The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It's an Asset
Arunabha Chanda
Rohit Poddar

Rohit Poddar loves mathematics, science and English and, not surprisingly, scores heavily in these three subjects at school. The Class VII student of Heritage School is also not afraid to take on higher maths and writes essays that his seniors struggle to match. But such achievements don't satiate his hunger for challenges.

So, when he came to know about the Asset exam, he immediately decided to take it. That it tests a student's 'level of understanding and ability to apply what's being taught into practice', mattered little to Poddar. For him, it was another test, another challenge and another chance to stretch himself. 'I love challenges,' he says. 'It could be academic or otherwise. The stiffer the challenge the better,' says the 13-year-old cricket fan. This month, Poddar was ranked among the top 10 in the Class Seven category of Asset, sailing past 4,500 students from all over India.

If that sounds like a creditable achievement, sample this. Ten-year-old Arunabha Chanda of Delhi Public School, Ruby Park, Calcutta, bagged a gold medal after he topped the Class Four category of Asset, competing with 5000 students.

This is the first time that two youngsters from the eastern region have walked away with the top honours in Asset, a test that was started in 2003 by a group of IIM, Ahmedabad graduates. They had done a survey-based project on how much students are really learning in schools as opposed to learning by rote. Conducted by the Ahmedabad-based Educational Initiative, the exam is conducted in over 500 schools all over the country today.

'Some parts of the test were tricky,' says Poddar, adding, 'You had to think and apply what you already know. Unlike school exams, you can't just reproduce the lessons you learnt by heart. Overall, it was a good experience.' Chanda agrees, 'It was just an exam, yet it was so different. You had to use your brains and common sense to get the answers right,' says the Class IV student, who loves mathematics.

Asset comprises three papers ' English, science and mathematics. Students are awarded both percentile scores and marks. Chanda got almost all his answers right. In science, for instance, he couldn't answer a question on how you make a cup of tea. 'I had never seen tea-making in the kitchen so I was not sure,' he says.

'This is what makes such exams so useful,' says Dr Bani Chanda, Arunabha's mother. 'It's not just about academics but helps to develop your interest in a lot of other things that are a part of our lives,' she adds.

Poddar, too, fared exceptionally well in the three papers. His percentile scores in English, science and mathematics were an astonishing 99.8, 96.3 and 98.6 respectively. A video games freak, Poddar says he found the test useful and plans to take it every year. 'There were new areas like related competency and computational skills in maths, and the stress in science was more on concepts and applications,' he says.

Along with the results, students receive feedback on their strengths and weaknesses to help them do even better. This is why every participant is awarded a certificate. To recognise this achievement and inspire students to aspire for academic excellence, top-performing students receive awards.

In the feedback, Arunabha has been asked to read Reader's Digest, solve problems and puzzles, play strategy games and even read newspaper editorials. 'I guess I am still too young for editorials but I am following the other suggestions. But whatever I do, I would like to stay with maths,' says the topper, who also stood first in the Cyber Olympiad from the state. 'I also learn karate, western dance and classical music. No, I don't have any trouble juggling all these. In fact, I am game for more,' he asserts confidently.

Poddar, on the other hand, is focused on the board exams. But he is also looking forward to the next Asset to brush up on areas where he thinks he is weak. 'By the time I take my board exam, all the loopholes are hopefully going to be plugged. Every student should be taking it,' he says.

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