In February 2019, a popular international magazine published an article imploring that the Indian diaspora should take an urgent and immediate call on the alarming numbers of students committing suicide across the country.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau, at least one student is committing suicide even as you read this article and one can only wonder why? For a country that gave the world Aryabhatt and Sushruta, why has the pressure to be at the top and remain at the top now become an obsession?
Economic growth has brought with it economic instability and inequality. The case of the Indian parent is peculiar as he/she must strive to remain at the top in society with limited resources while concomitantly transferring pressure to the offspring who has not yet tasted the perils of the outside world. This results in a vicious cycle which involves an overbearing parent, a pressurised child and a stifling environment as the first step to murdering young dreams begin.
Two decades ago, an 80% was mediocre, today a 90 is scoffed at. With the increasing numbers of young people graduating every year, the potential employment ratio has yet to see a steady incline. The lack of jobs in the market is now forcing parents to invest their entire time in creating machines out of their little humans. Talking about exam pressure, young Zara (name changed) says, “I cannot afford to let my parents down. They have invested a lot of money in my education. If I fail, the money will be lost. The tuition fees were exorbitant this year.” Zara is a 12th class student studying in Pune. Her fears are rooted in the costs that her parents will have to bear should she not clear her necessary entrance tests apart from the board exams. The growth in the education sector has led to the mushrooming of various tuition centres promising naive young students to guide them to get that coveted 99%. Once paid, the fees are never refundable. This means that once you are stuck in the rut, you are permanently stuck.
Concentration levels for students are down. India currently has one of the highest rates of student suicides in the world. The need for good psychologists is on the rise. Anxiety, Trauma and other severe nervousness disorders are becoming ordinary in Indian society. Depression is now a household term.
A few years ago, the only way to get the child to study was to threaten to cut down his play time. Today, things are different. Parents promise their children the best Playstations, gadgets and more as an incentive, but, should the child underperform, the same parents cut off their internet, cable and their play time as well. This pressure cooker environment has killed the dreams of many a young child who aspires to be different.
Carving your independent niche in the world requires you to be able to handle success and failure with equal grace and fortitude. Building a resilient attitude in the child with the firm resolve to outperform themselves and encouraging them to build step by step, rather than be compared with a friend or family member makes it easier for the student to cope with his or her academic challenges.
It has been observed that around 50% of students opting for private coaching have over three independent tutors. Basically, it is school time x 2 for the student. Many teachers holding private classes ensure that they prepare the students coming to them directly far better than the institutions they are engaged with. This too has affected the morale and the overall system.
It has also been observed that the parents of students who have not been able to complete their education tend to pressurise their children more than those whose parents are graduates. The overwhelming pressure has unfortunately led to a large number of students opting to end their lives instead of communicating with their parents and teachers.
The claustrophobic academic environment has led to many students believing that there is no hope for them in this cut-throat competitive world. The need to secure our students’ mental health and help them build a resilient attitude toward failure is of absolute importance. That said, we need to engage our parents and build confidence in them, that every bend is not an end.
While the rat-race for numbers will be a part and parcel of the current academic trend, a worthy step one is to look at improving students holistically. In-house psychological counselling is still not a part of many schools and colleges. A controlled environment does not provide for a rounded development and hence a steady mix of sports and academics must be actively encouraged. Vocational training is also extremely important and can improve young lives while opening new career avenues.
What India needs right now is for a literate audience whose decision making ability and analytical skills are at an optimum level. What we need is for our parents to understand that every child cannot be Aryabhatt but every child by default is talented in one way or the other. What we need is for us to be able to procure means to probe and bring out this untapped potential.
Once the students have confidence in themselves, there will be no stopping them!