India’s future getting jeopardized with increasing student suicides

May 11, 2011 at 07:17 am

India’s suicide figures have risen starkly over the past few decades. Statistics show that India has the highest suicide rate in the world, marginally behind China. 95-100 people commit suicide in India every day and of these a whopping 40% are in the adolescent age group [Source: CNN-IBN Report, Jan 13 2010]. So the main concern is what is pushing our students to the edge?

After reviewing information from various media sources, research papers and so on, the following relevant factors have evolved.

Lack of empathy by parents
The numbers don’t show the true picture of the situation as many incidents go unreported as parents try to hide the reason of death from the police. The main reason for a student to commit suicide is the increasing academic pressure. However this pressure is not only from the teachers but from their parents & the society too. Education system prevalent in India adds to this pressure. It is a common notion among the people that good marks are required to get good job. Moreover, education is now also a lot more about status quotient. And to take it even beyond that, parents some times don’t show much concern in finding what their child is best in and intends to do. In the process, what they forget is the overall development of the child. Continuously struggling to fulfill their parent’s ever increasing expectation of academic excellence, the student finally succumbs to the pressure and at times opts to end their life. At this point, one may think that expectations of the parents were there in the past as well but suicide rate was less at that time. This is explained below.

The population of India is increasing exponentially, but the number of schools or colleges is not increasing at the same rate. As a result, the competition for getting into the good schools and colleges is even tougher today. The cut-off marks to get into good institutes are high as well putting students under extreme pressure. However there are two reasons for student suicides - one is due to failure of exam and the other one is the fear of failure. The girls’ suicide rate is higher than boys because many fear being married off if they flunk in their exams.

The Indian Education system
Subsequently the main concern is India’s education system which is based on rote learning, or memorization, with a strong emphasis on scoring high marks. It’s a high time for policy makers to think about the education system. The exam should be structured in such a way that the students do not have to bank on memory. Rather it should emphasize on their thinking ability.

Need of a strong student counselling system in place
Government and NGOs have set-up stress release call centers for students and they witness increase in receipt of calls every time exams are round the corner or on. In an NGO Asra, distressed teenagers accounted for 70 percent of the phone calls to their helpline. But not everyone makes a call and as a result ends up taking extreme measures. To counter this, the only thing that we can do other than mature behavior by parents is to set-up counseling sessions in every school, particularly, so as to build young minds mature and mentally strong at the right time. Installing a counselor as a necessity and not as an option can go a long way to fix this.

We can very well conclude that the absurd situation can be controlled to a greater extent if the mental aspect of the children is taken care of, along with greater maturity on part of parents and teachers in handling students. If parents and society can do that, that is basically equivalent to change in out look of society and hence more space for the students. Educational system needs a re-look and we need better and more learned placeholders in the shoes of Ministry of Education.

Finishing remarks to all of this is that failure in one exam does not mean failure in life.

Quoting Kalam’s words, it says that “The greatest minds of a nation may be found on the last benches of the classroom”.

Rusha Patra
Research Scholar, IIT Kharagpur

Source: Indian Matters! | Alliswellhelpline


  • IM wrote:

    This needs to be worked upon on priority. A special team should be set-up to make sure availability of student counselors and work upon promoting this employment opportunity so as to meet short fall. This investment may on the up look intangible, but this is actually priceless because it won't just help reduce student suicides but also help students know why to really student, and also help them realise what they want to take further to form their career. A complete revamp of the quality of students is what they have on offer.

  • Ever since the 19th century, during the British rule, we have followed the system of Learn By Rote. And we still continue to follow it post independence, in majority of our schools and institutions, including the top ones. The curriculam or the syllabus is set in such a way, that most students do not get any other alternative to plain memorizing of data. If we take any subject like History or Geography, obviously most of it is related to learning by rote. But nowadays, students are even memorizing Scientific and mathematical problems, just to score high in their exams. So we have become totally exam oriented. Pursue for knowledge is limited to very few individuals. Ask any student, if he would have loved to study a subject or topic if it was not included in his exam. Most will say 'No'. Many students complain that they do not like a subject, but are forced to study it against their will, in order to pass their exams. Now, it has been proved scientifically that if you pursue any subject against your will, your efficiency will automatically come down. Why should we study subjects which we dont like, or which will not help us ever in future. For example, if a student is interested in studying Science, what will memorizing past battle dates give him? This reminds me of a chapter I had in plus 2, in English. It was about Einstein. On being asked why he was reading Geology, when it was not included in his course, he replied, 'Because I like it. isnt that reason good enough?' He got the reply, 'Yes, but it wont help you in obtaining a degree.' In the same chapter, he also told his history teacher, 'I see no point in remembering dates, since once can always look them up in a book.' Have we all, become such materialistic persons, who desire marks and success beyond everything else? Why shouldnt we do things that we like, rather than doing things simply with the purpose of obtaining marks and degrees? One can argue, that without those, we cannot get a good job in this fickle society. That is, unfortunately, quite true. We all judge a person by his marks, and not by his character, And it has often been seen, that people with a good memory tend to score high marks, than their fellow classmates, who may be as intelligent or even more intelligent than them, but lack the memory power, to memorize digestive or nervous systems, and accounts of Second Battle of Panipat.

