The glut of marks in board exams this year has triggered a fresh wave of anxiety among students who are set to take their boards in the next few months.
The pressure has been multiplied because of concerns about the unfamiliar exam pattern in the multiple-choice question (MCQ) format.
Teachers in several schools are getting calls from anxious students. Many of them are struggling to cope with the pressure to perform at a stage that could decide their future.
A psychiatrist in the city said that the number of students seeking consultation with complaints of anxiety and lack of confidence about whether they will be able to perform have gone up in the last two months.
“Our current students are hearing about candidates with very high scores being unable to get into colleges of their choice this year and that pressure is trickling down to them,” said Jessica Gomes Surana, principal, Loreto Convent Entally.
Many students across boards who wrote their exams this year scored above 95 per cent. A student who scored 99.5 per cent is 18 on a merit list for undergraduate admission to study history. Another student who scored 96 per cent is in the wait list of two universities.
This has led to the current batch setting unusually high targets for themselves.
“I am going to apply to an Indian university for economics honours and if I score 96 or 97, colleges won’t even consider my application,” said Shivali Dalmia, a Class XII student.
Teachers said that students were at the receiving end of an increasingly difficult system.
“We cannot blame the children because colleges set high cut-offs and children are trying to work towards that demand,” said John Stephen, acting principal, La Martiniere for Boys.
The ICSE and CBSE councils have said the November-December exam will be in the MCQ pattern, which students are unfamiliar with.
“The sudden change in the exam pattern is making them apprehensive of their performance dropping. They are coming to us with anxiety issues and lack of confidence,” said psychiatrist Sanjay Garg.
Teachers said that in previous years, students would solve question papers of earlier years while preparing for the finals, something that they are unable to do this year.
“Students are approaching the school counsellors who are trying to address their concerns. Peer pressure was always there but the pandemic has heightened it owing to the changes it has brought about both in marking scheme and exam pattern,” said Bobby Baxter, the principal of Julien Day School, Ganganagar.
Principal of St James’ School, Terence Ireland, said that students were bringing up their fears in conversations with teachers.
“They are worried that the cut-off will be raised further. In a face to face interaction, teachers would have been able to guide them better, which is lacking now,” he said.
Garg said that face to face interactions are more reassuring for children.
Continuous exams one after another — internal school exams and then board exams — is mounting further pressure on the students.
“The continuous exam system is well thought out because it eliminates the importance given to one exam. But with these children, it is only putting them under additional pressure because they have to perform in each exam and each category. They think they cannot afford to take it lightly,” said Amita Prasad, the director of Indus Valley World School.