Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

Exam results can redefine a student

Experts say that, despite the despair, poor performance can provide pupils with new opportunities to prove their strengths.

Long-time student counsellor Reman Menon, director of Counselling Point Training and Development, often tells students that ‘marks really don’t define you’.  Antonie Robertson / The National
Long-time student counsellor Reman Menon, director of Counselling Point Training and Development, often tells students that ‘marks really don’t define you’. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // When the highly anticipated results from the Indian-curriculum Grade 12 examinations were declared this week, Reman Menon’s phone was ringing off the hook.

Many pupils called to share their jubilation with the long-time student counsellor, and others called out of despair, seeking her advice and kind, reassuring words.

“Marks really don’t define you,” Mrs Menon often tells them. “Even if you didn’t do well at this time, it’s fine. You can still prove your mettle later in life. While marks are very important criteria for some of the more competitive places for placements, you still have options.”

For Farhaan Feroz, 18, Mrs Menon’s words were enlightening and relieving when he sought her advice last year, after scoring poorly in his Grade 10 CBSE exams.

He recalled the anticipation among his peers leading up to the day the scores were announced.

“The students were so intense, people were almost crying for the results, like praying to God every day,” said Mr Feroz. “The pressure was pretty bad.”

When he received his marks, they were lower than he expected. He felt defeated and depressed.

“I was in a really sad state,” he said, conceding that he was not a conventional, rote learner. He found that his CBSE curriculum school in Dubai was not accommodating or supportive of his learning style.

“The learning was all theoretical, not practical. It was not my type of thing,” Farhaan said.

But thanks to his supportive parents and with the help of Mrs Menon, he said he was able to find another path towards fulfilling his academic goals.

Under the guidance of Mrs Menon, he enrolled in a one-year foundation class at Birmingham City University, in the UK. He completed the course and this autumn will start a three-year computer networking and security programme at the school.

“I’m doing pretty well,” he said, giving credit to his counsellor for introducing him to other academic options and to his parents for their support.

“My parents didn’t lose hope or anything, they just kept on, like, ‘you will be fine. Next year you will do better.’

“They supported me all the time. That’s one of the reasons I think I’m still alive.”

After more than 30 years in education, either as a teacher or head of school, Dubai principal Richard Monteiro said it was important for schools and parents to offer pupils proper and timely support during times when they are under tremendous stress and may feel depressed, anxious or even suicidal.

“They have to pre-empt any such behaviour issue before it can actually happen,” Mr Monteiro said. “Schools should be fully equipped with personnel … able to guide children.” He said should any member of staff or senior management feel that a child needed to be carefully monitored, that they should be able to do that.

There have been cases in the UAE that have highlighted the stress young CBSE pupils are under. Last year, 16-year-old Abhimanyu Sadasivan hanged himself five days after writing a suicide note on a school exam paper. His school in Dubai, the Indian High School, on Oud Metha Road, was forced to apologise after continuing to chase his parents for school fees two months after his death.

Mr Monteiro also tells pupils: “Life is precious. Live each day happily, positively and contribute to the world and society and be happy, that’s what I would really want them to do. Everybody has different talents and different potential.”

Dr Tahir Saeed, a clinical psychologist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology, said: “If the result of the exams is not up to the expectations of either themselves or their parents, it can create significant amounts of stress and anxiety that can lead to feelings of worthlessness or, more severely, depression.

“It is important for the elders to provide the required support and monitor their behaviour.”

To young students, he said: “Never be afraid of failure as it has implicit learning.”