Your exam results should not define your future - that's the message going viral in both India and China this week, as millions of school students brace themselves for results day.
It's a tough week for students in Asia's giant countries, where the competition for college entrance can be crushing. In India this week, over a million students have been finding out their final results in various high school exams. You have to get 90% or better in the "12th boards" - India's final year tests - to get into many top school and university courses. In China, next week sees the Gaokao, the world's biggest university entrance test - in which nearly 9m students compete for the best places.
Perhaps all that pressure and stress is why, this year, thousands have been clicking on videos and pictures with a clear message: there's more to life than college entrance.
In China, 10m people on the Weibo network saw a conversation titled "college entrance exam is not the only route". The forum got going after popular young writer Tiancan Tudou advertised a job at a publication he runs. He specified in the ad that a university degree wasn't necessary and later said in an interview: "Although the university entrance exams are important, they are not the only route. Eighteen-year-olds should be in charge of their own lives." The remarks caught the imagination of millions of Chinese students. "Improving your abilities is more important," said one, while another commented: "I agree, in the future people will understand that your dignity is more important!" Others though sounded a note of pessimism: "In China for most people it is the only way," said user Da ji kuang.
Chinese social media users are also chatting about a father who apparently made a very public statement against the Gaokao exam system. The man turned up outside the prestigious Peking University in a luxury car and men who were apparently his employees held up boards spelling out the message: "Studying for entrance to university is not equal to studying the skills. My son is a great master of life."
We could not confirm who the man was or even whether he is a father at all - some rumours said he was a performance artist. Nevertheless, students who shared pictures of the man on Weibo said this incident made them feel more confident about making their own decisions. "Going to a good university is not equal to finding a good, stable job," said one user.
However, others focussed on the apparent wealth of the man and made the point that money might buy his son options that others don't have, no matter what his exam results were. Kerry Allen, BBC Monitoring's China media analyst, says the stunt "angered some students, who feel they have no choice but to work hard for the exams."
Meanwhile in India, a new generation of comedians are taking on the pressure over exam achievement. In a a video message set to inspiring piano music, Indian comedian and actor Vir Das told students receiving their 12th board results not to worry about their marks. He described a list of life-affirming experiences.
"You are going to meet someone," he says, "or be waiting for someone until you discover that the person you were waiting for wasn't the person you were looking at, or person you ever thought you'd meet. You will beg and borrow and steal, so that eventually you can risk and rent and lose, so that maybe you can own and invest and grow... What do all of these things have in common? Not one of them requires a mark sheet."
More than a quarter of a million people have viewed the video. While a few commented fearfully that bad marks would affect their college admissions, others reminisced about how their poor performance in exams did not stop them from doing well in life - and students themselves overwhelmingly praised Das' message. "Thanks for making me feel like it's not the end of the world regardless of what happens tomorrow," one said.
Das says was inspired by his own experience after scoring poorly in the 12th boards. He told BBC Trending he eventually got to study his chosen subject, economics, at an American university - but soon after discovered drama which led to his current career.
"I thought my life was over after exams and I had a terrible two months," he told BBC Trending. "Students can be suicidal and parents may not know how to communicate to them that it is okay. They need to hear from a third person that everything is all right."
A similar viral video released this week was a comic take by East India Comedy group drove home how difficult it is to gain admission these days. "Good education is important but there is too much emphasis on board exams. You are judging the entire country with five questions," director Sapan Verma told Trending. "There is a standard line from parents that this is 'the moment that defines your future.'"
Pressure is so intense that calls to a leading suicide help line spike around this time of year. Media reports in India this week have directly linked two deaths to board exam results and a study by India's National Crime Records Bureau indicates that more than 2,000 students a year take their own lives because of exam failures. In China too, a government report blamed the test-oriented education system for student suicides and one high school recently decided to put up ceiling-to-floor railings to discourage suicides, according to a state newspaper.
Blog by Samiha Nettikkara
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