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"Do not study to be successful, study to better yourself. Do not chase success; instead, target excellence and success will always follow you." This is a paraphrased dialogue by the protagonist, Rancho, from the very popular movie ‘3 Idiots’ and I think it is extremely relevant to all us students because it reminds us what the true purpose of education and learning is. In the system today, most people share the misguided view of “Viru Sahastrabudhhe”, the character in the film who believed that in this dog eat dog world our grades are the sole indicators of our intelligence and abilities, thus studying is viewed only as the means to the end, which is attaining marks. What is often neglected is that the process of gaining knowledge to grow and improve yourself is a definite end in itself.

We often forget that learning is multifaceted. Education is not restricted to just rote learning from textbooks and chasing after marks. What defines us are the things we teach ourselves and how we use what is taught to us to shape our thoughts and opinions and apply them to the world around us. In my years at high school, I realised what my interests and strengths were only by studying different subjects through various sources. I learnt essential skills like organization, time management and multitasking only by being consciously trying to be involved and consistent in all of my activities, be it academics or co-curricular activities.

We can’t be completely free of exams and marks because they are forms of assessment that do matter and are part of the education system. What we can do is start viewing grades as just one of the measures of our hard work, and exams as just one hurdle to cross and not as the end-all. This is just one step to help set ourselves free from the restrictive chase after marks and free from all the stress that brings. The new National Education Policy 2020 has been designed to help the system follow through with this view as soon as possible, and help students become well-rounded individuals, by encouraging holistic multidisciplinary studies, vocational training and more flexible curriculums.

For studies to not seem like a burden, it is very important to be interested in what you are studying and view it as a positive additive process instead of a cumbersome one. We must try to avoid the static routine that most of us associate with school and studying, where all our time is spent confined to our textbooks and notes, whether at school, tuition or at home. In the rapid race to score better, people equate productivity with studying large amounts of topics for very long periods of time, whether they actually understand what they’re reading not. This is how it becomes monotonous and draining.

However, what helped me was studying smartly and accurately. Being open and willing to acquire more knowledge every day helped me engage with my subjects on a deeper level and understand and retain what I learnt instead of just going through words that make no sense and memorising them. To stay coordinated and be free of overwhelming pressure regarding studies, the key for me was consistency and organisation. Having a schedule that suits you and study methods and tools that work for you will provide you with structure and confidence. Balance is the key to staying happy and motivated. While the primary focus in school is studying, it is important to keep in touch with things we are passionate about that provide us with relief and comfort when we are stressed. We must prioritise our physical and mental health and pay attention to our needs by allowing ourselves to stop when overworked and figure out how to approach a problem differently, instead of forcing ourselves to grind through the stress.

Without a doubt, the most memorable part of school is the friends you make and the times of enjoyment. However, besides the fun, for me, the most invaluable aspect of being in school was what I learnt from the diverse people around me- ranging from social skills, teamwork and solidarity to having empathy and being accepting of everyone. Each one of us is unique with different strengths and perspectives which is why I believe that if you are willing, there is something to learn from everyone you meet. Some of the most dynamic and stimulating learning experiences I had in the classroom involved interaction with our teachers, discussions and debates where I got to listen to others’ views and gain a well-rounded opinion about a particular matter. Having anchors in our lives, including parents and family, teachers, friends is extremely vital because they encourage us to be free and set out to achieve all our goals while assuring us a sense of security in knowing that there are always going to be people that want the best for us who we can rely on for guidance and comfort no matter what.

The only way we can widen our horizons is if we explore and ask questions, engage with the people and resources around us and most importantly, free ourselves from only rote-learning and school textbooks.

The fear of exams can consume us. This is mostly due to a lack of confidence and the fact that we often get anxious about the outcomes before we can even concentrate on the task in the present, which is always counterproductive. It is natural to feel the constant pressure to perform well in exams but as long as you convert it into the drive and motivation to work smart, you will be able to focus better on the task at hand with clarity and ensure that you can put in your best efforts. Sometimes just the labour that we put into something is sweeter than the results and can give us immense confidence and a feeling of achievement. We gain something from every task and experience, irrespective of whether we achieved what we set out to or not. I believe that is how we can get closer to freeing ourselves from the stress and narrowness of only chasing grades, and like Rancho from 3 Idiots said, aim to always better ourselves and let success and happiness follow.

Shambhavi Lal was an ISC Humanities student of Lilavatibai Podar High School, Mumbai, in the 12th board exams she scored 99.75%. She is very happy with her result, however, the contentment comes from how rewarding the entire journey has been. She believes her grades are a reflection of all the effort during the last two years. She aspires to pick up behavioral economics for higher studies.

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