Beyond 100% : Why don’t toppers always succeed?


Jennifer Shaheen Hussain

Every year after the declaration of results for High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) examinations, the toppers make it to the headlines of news dailies and broadcast channels. After, a brief duration of fame, the toppers disappear into the world of cut-throat competition in order to flourish better in the following higher secondary examinations. However, it has been observed many toppers no longer make it to the top of the game in the other examinations.

In a report published in this news portal last year states, “Records show that in the last three years out of 298 rank holders in HSLC only 18 students have managed to secure a position in the higher secondary examinations.

So, what causes achievers to deteriorate gradually?

Dr. Nipendra Nath Talukdar, retired professor of Pub-Kamrup College states, “Both the HSLC and HS syllabi are different. They also vary from the syllabus of NCERT. The subjects are similar; however, the syllabus is vast and requires a student to devote immense dedication as compared to preparing for their previously conducted HSLC examinations.” Dr. Talukdar also added, “In the last few years emphasis is laid on taking tutorials and remedial classes instead of focusing on self-study”.

Many students struggle to secure the best ranks because of peer pressure and their transition from adolescence into early adulthood. Exposure to technology, social media, new friends, and even harmful activities like pornography and use of substance distract their attention. Adults need to accept students especially toppers in a competitive environment are under constant pressure and scrutiny and succumbing to such activities aren’t unusual. Mental conditioning that staying being the best can only be the route to success creates immense anxiety and insecurity among toppers.

Ankur Protim Dutta, faculty of Mass Communication at Bhattadev University expressed, “I have seen many students who excel in the HSLC examination but fail miserably in their post-HSLC academic examinations. I think this happens mainly because parents, neighbours and sometimes even teachers often cultivate a misconception in the young minds that success in HSLC is the ultimate destination. If one succeeds in this examination they will be able to enjoy its fruit for the rest of their life. Under such tremendous pressure to excel well, many meritorious students throw away their focus, hard work and will power and end up suffering”.

“Academic achievements are often the result of individual effort or intelligence or ability to follow instructions,” said Vishnu Pada Das, PGT Geography at Hindustan Kendriya Vidyalaya. He explains, “Sometimes, the over confident attitude of toppers lead them in taking academics for granted. They think similar results will be produced in the examinations to follow and this attitude makes them lose focus. Many even select science or commerce in high school thinking they have an aptitude in it because they are toppers. It is easy to aim for a career in engineering or medical but are they even prepared for it? Are they even interested to take up science or commerce? Or do they just choose science and commerce because they are toppers and hence are expected to do so?”

Immense pressure, selection of streams and inability to work hard could be the most commonly identified factors for toppers to perform average or poorly in higher secondary or other examinations. On Saturday, State Examination Board of Assam’s (SEBA) HSLC results were published. A female student from West Jorhat after learning about her results committed suicide despite securing a first division with letter in a subject. This devastating sight of students losing their morale and taking extreme steps is an alarming trend that has been around for years. It raises serious concerns, such as, how important it is to secure the highest marks? Does being a topper guarantee a successful and peaceful life? Above all, does a topper always reach the finishing line first?

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