  • Varun wrote:

    Quite well written, that is, Neeraj. We can say we have a complete new article here by you. It's just not a thought :-) I quite agree with your point of view that we are perhaps, turning too materialistic in general, of course, but now also in education. But we need to replace an objective system of evaluation with another objective method of evaluation. I think for jobs we can have an alternative, they select students based on interviews, but what if they can do selection solely on the basis of responses to the interview rather than looking at scores to frame a mental picture about the student even before the interview happens. Whether this can be brought practically in the school grading system is subject to discussion. What does others have to say on this?

  • Thanks Varun for you kind words !!!

    Another point towards which I would like to draw everybody's attention is - Stress Learning, another principle very common in educational institutions, as well as in industries, in India. So what does this stress learning principle say? It says that if we overload a child/student/worker with excessive work load, which may include studies,projects, or any similar demanding work, then the child/student/worker , under stress or duress, will perform better and deliver a more sustainable and profitable output. I have seen many people follow this inane logic blindly, hoping to get better results. But the unfortunate situation is that, few people seem to realize the tragic and harmful effects associated with it.

    In school, the curriculum is mainly designed in such a way, so that a child gets very little time for pursuing extra curricular activities, or sports, and is over burdened by his/her studies. Before his brain has fully matured, he is forced to study complicated Scientific definitions, fatuous mathematics formulae and what not. Instead of following a logical, increasing order of difficulty level approach, the child is bombarded with information which he is simply not ready to take. Now many of you might ask why such a horrible system is followed in our schools? Its because we believe that children should be exposed to useless, complicated things which they will hardly require in practical life, as early as possible. The total opposite of what is followed in American and European schools, where practical education is given more stress, and a simple step by step study system is followed so that no student feels overburdened. But look at the plight of the children in India. Carrying bags which weigh a ton, and handling books the size of a dictionary. Yet, as always the education sector here is blatantly ignored.

    The same vapid trend is continued in our higher educational institutes. The syllabus set for a single semester is so vast, that even good students find it hard to cope up. Add to that, the lack of experienced faculty and infrastructure in majority of the institutes, and we cook a perfect recipe for disaster. Though it is true, that many students in colleges, rarely study, and mostly open their books a few days before the exam, yet manage to pass. That is a different thing altogether. But take the case of Bschools in India. Ask any guy who has done a MBA/is pursuing a MBA degree, if he faced stress due to a hectic life schedule in the campus, and the answer will almost certainly be a resounding ‘yes.’ Yet, many of them also remark that they are enjoying studying in a stressful environment. Some of them even boast of sleeping for only 1-2 hours per day, or not sleeping at all. In fact, the work load is so designed such that the student hardly gets any time to relax, but is showered with assignments, projects, quizzes and what not. The insipid excuse for this is that a Manager has to handle stress in his everyday assignments, and he should be prepared for a hectic lifestyle. Though partly true, this changes the mindset of the student. He will develop a negative frame of mind, and will expect every assignment to be tough, and will accept stress as a part and parcel of his daily life. In such a manner, most of the students are compromising with their health, a factor which is ubiquitously ignored,even by the Government. If one sleeps for just a few hours every day, and makes it part of his daily schedule, especially by overloading himself with work, then very soon, he will keep suffering from one ailment to the other. Common ones include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, migraine, etc, many of which are related to stress. One should keep in mind that money is not everything. In fact, I believe that if you are not getting time to spend the money you are earning, and enjoy time with your family, then such a job/environment is useless. Do not compromise with your health, people. If you take care of your body, it will respect you. If you ignore it, then one day it will certainly take its revenge, by extracting a heavy toll from you.

    In fact, a widely popular trend followed by companies is too lay-off older people, and appoint younger ones, because they feel they need fresh blooded people who can work hours on end. And unfortunately, due to our over-population, there is never a dearth of people struggling and fighting over a single vacant position. If one guy is fired, over a 100 fight to take his place.

    Anyways, more on the job environment in a future post. Have written enough for now.

    Guys don't just read our comments. SUPPORT US !!!

  • Very well written mam. I completely agree with u. I am an engineering student and facing the same problem. I am innovative but our education system lays stress on memorizing putting stress on us. There's no place for innovation. Good crammers are the toppers. There's a very strong need for changing the education system in India which will lay stress upon innovation rather than memorizing facts and figures (or i should say cramming).

  • Rusha wrote:

    Thanks Vidya for sharing your experience here. Its true that our education system is like that only, so that "Good crammers are the toppers". I just want to say you one thing, if you feel that you want to do something innovative then you can try for it. Over the semester you learn things (dont memorize without understanding it) and before exam you just memorize (or mug up) whatever is there in the syllabus. There is a little difference between getting good marks and having the knowledge. At the end your knowledge which you will learn throughout the semester will help you. All the best to you. :)

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