Top of the class

Top Pic: Surbhi Misra with her grandparents, 2nd Pic: Tia Singh, 3nd Pic: State Minister for Education Ms Verity Firth with students who topped in a subject in the state, 4th Pic: Meera Nanokarathas with Surabhi Misra , 5th Pic: Akaash Agarwal with mum dad and sister Urvashi

By Neena Badhwar

HSC is a milestone in one’s life and an important one at that. Two years in a row and even much before that. Right from the end of year 10, not only the students but also the schools, teachers and parents start preparing for the HSC marathon. Some do it coolly, others stress. Some work on their own, others take help from outside. For some it’s hard Yakka, for others HSC is a breeze. For the latter, they say, it’s not a big deal.

The whole families are proud, ecstatic over how good their child has performed. Calls are made to India to break the news to grand parents who can not contain their joy. The news spreads around among relatives and neighbours; sweets are distributed as friends and relatives turn up to congratulate.

Year 12 student is not a worried, apprehensive child anymore. It’s as if a beautiful butterfly has emerged from the cocoon ”“ fluttering, confident, looking forward to a promising future and ready for all the fun that college will provide. New life, new horizons and a new found freedom to do things, make choices: today’s students know what they want for their future.

Following the results, there are late night parties, mucking around with friends and wondering how easy it was. They had worried for nothing. Now that the cat is out of the bag, they will be discussing course choices. There are several options which have changed the equation. There is the first round of offers in early January and then the second set of offer comes little later. And, if not, then there is plenty of career advice on the net as universities woo aggressively for crème de la crème of the 70, 000 odd students who sat in this year’s HSC.

The year’s HSC has brought spectacular results – five students from the Indian-subcontinent topping in their subjects from the 108 on offer in NSW.

TIDU met some of the students at the Australian Technology Park on December 13. They were being honoured by the NSW Minister of Education, Ms. Verity Firth, at the function held there for top achievers. “It is great that Indian students are doing well. To top in a subject out of 70,000 is a great achievement for students, their parents and the teachers who put in a joint effort,” said Ms Firth to The Indian Down Under.

Surbhi Misra, a Hornsby Girls High School student, scored an ATAR of 99.9 and topped in the State in Accounting. Her parents, Amit and Monita Misra, are over the moon. So also are her grandparents who were there for Surbhi. They had traveled to Sydney to stay with her during the HSC.

“I took exactly 10 units simply because I liked the subjects I chose. There was no risk as I was confident that I can do well in them,” says Surbhi.

Surbhi took 4U Maths, 2U English Advanced, 2U Accounting and 2U Economics. She says it was the best combination ever. Having been offered two scholarships, one for Commerce/Law at either Sydney University or UNSW and the other one for Acturial Studies at UNSW, Surbhi is leaning towards the latter as a choice. She took some tutoring in Maths which helped her reinforce theory as well as her practice on a lot of questions. “As a matter of fact, I am tutoring at the same college as they offered me teaching 2U, 3U and 4U Maths there,” says Surbhi.

“Although I was sure within myself, yet we were stunned when we heard the ATAR rank I got. It was a crazy moment. I’d say Hornsby (Girls High School) made me what I am. My parents and grandparents were always there making food, dad driving and sister always pepping me up as we talked a lot. Though she is younger, she always supported and helped me to relax.

“I was the school’s vice-captain, so there was plenty to balance as we organised three events during the year. I like reading ”“ I read English text as a break.

“I did Accounting as an accelerated subject in which I have topped the State. Thus I felt the load a little less.,” she says.

Surbhi also won Howard Longworth Commemorative Award for Citizenship  in year 12; Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award; 1st place in the Turramurra Rotary Public Speaking Competition and was in the Social Justice Group and HGHS Magazine Committee that publishes ”˜Grapevine’ school magazine.

Tia Singh scored an ATAR of 98.9. While every one around her congratulated Tia, she says laughingly, “What happened to that .1 ”¦I was so close to getting 99.” Having topped Macarthur Girls High School, Tia has also won herself the honour of Dux of the School.

Her mum described Tia as ”˜Boogle’ – hmm ”“ a walking, talking ”˜Google of Bollywood’. “Tia loves Bollywood. She has been an intelligent child and right from the age of one and a half she could easily say words like rhinoceros, hippopotamus. It has been a very long and hard journey for me as a sole parent. I have invested a lot in my two kids and I am proud that my investment has paid off.

“Tia loves writing and she has written an 8,000 word piece on partition for her English essay. Her grandfather, who she calls ”˜Nanu’, had told her stories about Pakistan and Tia just took it all in. She wrote a small story as well which my father gave to India’s celebrated writer, Khushwant Singh, to read. He sent Tia a personal, hand-written card and blessed her that she would be someone very big one day,” her mum says.

TIDU asked Tia how she had achieved such a high rank.

