By Dr Arun Mitra
News of suicides by the students from Kota, a dream destination for the aspirants to get coaching for entry into higher education courses like the Engineering and Medicine, are highly disturbing. These students are the next generation who are to shape the future of our country. End of their life at this tender age is heart breaking for the parents who have nurtured their children with love and affection. They are shattered by this irreparable loss. Parents and other family members are likely to develop significant psychological and physical comorbidities under such circumstances. These incidents are also a warning for the society to introspect deep into the whole issue and find out causes and remedial measures.
According to the National Crime Report Bureau data the number of students committing suicides has grown by 70 per cent over the past decade as per a report published in the Money control. The number of students who committed suicides in India rose from 5.7 per cent to 8 per cent of total suicidal deaths in 10 years; that is 7696 in 2011 to 13089 in 2021. This is nearly 70 per cent increase in the decade.
In the present day cut throat competition, there is a mad race for getting better score and higher merit. MCQ type of examinations, have become the routine to check one’s knowledge. Purpose of education is to prepare good citizens with ethical values and social concerns. In the growing consumerist culture this has changed and success of a person is measured by entry into prestigious institutions and a career which ensures huge profits. This concept has diminished the trend to join the humanities.
As a result large number of present day generation is devoid of information about history, civics, political science and economics. There is too much of inflow of information on the social media which the young people consider as gospel truth. This affects the analytical capabilities. Too much involvement in the online/virtual working has reduced their interaction with the fellow beings. This has adverse impact on personality development and reduces decision making though collective discussion. Mushrooming coaching enters and their glittering advertisements leave powerful impact even though such centers charge exorbitant amount.
There was a time when the students would discuss several issues in groups and make a collective wisdom. Now there is hardly any student movement compared to 40 years back when student organisations would react to increase in tuition fees, bus & train fares and travel passes for students. They would also agitate for improvement of infrastructure in their school or college. There was a trend to organise debates on the education policy, job opportunities, social harmony, gender equality etc. These things are little to be seen.
Lack of physical activity has worsened the situation. Most of the students in the middle and upper middle classes are pampered at home and are unable to bear the stress of cut throat competition once they move out. Undue pressure and expectations from parents puts them under tremendous stress and a feeling of shame in case of non-fulfilment of their desires. When they find that they are unable to satisfy and have lost all hopes, they resort to such drastic steps to end their life.
Whereas there is need for continuous counselling of the teachers, students, families, parents, there is a real need to look at the system of education. “Just giving counselling to a student will not matter much, because society defines a ‘successful’ student as someone who clears IITs or such competitive exams by defeating lakhs of other students. We need a society where a kid’s worth is tied to talent or extra-curricular activities or hobbies they enjoy, not marks,” points out Itisha Nagar, an assistant professor of psychology at Delhi University while talking to The Wire. Societal factors must be addressed in tandem with providing counselling to students according to her.
Albert Einstein had said way back in 1949 that “This crippling of individuals is considered the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.” “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” “Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
We have forgotten the fairy tales era when our grandmother used to tell us stories while going to the bed or gather a few children to narrate events of her past experience. That was preparing a person with a wider vision.
Technological revolution would go on. But we have to make corrective methods to develop a youth of moral values and full of compassion and empathy. This is possible through rationalising education for all with equity as envisaged by the Kothari Commission in 1968. The commission had recommended common school and neighbourhood school system. This would have meant mixing of students from different classes and socio economic groups.
However the whole concept has been thrown into dustbin with the neo-liberal economic policies. Education has gone under the control of elite. This has become a global phenomenon points out Michael Apple, Professor of Curriculum and instruction and educational policy, University of Wisconsin USA. Under the Neo liberal economic policy, education is only for those who have resources while a large section is marginalized and alienated.
It is important that students’ aptitude is taken into account while deciding the future education plans instead of pressure of market forces. In this work facilitators and psychological counsellors can do useful job. The students should be continuously counselled on health and encouraged to involve in recreational and extracurricular activities. This will help their physical and mental growth. (IPA Service)