a job. And there we have a 60% cutoff for marks in graduate exams for most of the top/mid-tier companies. These same companies make obscene presentations talking about how they have excellent methods to recognize talent and how Indian education is ineffective in the larger scheme of things. But when it comes to evaluation they cannot trust their own entrance examinations to be able to screen the talented individuals from the rest.
Whats more, even the screening tests for companies have become a major marks market today. We have many sites like Chetana Jobs, Freshers World, etc. that have massive repositories of past questions that candidates can cram up and go vomit out.
Finally, Medicine and Engineering are not the only professions in the world. There's always pure sciences (dying these days due to engineering), law, politics, journalism, sports, arts (fine arts, acting, singing, dancing, etc), agriculture, business, social services, defence services, teaching and much more. Almost every person fits into atleast one of all of these skills.
I am not a number, I'm a free man
- from the song 'Prisoner', Iron Maiden