Betting big on off-beat subjects
When the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) announced the results of Class XII earlier this month, Nandini Sharma was on cloud nine. The Humanities student from a prominent East Delhi school had scored 100 marks in Painting - an optional subject offered by the Board. It wasn't a subject she chose because of her love for Visual Arts but rather a choice that would allow her to score better marks.
"I wasn't aspiring to be an artist and nor had I considered painting beyond a hobby. But my teachers helped me zero upon it as a subject after Class X Boards as I had a knack for it. And the decision has paid off," says Sharma, who scored 98 per cent aggregate in her Boards. With that kind of marks she is aiming to pursue either Psychology or English from one of the top colleges of Delhi.
The pass percentage of Class XII students in Delhi schools affiliated to the CBSE was recorded at 91.87 per cent, an improvement of 2.87 per cent from the 2018 results. Delhi had the distinction of being the third best region in the country in terms of marks. This year as many as 17,693 students scored above 95 per cent and 94, 299 students scored between 90 to 95 per cent. "Music, Dance, Textile Design, Design, Sculpture, Graphics, Multimedia, Physical health education and sports, Library and Information Sciences, Beauty and Wellness are the popular offbeat subjects," says Payel Duttagupta, senior programme coordinator, The Heritage Xperiential Learning School. They offer subjects such as Painting, Physical Education, Home Science and Fashion Studies. "Overall, our students have fared very well in these subjects. For instance, this year several students have got a 100 in Painting and scores of 98 and 99 in Home Science and Physical Education," she adds.
While high marks are being hailed and criticised unequivocally, what remains clear is how a range of optional subjects are helping students score better.
Even though there are just three main streams to choose from -Science, Commerce and Humanities - students have a plethora of optional subjects which they can pick and choose. So a Humanities student can have a combination of Psychology with Fine Arts or even Computer Science with Physical Education. The Board gives the student a choice to pick a sixth subject which may compensate in case of low scores when you take the total of best five subjects.
According to Renu Singh, principal, Amity International School, Noida, these subjects take off the "burden/stress of overall percentage of marks". Many schools offer vocational or elective subjects such as Carnatic or Hindustani Music, Graphics or Sculpture, Kuchipudi or Fabric Study, etc while some others offer academic subjects such as Computer Science, Informatics Practices, Mathematics, Biology, and Psychology as options.
"These subjects are usually of low difficulty level. The practical weightage of marks outweighs theory and as a result there is less of rote learning," says Singh. For example, Physics has theory for 70 marks and practical for 30 marks whereas Painting has 30 marks theory and 70 marks practical. Till last year 2017-18, in Painting, the break up was 60 marks theory and 40 marks practical. "Besides providing holistic development of the students, various career opportunities around these subjects exist," she adds.
These subjects also often act as stress busters and helps students achieve high scores.
Once the stream is decided, the biggest dilemma could be what optional subject to choose from alongside the main subjects. What is the right combination of subjects for your career ahead and whether you should opt for a sixth subject to better your marks could be questions that cross every student's mind while stepping into the next class.
For instance, Science stream students often take Psychology with Biology as they want to keep their options open both as a psychologist or a doctor. Similarly, a Humanities student may choose Psychology alongside English and History because of the wide-ranging career avenues. "I chose Psychology with English and Political Science as it will help me in the future when I prepare for the Civil Services exam at a later stage," says Sharma.
But experts warn that while choosing the optional subject, students shouldn't make haphazard decisions. "Students should keep their interest, aptitude and their long-term plans for higher studies in mind while choosing these subjects," explains Duttagupta of Heritage.
For students with a long-term vision optional subjects can come handy at a later stage. "Over the years, my experience has been that more or less any serious aspirant would get a score between 38 to 45 per cent of the total General Studies marks. But in order to get into the coveted list with a good rank, it is optional subjects that will be your harbinger of success," says Dr A.R. Khan, founding director, Khan Study Group.
"I have seen students who didn't get good marks in the General Studies, but scored excellent in optional subject, and finally got a good rank. To its opposite students getting interview call could not find their name in the list, because they could not do well in optional subjects. So, the part of the strategy to qualify CSE begins with optional and ends at it," he adds.