Decoding 12th Fail: The Role Of Teachers

The movie 12th Fail depicts the grit, determination, and perseverance of a boy to achieve what appears to be impossible to others because of the background the boy belongs to.
12th Fail Release On 27th October 2023

12th Fail Release On 27th October 2023

By Abha Sadana:
The recently released (27th October 2023) movie ‘12th Fail’ has beautifully captured the trials, tribulations, and success of a boy to be an IPS officer who belongs to the hinterland of Muraina. The movie is based on a true story. It depicts the grit, determination, and perseverance of a boy to achieve what appears to be impossible to others because of the background the boy belongs to.
Although the movie is about individual triumph against all odds, it has touched upon the apathy of teachers and the educational system towards these students. The belief that the students belonging to the marginalised section of society, or coming from the poor, rural, backgrounds are not meant to succeed academically still holds ground for a major section of the society. Most of the time the hurdles these students face while navigating the path to succeed academically are social and financial.
However, there are systemic issues that trouble these students in their academic journey, some of which have been shown in the movie. The major issues that the film depicts are the issue of the dominance of the English language and systemic issues of mass cheating at board examinations. There are State Education Boards in India that furnishes board question papers to students only in the regional language, English, and other languages as they wish but not in Hindi even when there are scores of students who attend Hindi medium schools and sit on the board examination every year. But surprisingly they receive question papers in English. What’s the big deal? You must think? The big deal is that while in History ‘???? ?? ????’ would translate into ‘Alexander the Great’ and in Science ‘?????? ????????’ would translate into ‘Photosynthesis’, and the “??????” of “????????” is the “Theorem” in “Geometry” about which these students are clueless especially those from marginalised sections of the society and many of whom are first-generation learners (yes! There are firstgeneration learners in the 21st century too!).
The aim of securing good marks, or even passing the examination becomes a far-fetched dream to these students. Then there are different sets of states where cheating is the general norm and the school itself helps students cheat or provide means to copy answers at the mass level and pass the exams. Nowadays it has become a ritual to interview toppers of such states and mock them on camera. In the age of social media hordes of memes have been generated on these poor fellows. In these states, the students of government schools may not only belong to marginalised sections of society but also come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The upper class used to send their wards to the public schools near their homes, or to boarding schools in their state or other state. The government school is full of children from marginalised sections of society, who are oblivious to better opportunities and situations, and think that this is the way the system functions everywhere.
“They say we are dirty: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalised”
Marginalised students are individuals who find themselves on the periphery of mainstream societal structures due to various factors such as caste, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability, or migration. In schools, these students often face various challenges that affect their school experience and achievement 15 negatively. The most crucial challenge faced by them is systemic discrimination. For example, not providing question papers in the language the students have learned the subjects during their whole school years is not only an example of discrimination but also a violation of their rights to have equitable educational opportunities. Similarly, students from low- socioeconomic generated on these poor fellows. In these states, the students of government schools may not only belong to marginalised sections of society but also come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The upper class used to send their wards to the public schools near their homes, or to boarding schools in their state or other state. The government school is full of children from marginalised sections of society, who are oblivious to better opportunities and situations, and think that this is the way the system functions everywhere.
“They say we are dirty: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalised”
Marginalised students are individuals who find themselves on the periphery of mainstream societal structures due to various factors such as caste, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability, or migration. In schools, these students often face various challenges that affect their school experience and achievement 15 negatively. The most crucial challenge faced by them is systemic discrimination. For example, not providing question papers in the language the students have learned the subjects during their whole school years is not only an example of discrimination but also a violation of their rights to have equitable educational opportunities. Similarly, students from low- socioeconomic generated on these poor fellows. In these states, the students of government schools may not only belong to marginalised sections of society but also come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The upper class used to send their wards to the public schools near their homes, or to boarding schools in their state or other state. The government school is full of children from marginalised sections of society, who are oblivious to better opportunities and situations, and think that this is the way the system functions everywhere.
“They say we are dirty: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalised”
Marginalised students are individuals who find themselves on the periphery of mainstream societal structures due to various factors such as caste, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability, or migration. In schools, these students often face various challenges that affect their school experience and achievement 15 negatively. The most crucial challenge faced by them is systemic discrimination. For example, not providing question papers in the language the students have learned the subjects during their whole school years is not only an example of discrimination but also a violation of their rights to have equitable educational opportunities. Similarly, students from low- socioeconomic backgrounds may lack access to basic educational resources, such as textbooks, notebooks, pens pencils, uniforms, etc. let alone technological assistance limiting their prospect of academic success and professional growth. We must not forget the gender dynamics wherein the male female disparity is still high despite campaigns such as “Beti bachao-Beti Padhao’ campaigns. Language diversity increases the woes of the marginalised section of society.
With a high emigration rate of labourers from UP, Bihar, and Jharkhand, to big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and southern states, where it becomes difficult for students to assimilate with the school community as the language variance is quite high. The migrated students face discrimination, and cultural adjustment issues, due to which they drop out of school begin to work as daily labourers, and become the victim of the vicious circle of poverty. Then there is the attitude and beliefs of teachers toward students from marginalised sections of society that play an important role in maintaining the status quo. It is essential to have a good infrastructure, but it is the human resource i.e. the teacher who can harness it for the betterment of their students. By self-reflecting on their beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and biases towards students from marginalised sections and improving upon them, the teachers can create a positive learning environment in their school for such children.
