Leave Us Kids Alone

In your leisure time, what do you like to do most?

  • Š  Play cricket
  • Š  Perform scientific experiments
  • Š  Read and write

To the casual reader this might appear to be a random question with some random answer choices provided.

We would urge the casual reader to look closely. As we are now about to tread the untrodden path. Boldly go where no man has been before. Once again.

What we are looking at is a sample question from an Aptitude Test being introduced by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), designed to enable youngsters make informed career choices.

It is designed in a way that it will assess in three hours what continuous involvement of parents and teachers over ten to fifteen years does not reveal.

It has become necessary because parents and teachers are so closely involved with youngsters that they have no idea what they like or dislike, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what their desires and fears are. They, being parents and teachers, are also naturally in no position to either take responsibility for the children’s future, or guide them.

Moreover, without an Aptitude Test, how would the government play nanny and make the common man believe that it is his welfare they work for, without having to deliver any improvement? As it is expected to by the common man in a free, democratic society. Otherwise, he might even have to start taking responsibility for the upbringing of his own children and, perhaps, their welfare in adult life.

We don’t know if you could, but we could not guess the implication of the answer choices.

It is learnt from reliable sources that if a youngster chooses “Play cricket” as the answer, the test results would tell him that he should take up cricket as a career.

Amazing, isn’t it? There is really no limit to what human beings can do once they set their mind to it.

How could the youngster have known otherwise? Or, how could his parents have, having spent only about fifteen years with him? Educators, having spent ten years on an average, never really stood a chance.

It gets even more bizarre. If the student chose the second option, “Perform scientific experiments” as the answer, the test results would tell him that he should target to become a scientist.

Even if a youngster cannot articulate his thoughts and feelings, he will need to choose one option and hence get a career allotted. From no career to a career. How much more good can a test do?

Doubters be warned.

Never has a test been run so scientifically. After all, it has inputs from reputed academics and psychologists. Not to mention private enterprises who will eventually run it.

It is designed to ensure the youngster faces no challenges in his adult life. If, on account of some freak occurrence, he faces an issue of poor performance at work, all he would need to do is whip out the results of the Aptitude Test taken many years back, read them out aloud to himself, and all will be well.

Grown-up youngsters worried about facing issues of marital discord need not fear. The government has directed the development of another Aptitude Test whose results will be used for deciding who marries whom.

He will not face financial woes either.

Most importantly, youngsters will learn how not to engage with the world around them and how not to take responsibility for their decisions and actions; in fact, how not to take decisions.

The utopia earlier generations may have dreamed about is nigh.

Doubters be doubly warned.

There is a good chance these Aptitude Tests will work because we have been very successful in designing Aptitude Tests that have helped us stamp out murder, rape, child abuse and other heinous crimes.

It will obviously be compulsory as the government and CBSE have a responsibility to ensure that the private enterprise selected to run the test makes money.

Friends of parents, parents themselves, grown-ups in the neighbourhood, parents of friends, aunts and uncles, occasionally older cousins and siblings, doctors, pilots, army personnel, bureaucrats, lawyers, business-people, sportspeople, musicians, actors, in fact everyone who could be accused of being an inspirational figure for a youngster, have heaved a collective sigh of relief. They are off the hook. No longer will they need to shoulder responsibility for inspiring a youngster, through their deeds, demeanour and deportment, to a choice of career.

Pink Floyd has retrospectively changed the lyrics of their 1969 anthem to:

We don’t need no Aptitude Testing

We don’t need no career control

No dark sarcasm about our future

CBSE leave us kids alone

33 thoughts on “Leave Us Kids Alone

  1. You take me back to dark corners of memory when I was a teenager and given such a test…as if there’s some mystery involved, to be discovered by the pseudo scientific naivety of that test. The kids themselves know exactly which answers will make the test come out to a particular result…that’s how stupid the questions are. I remember my mother’s trying to convince me I should study to be a nurse. My father (a feminist before it was a fad) said no, I should go to university and become a doctor. I was not actually interested in either of those career choices, so I rigged the answers to point to something quite different….in case the pigeonholing tendency of society should take the test seriously, and shut down my options. I’m surprised to hear that test is still around, after all these years….the mind boggles at such stupidity…..but then you know that, and have pointed it out quite admirably.

    • Its around. And gaining ground. It is a way of human beings to disown responsibility and point to an inanimate tool for a decision. I can still understand an adult willingly submitting to a test through which he hope to get access to a job or admission to an educational institution. But running it for kids and, like you correctly term it, pigeon-holing them into a life someone else finds it convenient for them to follow, is detestable.

