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Friday, August 25, 2006


ISB is a kind of mini-world where the total population includes all those associated with the institution. This mini-world has its own spirits, ethos, aspirations and desperations. One thing that helps in defining all the emotions of this mini-world is “grades”. “How important are grades?” This always will remain a complicated question to answer and different people will have different diplomatic ways of answering.

But the concept of grades is nothing new. Starting from primary school to MBA curriculum….in any Indian educational system, we can find the concept of grades occupying the prime slot. But at the end of the day, do your grades really matter?

Recently, I came across a very old school-time friend. This person used to be in the bottom 10% of the class. Presently, he is an officer in the Indian navy. This is just one of the many examples where people who don’t have the official grades, but they are in no way less successful than those who have great grades.
The same story holds well in IIT also. My branch constituted 23 students and thus 23 ranks and 23 different grades ranging from the best to the worst. If we go by the universal definition of success, I don’t think I can single out one person who is more successful than other till date. The toppers are doing great in research….the middle graders are doing great in stable and handsomely paid jobs…..and the lowest graders are doing great in exploring new avenues and have been fairly successful in whatever they have tried. The basic point which I want to drive home is the fact that grades are not that important as the Indian education system has made it look like. When you are in a school or any educational institution, you can feel the ubiquitous concern for grades. But once you are out, you seldom find the time to look at your grades again.

The story in ISB is no different. But one thing that has been frustrating me lately is that the undue importance given to grades sometimes kills the real purpose of an MBA education. There are people who just cannot speak any topic other than grades and I just cannot describe in words how irritating it can turn out to be in the company of such people. Especially after being in a profession, where practicality is more valued than the text book stuff….where the people are much more emotionally matured than a fellow who is almost in tears because he missed A grade for 0.5 points, I find dealing with certain people beyond my capabilities.

Where else in the world can we find this mad rush for grades? As they say…”It happens only in India”.


prasadh said...

I agree with you. Even I face the same problem of grades here. But I think we really can't help it.....your recent post on Arvind Eye hospital was also really good....thanks for your birth day wishes

tejbir said...

one of my profs in college often said, "would you rate the knowledge of a guy with 75/100 more than the guy with 55/100?" The answer is presumably a simple yes (given the Indian scenario you wrote about) but thinking deep one is left wondering if the answer is really yes!

Anonymous said...

Prasad..Thats the story in an MBA school in India.
Tejbir..A person with good grades may have good knowledge, but that doesnot mean that a person with average grades is dumb... Cracking exams require different skills alltogether.

Sumana said...

The entire education system in India revolves around grades.The question you raise here is a question I am sure which is being debated for a long time and the debate would go on forever!
Is it enough or even correct to judge the skills/knowledge of a person by looking at his/her grades? If this is the only measure used then I am sure it is not fair.
The b-schools realise it to a certain extent or else the admissions to the schools would have been entirely based on GMAT scores.