Kerala State School Kalolsavam: Is it all about grace marks or a genuine love for the arts?

The scramble for those 30 grace marks continues
Kerala State School Kalolsavam: Is it all about grace marks or a genuine love for the arts?
Kerala State School Kalolsavam: Is it all about grace marks or a genuine love for the arts?
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About 12000 contestants are participating in 232 events in 19 venues in Thiruvananthapuram in the 56th Kerala State School Kalolsavam –the biggest youth festival in Asia which got off to a colourful start on January 19 and is all set to conclude on January 25.

The competitions that are held under four categories — High School (HS), Higher Secondary School, HS Sanskrit and HS Arabic showcase upcoming talents from all 14 districts and are a genuine treat to watch.

But more often than not, the Kalolsavam grabs headlines both for its sheer magnitude of size and creative display as well as the controversies invariably surrounding the declaration of results.

Though State Education Minister Abdu Rabb claims to have brought down the number of appeals to about one-fourth -compared to previous years- around 640 appeals have already been filed till now with almost 3 days to go. Last year saw 900 appeals stretching the already packed schedule to breaking point, giving the organizers a nightmarish time.

So why are appeals filed almost at the drop of a hat? Simply put, grace marks are the answer.

Grace marks are given to the winners in the State Level Higher Secondary School Youth Festival with students being eligible for 30 grace marks if they obtain an A Grade, 24 marks for a B Grade and 18 for a C Grade.

In this era, where even the difference of one mark can cost a student admission to a professional course in India, imagine who would not want to get their hands on those 30 grace marks!

Whenever their ward is not declared the winner, parents, teachers and coaches are quick to accuse the judges of either favouritism or malpractice.

The cut-throat competition has reached a stage where the judges now have to be protected from the crowds and are not allowed to interact with anyone or even use mobiles when a contest is on.

So we have the anti-corruption bureau, hordes of police personnel, court orders, a hell lot of money involved and what not in the picture.

There have been instances of participants arriving with orders from district and high courts, the state education department, the Lokayukta and even from the State Commission for Children’s Rights.

Just to be part of the state Kalolsavam, the contestants follow a rigorous training schedule from an early age itself, sacrificing sleep, studies, play-time –all for the love of those 30 precious grace marks.

The costs involved too are high. Lakhs are spent in identifying the right coaches, hiring the right gear, training facilities, costumes, all the accompanying paraphernalia –the list seems endless. 

 And after all this, once at the actual venue, they may have to deal with technical glitches, sudden change in schedules, waiting for long hours decked up with not a bite to eat.

The actual winners seem to be the coaches who reap all the monetary benefits with their prices rocketing the next year in case of a winner among their wards.

Yet the children are willing to undergo any difficulty whatsoever. The lavish media attention and free publicity more than compensate for their woes.

We now have even the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) rooting for an equivalent grace mark system so as to not lose out in the race for admission to professional courses after Class 12.

Their efforts seem to have paid off with Union Human Resources Development Minister Smrithi Irani announcing a CBSE National Youth Festival next year onwards at the recent annual Sahodaya Meet held in Kochi.

 This would serve to rectify the anomaly of state syllabus students being at an advantage because of reported liberal valuation coupled with grace marks obtained from the state Kalolsavam.

Speaking to The News Minute, Dr. K Gireesh, clinical psychologist and Coordinator of Mental Health in the National Health Mission terms the association of grace marks with the State Kalolsavam as an unhealthy one.

“The grace marks in no way enrich a particular art form. On the contrary, more often than not, the aesthetic value suffers to a great extent, as those who can afford to hire coaches and come up with technically perfect performances tend to squeeze out numerous genuinely talented kids but without the wherewithal to pursue them. How many winners actually go on to pursue an artistic career? ” he poses.

In order to keep the festive spirit intact and nourish innate talent, Dr. Gireesh suggests that a psychological assessment be conducted in lower classes to decide on whether a child has natural talent and a passion for art in general.

Regular talent search competitions in lower grades will help in identifying contestants who can then go on to compete with each other in the Kalolsavam at the state level, he opines.

Of the many Kalathilakams and the Kalapratibhas who win every year, we only have an odd Manju Warrior, Kavya Madhavan, Vineeth, Bhalabhaskar who actually reach for the stars and excel in one or the other creative fields.

As the critically-acclaimed movie ‘Tare Zameen Par” reminds us, every child is special in his or her own way. All we have to do is just identify their strengths while helping them cope with their weaknesses, and lead then on into a secure inner space where they know they are loved and accepted the way they are.

Grace marks would then seem just a frivolous accoutrement. Isn’t that what it really is in the first place? 

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