Almost all of us have been through phases where you push the boundaries of your comfort zone in order to contend for what we consider is important for our survival in this competitive world. But the process require proclivity for hard work as well as perseverance to augment the achievements and become content. Talking from my perspective, as a student, we have always been striving for something that would make us get the attention in the form of applause from our parents as well as the societies we lived in. The first best thing a student could do at a very young age was to be on the top positions in the class like on first, second or third. Otherwise, you would be called “promoted” and without even knowing the meaning of the word properly I personally would get offended. So, I could not imagine how a failure would have felt like in a situation where you are expected not to be a mediocre. Thus, such situations where students are in a very competitive environment can be construed as a healthy competition helping the students gravitate towards the standards created for them. It is understandable that the real world demands competition and nothing is handed to you without competing for it. However, does that mean students worth should depend on what level of competition are they in their classes? The rigid norms and standards we set for them and rate them accordingly cannot always be the right ones. Some students drifting away from the norm and innovating in their direction are using intrinsic skills so they should be encouraged the same way, rather than teaching them to compete for a rigid skillset.
Some students drift away from what they have been taught to follow since childhood regarding their career and education for good. For example, generally most of the parents in Ghulkin would want their children to pursue their careers in medical and engineering. And the journey starts from getting admission in well-reputed and prestigious schools for example, The Aga Khan Higher Secondary Schools and other schools that have been claimed to be the best ones. I can certainly not repudiate how extraordinary AKHSS Hunza is in terms of providing quality education to students and exposing them to diversity of Gilgit Baltistan. And the students studying there are not only studious as well as gregarious; depending on what is the requirement of the time. And I always have secretly enjoyed the attention and admiration given to us as AKHSS’s students, no matter how I endured those years because of not being interested in Science and yet carrying on with it. When I reminisce about the past, I realize that some of my friends and fellows who haven’t been part of these institutions would generally have disesteemed themselves and their studies. They used to say things like “You people know better than us, so whatever you say makes sense”, or “ we are just going with the flow, not as ambitious as you people.” Hence, it is an alarming situation for us to put an end to these distinctions among students based on what they are studying and most importantly in which institutions. Since it is limiting student’s creativity and eagerness to learn.
We should reconsider the definition of intelligence that we created as going to prestigious institutions and scoring the highest make someone an outstanding student and all of us proud. Of course, it does to some extent because it requires tremendous hard work, sweat and pain or even tears and breakdowns at moments but do we really have to go hard on ourselves just because we are obliged to stand out? Students are constantly being judged on how well do they perform in their academics while ignoring the fact that it’s not the only way to measure the intelligence of someone. For example, in 1983 an American Developmental psychologist Howard Gardner described nine types of intelligence and those are naturalist, musical, logical-mathematical, existential, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, intra personal and spatial (2011). Almost each of us can have any of these types to excel in our lives, so it’s high time for us to stop believing in hype of eminent students or anything that forces us to believe that we are not good enough in our intrinsic skills. I have seen many people giving up on education in our village at very young ages because of being pessimistic about their achievements. When they were at a crossroad, they ended up getting married, presumably proving their worth in that way rather than staying in the abstruse expectations of their parents and the society in academics.
Some people might counter argue that I am oversimplifying things here and overlooking the fact that being in prestigious institutions and pursuing careers in highly demanded occupations in the job markets ultimately helps students to have better lives comparatively. Many of my villagers and relatives look up to me when it comes to lecturing their children on what they should do in their schools and colleges in order to be like me. And it is the most awkward moment for me, because I myself have switched many courses and even institutions to learn about my potentials. Once again, I am not denying the importance of guidance and information our seniors or we as seniors provide to our juniors. It is our duty and a contribution to our village and the schools we have been studying in but expecting the students to do whatever I did would be unfair because in my opinion there is nothing called ‘perfection’. We should work hard as much as we can, pertinent to our interests, instead of wrestling with something for the sake of admiration. It is definitely not an excuse to evade from working hard and being ambitious because as our imam of the time also emphasizes on being competitive in our education and he specifically mentions at times that we shouldn’t settle for mediocrity. However, it depends on how you define “mediocrity”, as far as you know, you are working hard in whatever institution you are, you are exceling. There is no harm in idealizing people, but being amenable to the standards set by others for students doesn’t always help them but creates anxiety and low self-esteem. When parents constantly tell their children that they are not good enough as the boy or girl next door in academics, that does not help them to grow but the children start believing they are failures or cannot do anything better.
Today, if someone has fulfilled all the expectations of their parents as well as our society, it is indeed a happy moment for all of us. Whether it is to have doctors from our village, engineers or any other well reputed occupations. Or, students who made their ways to “good universities” within our country or abroad can be looked up to guide others. For example, if currently, I have the privilege to study with students’ form sixteen South East Asian countries can be counted as a heuristic process for my personal development. But that doesn’t necessarily make me credible enough to rebuff something presented by other students or to get idealized for other students who haven’t got the same opportunities as me.
The purpose of this writing is not to preach idleness, mediocrity or undermine the importance of the “prestigious institutions” but if some students have other intrinsic skills to excel, parents and the society should let them explore those skills. We should understand that as far as the person is trying to move ahead they are on the right path, instead of comparing them with each other and inhibiting their growth by tangling them with some standard expectations. Let’s take this moment and appreciate each and every student of our village who are in schools, colleges and universities striving against all the odds and achieving education. It’s a proud moment to see little kids rushing for their schools, college students talking about their colleges and amazing experiences and the university students initiating amazing projects and activities in our village. All of us are uniquely important for our village and each one of us can create a difference in our lives as well as our community’s in our own ways, so let’s pledge to never give up on any type of education we are receiving and making the best out of it.