“Oh, I took non-Indian subjects ”“ I mean no Sciences, lowest of low Maths, that is General Maths, Society and Culture, 4 U English and Economics. I love English and I think my essay was good as I got 49/50 in English Ext II. I did subjects I enjoyed studying with full blast bhangra music in the background. I believe in studying at home ”“ no tutoring as that makes you work extra. I work independently and took help from teachers. They became my friends, they challenged me, pushed me and inspired me to do to the best of my ability and taught me in the style I could relate to,” Tia says.

Her advice to HSC students: “Work through out the year. I put in a lot effort from year 11 itself and it became a matter of revising at the end as you know everything already. HSC is not the end of the world. Enjoy more than you fear it.”

Tia is planning to do a double degree in Law/Public Communication and has been offered one off scholarship at UNSW.

Akaash Agarwal from Baulkham Hills High School attempted 13 units by taking 4U Maths, 3U English, Physics, Legal Studies and Economics and got an ATAR of 99.85. He plans to do a double degree in Law/Science at UNSW or Sydney University.

Says Akaash, “I liked all my subjects, especially Maths. I did not need a tutor as I studied, slept well and had brilliant teachers and a group of diverse friends. I learnt a lot of management skills as I went ”“ how to keep balance and tried to do things on time.”

Akaash’s dad is a doctor. When asked ”˜why he did not choose medicine as career”¦’ pat came the reply, “No, I decided I wanted to either do law or major in advance Maths. There’s a fair bit of scope in corporate law.”

For Akaash, study was not a problem. “I was totally relaxed and so was my family. I like reading which is my number one relaxation – mainly Science fiction novels. I liked reading ”˜June’ by Frank Herbert and really liked watching Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey 2001.   I also played squash every Friday and cricket and music ”“ my favourite bands are ”˜Dire Straits’ and ”˜Coldplay’. And, at times, I played piano.

“There is no ”˜how to cope’ magic”¦HSC is just a mindset, really. Also, I don’t think rote learning helps. I don’t think someone else can teach you as good as you learning and teaching yourself. For example, this year they changed the exam format and students who learnt and understood their subject did well. Instead of asking to write the usual three text, they asked for two ”“ and people were caught because they had prepared for three. Had they learnt the text well they could have adapted better. It’s always better to be prepared for different types of questions,” says Akaash.

He says that he won the zone round when he spoke about technology and then he was invited to give a speech at the Toastmasters Youth International Forum. He chose the topic, ”˜Teenage Depression & Stress’.

Akaash praised his family who supported him in every way and talked to him whenever he needed to. “They helped me with any questions but that was on rare occasions,” he says.

Meera Nanokarathas, Surbhis’s friend and peer from Hornsby Girls High School, stood second in the State in Accounting. She says, “Economics is my favorite subject and I prepared well for it. Yet, it can be quite hard. Economics was a lot harder whereas English was easier to attempt.

“I was quite methodical and always took breaks when I felt like giving up. I maintained a fairly good sleeping pattern and always started from easier subjects. The harder ones came later when I didn’t feel like studying.

“I play a lot of sport and dad played squash with me while I leant to cook at home with mum to relieve myself from stress. Music, reading, all helped me in keeping the balance,” Meera says.

Her 99.85 ATAR has helped her opt for a Bachelor in Accounting COPP ”“ an accelerated degree for which she has been offered a scholarship.

Performance in Hindi subject this year has been quite disappointing as not even one student from 17 made it to band six. The top position in Hindi Continuers remained wanting after nine straight years of topping. There is a lot of disappointment among students who have spent close to six years learning Hindi in Sunday and Saturday schools which include years 11 and 12.

Rekha Rajvanshi, a teacher at SSCL, Hills Sports High School, says, “It is quite disappointing for many of my students who worked hard. I know for sure that they were band six students. It is a pity that Hindi subject has been scaled down. It is very difficult for students to learn a different language when they have been born and brought up in a main stream English environment. The NSW Government has on one hand doubled community language funding and then on the other hand scaled down the subject. It is quite confusing to students who wanted to achieve a good rank by taking Hindi language as a subject.

“It would be good if the Board of Education consulted some academics to prepare Hindi curriculum at par with other subjects such as French, Italian or Japanese. I am sure students will make efforts to learn and achieve a high rank they expect. It is difficult now for year 11 students to change a subject late in the HSC, especially for those who aim high and are from selective schools.

“It has been an issue I have raised with BOS assessment officer to get his feedback why Hindi has done so badly this year. I am sure, we, as teachers will look into the problem and help develop Hindi rather than discourage it,” Rekha says.

Other students in the top listing in NSW include, Hansaka Pasindu Fernando in Economics, Satyajeet Ramdas Marar in English as a Second Language and Aswin Shanmugalingam in Tamil continuers.

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