Resilience Amidst the Maze: Navigating India’s Education System

A Journey of Academic Trials, Compassion, and the Path to Change

Mayank Bansal
6 min readSep 28, 2023

I don’t support Humans of Bombay’s recent copyright lawsuit, but I did want to share some thoughts after reading this story. To Aditya’s family — from a student of a school run by PES University, I am so sorry for your loss.

The education system in India is a complex maze, with international schools often pushing their students to reach the world’s top colleges, while many local institutions harbor a culture of unforgiving pressure and cutthroat competition.

We moved from the U.S. to India when I was in 4th grade. Adapting to the Indian education system was a significant challenge, particularly the demanding testing structure. I lacked the foundations required for lengthy three-hour exams and struggled with crafting scripted responses to showcase my understanding, and I mostly disliked the idea of going to school for 8 hours a day.

I loved school from the beginning, as you can CLEARLY see. (Bottom row, 2nd from the right)

Transitioning into high school, my academic journey remained a mixed bag. In my high school days, I was a mixed bag academically. While I excelled in some subjects, others, like 2nd Language, History, and Chemistry, often left me scratching my head. The pressure to perform was always looming, but it wasn’t until my 12th-grade board exams that I witnessed the stark contrast between privilege and adversity.

Our board exams took place in an underprivileged school nearby, a place with inadequate facilities and a mixed bag of students. The proctors overseeing the exams hailed from the school, well aware of the challenges their students faced. One particular incident during the Chemistry exam remains etched in my memory.

The Government School where we were assigned to take our Board Exams.

I completed my paper 45 minutes ahead of time, thanks to exhaustive preparation borne out of previous failures. As we were not allowed to leave the exam hall early, I joined my fellow students in a brief nap. The proctor, realizing that we had finished early, approached us one by one, concerned that we might be struggling. Little did we know that this proctor would soon reveal a disheartening truth.

He began quietly picking up our answer sheets and sliding them over to the government school students seated beside us so they could copy our answers. It was the same school that, during the English exam, had held onto my answer sheet for 15 minutes because I had underlined a few words on the question paper to help me read the comprehension faster.

Overpreparing for Chemistry after getting a 29/100 in a mock test.

To my disbelief, when the results arrived, I discovered that I had scored a dismal 51 out of 100 in Computer Science, a subject I had confidently practiced to perfection. I was devastated, furious, and inconsolable. It was at this critical time that my support system stepped in, guiding me toward a resolution. They helped us request a copy of the answer sheets and have them regraded. The grade I deserved was a resounding 100/100, but I was willing to settle for 80/100, just to end the battle. Just to reiterate, I got more in Hindi (81/100) — a language I could barely read or write than I did in Computer Science, which is my profession today.

2nd PUC Marks, Seeing Computer Science on this scorecard was painful.

My college years brought forth a new set of challenges. I faced difficulties in various computer science and physics courses, and my academic journey seemed filled with hurdles. To secure a brighter future, I enrolled in a 2+2 program at Manipal, completing two years there before transferring my credits to an American university for a 4-year degree. Manipal offered little recourse if you failed to secure a college placement by the 3rd semester; you’d graduate with a B.Sc. in Applied Sciences, far less advantageous than a B.Sc. in Computer Science.

Our professors were not always understanding, and their understanding of our courses was often lacking. Some would flippantly ask, “You came second, didn’t you? Why does your score matter?” Unbeknownst to them, our grades were not relative; they were absolute, making the pressure all the more intense. Many colleges wouldn’t accept anything lower than a “C” grade, and that too with a meager 2.0/4.0 GPA. I found a loophole in the university grading system that let you intentionally fail an exam, retake it the next semester, and still be allowed to get an “A”. I remember in the 2nd semester, I tried failing Physics because I wanted to retake it, and I had gotten a few grace marks to get exactly 70/100 — a passing grade.

Passing with a “C” — 2.0 GPA.

I made up for my bad grades with tonnes of extra co-curricular activities, clubs, and research to make up for it because I knew those would help explain my shortcomings with standardized testing.

I was too busy building my first startup before and during college.

Fast forward almost a decade, and I can confidently declare that everything turned out just fine. Despite obstacles, I found my way. Those professors, the doubters, and the naysayers who scoffed at my academic stumbles can have their chuckles. I was consistently on the Dean’s list when I came to the U.S. to finish my undergrad, despite classifying myself as a bad student.

My journey speaks volumes about resilience, determination, and the unwavering belief that a person’s worth extends far beyond a simple letter grade. It highlights the urgent need for educators to embrace compassion and understanding, particularly in the wake of recent incidents like Aditya’s tragedy. Educators possess the power to shape lives, either stifling or nurturing the spirits of their students.

In response to these issues, India’s education system is undergoing transformation, mirroring aspects of the U.S. model. However, reforming the system alone isn’t enough. The culture surrounding education and the pursuit of excellence must also evolve, involving parents, students, educators, and society at large.

It’s essential to realize that academic setbacks don’t define a student’s worth. A little compassion, reassurance, and support can unlock a generation of resilient and productive individuals who are poised to lead their country to greater heights.

As we reflect on Aditya’s story and similar tragedies, let us advocate for a compassionate, empathetic, and inclusive education culture. Together, we can create an environment that nurtures students and encourages them to explore, excel, and thrive without the fear of punitive consequences.

You will have enough chances. It gets better, I promise. ❤

Education is not just a system; it’s a journey filled with trials, triumphs, and transformation. Let’s continue this conversation and work together to shape an education culture where every student’s potential can shine, regardless of the challenges they face. Share your own stories and thoughts, and let’s inspire positive change in our educational landscape.



Mayank Bansal

Frontend Engineering | Design | Fintech | Freight | Logistics | Immigration | Helping build finance solutions for freight carriers @Outgo ! Ex-Convoy 🦄,