  2. I spent five years at my last school as the careers counselor. I never used a single aptitude test. When the boss realised this he appointed an idiot new teacher with a sparkling new degree to become the counselor. The new counselor even had to get his wife to tie his shoe laces

  3. Your witty writing is always enjoyable even when it reveals the evil direction we are allowing our lives to take. As a trained educator who practiced her trade for a very short time I hate to admit that there are teachers and parents who prefer to hide behind these tests…. rather than pay attention to what the kid tells them or shows them. Pity

    • I agree. While many people tend to hold teachers responsible for this trend, in my view, and as you have rightly pointed out, parents and teachers are in it together, trying to “play safe” and take the easy way out.

  4. Great post.The fun part is that all counsellors,movies etc keep preaching stuff like “let your child follow their passion””don’t kill their dreams”. The problem is that at that age when you have just cleared your high school 95℅ of the kids don’t know what their passion is. Even I realized my passion for writing after my graduation.The rote learning curriculum with little or mostly nil relevance to real world just adds to the woes.

    • So true! I think interests and passions can also change over time with fresher experiences. I have also come across individuals in senior positions in corporates whose passion keeps changing with their job. Sometimes they have a passions for selling more detergent to the world so that it can drown in soapsuds. At other times they have a passion for selling coloured sugar-water to quench the thirst of and make the world unhealthier.

      • hahaha ! As they say one has got to do whatever pays the bill 😉 Also its nice how one starts as a socialist and gets converted into a capitalist by the time its placement season in B-school 😉

  5. I thought I’d commented on this post before, but it seems I haven’t. I was given a test many years ago at school. I can’t remember any of the questions. The only thing I remember was that among the results, it suggested that I might think about becoming an antique dealer. It’s absolutely true! I never became an antique dealer, so I’m not sure how well it would have worked out, but we were all amazed at how incredibly random it seemed. My favorite subjects (and my best ones) were English and biology, so I never quite got the connection.

  6. After 33 years in the classroom, well I could write a 5,000 word comment here. but to some it up , US educational testing protocols don’t really measure very accurately and seem totally not designed to access teenagers beyond collecting statistical data.

    • I would go a step further and say that our (children and parents as consumers of education) expectation that there will be an assessment system that assesses, in an accurate and transparent manner, millions, on a variety of parameters, is misplaced.

      • Some examples of poorly constructed test questions not factored with cultural nuances in Miami, Florida, USA:

        If the answer is “wrench” , students with Trinidad and Jamaica background will get it wrong. They know a wrench as a “spinner”. People from Florida and Caribbean do not know what the word “autumn ” is as in their lexicon the word for that season is fall. Also in Caribbean spoken English pronouns do not have objective or possessive case. All subjective or nominative case. So they will get grammar Q’s wrong for pronouns as it is “Give it to she” and “That is she book.” Also vocabulary words used are quite different depending on economic class. Rich kids may have no idea what kids from lower incomes may be saying. For many teens for instance “bad” means cool or good not bad in the literal mode.

      • These are interesting observations that can only come through experience. In India we have always tried to make a distinction between English and American English. However, as you go deeper, there are perhaps many more nuances in the language as your comment highlights.

  7. Great article, Mr. Mithal. As always, I admire your distinctive style of writing! 🙂

    I had no idea that CBSE conducted such aptitude tests. I remember giving one such test in the US when I was in the fourth or fifth grade. The test was designed to predict what kind of careers I would be most interested in and suitable for… I remember being excited about that. 😀 They gave me three choices. I don’t remember each one, but I surely did not take the results of that test into consideration when deciding my career goals after school.

  8. What the heck? Yeah, there are a FEW more options. My school visit presentation is all about what it’s like to be a writer and I ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Young kids say crazy things like “superhero” and “pro football player.” Those are possible, of course, but mostly they don’t really know enough about what options are available to them at that age. We did an aptitude test in junior high and I put that I wanted to be an actress. The answer came back that it couldn’t determine whether I’d be a good actress or not because that really has more to do with talent… I can’t remember what it advised that I’d be good at, but I know there were WAYYYYY more than three options, even back in the 80s!


    • Thank you for your comment Stephanie! Have Aptitude Tests evolved to the point of being able to tell a child that he should become a superhero? Talent for acting to become an actor? Explain Steven Seagal to me. Or Nicolas Cage. Or Julia Roberts.

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