The movie 12th Fail has briefly touched upon a couple of issues related to these aspects. It has beautifully encapsulated the appalling condition of school education in the hinterlands where students thrive and pass board exams by mass cheating. At the same time, the movie has also depicted the pathetic condition of rural life. Though the timeline of the movie is the last decade of the 20th century, the scenario is more or less the same to date. The movie explores the themes of grit, determination, resilience, and self-discovery. At the same time, it touches on the attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions, both of society in general and teachers in particular towards students belonging to marginalised sections of society. In one of the scenes, the teacher-cum-invigilator asks students not to cheat through paper chits as the new police officer is quite strict and may visit the school. instead, he instructs students to copy the answers he is writing on the blackboard. When caught doing so he even offers a bribe to the police to let him continue with cheating and says that these students are unable to pass the exam on their own, no matter how many years they are going to study. Research has shown that a sizeable section of the teaching community believes that these students will never succeed in their academic lives, as the families they belong to are not supportive of their education.
Therefore, these children should not attempt to excel in movie 12th Fail has briefly touched upon a couple of issues related to these aspects. It has beautifully encapsulated the appalling condition of school education in the hinterlands where students thrive and pass board exams by mass cheating. At the same time, the movie has also depicted the pathetic condition of rural life. Though the timeline of the movie is the last decade of the 20th century, the scenario is more or less the same to date. The movie explores the themes of grit, determination, resilience, and self-discovery. At the same time, it touches on the attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions, both of society in general and teachers in particular towards students belonging to marginalised sections of society. In one of the scenes, the teacher-cum- invigilator asks students not to cheat through paper chits as the new police officer is quite strict and may visit the school. instead, he instructs students to copy the answers he is writing on the blackboard. When caught doing so he even offers a bribe to the police to let him continue with cheating and says that these students are unable to pass the exam on their own, no matter how many years they are going to study.
Research has shown that a sizeable section of the teaching community believes that these students will never succeed in their academic lives, as the families they belong to are not supportive of their education. Therefore, these children should not attempt to excel in academics and waste resources. A belief one of the characters in the movie expresses when the protagonists fail in one of the attempts at UPSC. Even the cause of the failure depicted in the movie is related to the difficulty students face in school. the protagonist, though a bright student, fails to pass the qualifying exam due to his poor English skills. English is one of the subjects in which a maximum number of students fail especially those belonging to marginalised sections of society. Most of the time the hurdles these students face while navigating the path to succeed academically are social and financial. The situation remains more or less the same on the educational front too. They do not get the muchneeded support at schools and institutes of higher education, though there are numerous schemes and affirmative action made available to them by the government.
The major issues that the film depicts are the issue of the dominance of the English language and systemic issues of mass cheating at board examinations. Certainly, teachers, being the influential figures in students’ lives may make or mar the future of the course of education of students specifically the students from marginalised sections. If teachers hold stereotypical beliefs or misconceptions about students from such sections, inadvertently have lower expectations from them and thus due to self-fulfilling prophecy (Self-fulfilling prophecy is a phenomenon in which a positive or negative belief or expectation influences one’s behaviour in such a way that the belief or expectation is fulfilled. Specifically, a person's expectations about a situation can unconsciously lead them to act in ways that fulfil that expectation) students perform at lower levels. Sometimes, teachers believe that students belonging to such sections are 16 intellectually inferior and no amount of input will increase their academic achievement. Therefore, the teaching strategies they should try with these children are left unemployed, though they know the strategies, and as a result, the specific educational needs of such students are not met despite all the essential infrastructure present right there in the school system.
Teachers' beliefs and attitudes can significantly impact academic achievement for marginalised students. As has already been mentioned lowered expectations may result in low achievement scores, and students may not feel a sense of belongingness to the school resulting in discipline issues and poorly managed classrooms. Moreover, the students may experience restricted access to resources and opportunities, and may not get a chance to participate in co-curricular activities. Sometimes the parent-teacher meetings may result in humiliating experiences for parents thereby discouraging them from sending their wards to school. All these factors contribute to broadening the gap between schools and students. There is evidence to illustrate how teachers' beliefs and attitudes can impact the learning environment and academic outcomes for marginalised students.
A cursory glance at newspapers will show snippets and articles on caste-based discrimination prevalent in schools, especially in the rural and tribal belt of the hinterlands. While these examples highlight specific instances, they also reflect broader systemic issues within the Indian education system. There are instances that teachers ask students from certain castes to sit separately or to do certain specific tasks owing to the beliefs and social practices that these castes are meant to perform these tasks. All these factors contribute to lower expectations and poor performance of the education system as a whole. There are other factors to increase the plight of students i.e. urban-rural divide. Teachers believe that students from urban backgrounds will tend to perform better and from rural backgrounds will tend to perform poorly. Hence they pay less attention to the needs of students coming from rural backgrounds resulting in inadequate support, limited resources, and fewer opportunities for these students.
For example, students in government schools, which are often attended by those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may receive fewer opportunities for extracurricular activities, advanced courses, or career guidance compared to their counterparts in private schools. However, there are stories of such teachers too, who have gone the extra mile to support those students who have exuded the spark and zeal to achieve unachievable, though the number of such teachers is quite negligible. One of the most inspiring stories of such teachers is of Bana Sir, from Odisha's Kendrapara District, who after retirement in 1999, still teaches at the same school at the age of 84 and plans to teach there till he completes 100 years! Teachers like Bana Sir keep our hope and desire burning to create an all-inclusive classroom where students from diverse backgrounds can learn and grow together to create a world full of love, prosperity, and peace. Amen!
(Ms. Abha Sadana is the Director of Modern Institute for Education (MIE), Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, 110001. Dr. Anviti Singh, is Technical Advisor, MIE. Views expressed are personal.)
End of Article
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