In the almost two decades of the 21st century, technology has irreversibly changed our lives. Ever since smartphones invaded the human civilization, people seem to have become more mechanical and insensitive. They have become bereft of real emotions and have started to reside in a fake world.
The omnipresent selfies have replaced real photographs and the social media has replaced social interactions. Children haven’t remained untouched either. The recent happenings of children committing suicides playing the Blue Whales Challenge or accidentally dying while posing for selfies on cliffs and beaches constitute an alarming trend. This is an indicator of the faulty psychological development of children.
Academic pressures and career compulsions have also driven many students to commit suicide. This remains a major point of concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a year-long campaign on April 7, the World Health Day, to tackle the issue of depression and resultant suicides across the globe. According to a survey conducted by the WHO, nearly seven lakh people globally commit suicides subject to untreated depression disorders.
As for the Indian scenario, it is alarming to note that patients seek treatment for depression after 10 years of first experiencing its symptoms.
Is Academic Pressure the Cause for Suicides among Students?
How many times do we see the news of students ending their lives due to academic pressure or career pressure? The infamous suicides in the Rajasthani city of Kota are known to all. Rishab Kumar committed suicide a few days back because he failed to crack the IIT JEE. Besides, there have been many other cases in the city and Aniket Anand was one of them. Early this year, Aniket hanged himself subject to severe academic pressure. He wanted to score 95 percent marks in his Class XII board examination but failed to do so.
Similar cases have been reported from Sri Chaitanya and Narayana Junior Colleges in the southern part of the country. These institutions have attained notoriety because they exert severe pressure on students to perform. They emphasize only on academics and conduct mandatory coaching for medical and engineering exams right from Class VI. The pressure is such that an online petition was also started by the Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (TVV) in the state of Telangana seeking a ban on these institutions.
Tanya Singh, a Class IX student from Narayana E-Techno School in Bengaluru, said, “We have to score good marks and focus only on studies. We go to school at around 8 o’clock in the morning and return home by 6 in the evening. Many students who come from farther places take even more time to go back home. Where is the time for other activities?” Another girl who appeared for her Class X board examination from the same institution said that they had to go to the school even on Sundays for extra preparation. Obviously, both the girls were not happy with the pattern of education implemented in their school.
It’s not long back that Google CEO Sundar Pichai lamented the fact that students started preparing for the IITs from Class VIII. In fact, he might not have been aware of institutions where students start preparing for the IITs from Class VI itself. Pichai had said, “In the US-based Universities such as the Stanford University, students choose their respective major subjects only when they are in their last year.”
According to the 2012-Lancet Report, India registered one of the highest suicide rates among youths in the world, who are between 15 and 29 years of age.
Earlier this year, Hansraj Ahir, the Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs stated in the Lok Sabha that about 9,474 students committed suicide only in the year 2016. (See https://edinbox.com/student-suicides-india/) This translates to about 26 suicides per day. Between the years 2007 and 2016, our country recorded a massive 75,000 suicides by students. This leaves the fundamental question unanswered – what is the root cause for student suicides? Is it that the students are finding it difficult to cope with the pressures from varied quarters – examination pressure, academic pressure, peer pressure, career-related pressure and the fear of failing? Are all these pressures together causing depression and resultant suicides?
Dr. Shaibya Saldanha, the co-Founder of Enfold India, a leading NGO that works for children and adolescents, said, “The popular perception is that failing exams or inability to cope with academics is the primary reason for student suicides .However, the fact is that suicides are driven by an extreme sense of helplessness or frustration.”
Dr. Asha, a psychologist and the founder of Asha – The Hope – The Center for Counseling and Therapy in Bengaluru, said, “Learning is a process and examination is a system. We need to understand this first. We need the thinking that a child is not a knowledge bank. Let our children be parts of the process (learning) and not the system (examination).”
“The emotions associated with an examination are terrible and are life-taking. Every child is born with different competencies, intelligence and learning styles,” she added.
Dr. Asha added, “Shall we ever understand the difference between encouragement and excruciating pressure? Over the years, the kind of marks students need to get into ‘good universities’ has really started touching the roof; they need 90 – 95 percent on an average. Also, parents have big expectations and give undue importance to examinations. For children, the marks constitute the benchmark for their self-esteems. The combination can be fatal. We need to impart the youngsters and their parents the life skills to know that marks are not everything in life.”
What Are the Psychological Trends amongst Kids in General and Students in Particular?
Psychology is the study of mind and human behaviour. Anjali Sinha, a psychological counselor with the Astitva Psychological Counseling Centre in Allahabad, gives valid reasons concerning the psychological disorders among kids today. She said, “Parents don’t have sufficient time for kids. There’s no healthy communication between parents and their children. As a result, the bonding factor is lacking and the kids suffer from loneliness. There is no scope for family values that existed earlier when there was a joint family system and the grandparents played a significant role in building the healthy minds of kids.”
She attributes the following pressures that children of all ages suffer from:
- Academic pressure.
- Pressure of high expectations from parents.
- Cut-throat competition.
The truth is that children of all ages are more or less aggressive and short tempered with zero tolerance level. Some resort to extreme steps like taking lives – self or someone else’s too. The much infamous Pradhyum’s murder at the Ryan International School in Delhi rocked the entire nation. A student from the same school had committed that crime because he wanted the scheduled exams to be deferred.
Pushpa Yadav, a mother of two children studying in Class V and Class III at NCFE (National Centre for Excellence) School in Bengaluru, said, “We as parents are also responsible for this. We don’t have constructive communication with our children. What do we talk to them on a daily basis? We simply give them instructions – eat this, study that, score good marks, don’t play so much and the likes. Do we talk to them on topics that may help them enrich their moral values and boost their morale to cope up with the pressure?”
In February this year, three students from the same school, who are in Class VII, eloped with cash as they wanted to escape the ensuing parent-teacher meeting. Although they were ultimately traced and found in Hyderabad the very next day, the entire episode has left a question mark of ‘why’ before the whole system. Is the school responsible or are the respective parents responsible or there’s a flaw in the education system itself? A parent opined thus on the stated incident, “Children are very sensitive now. They don’t understand what they are doing. We have to understand them and guide them properly. A child should be educated for a normal living. Study is not everything. Life skills are more important.”
The Flaws Are Indeed in the Existing Education System
Thanks to the education system prevailing in schools and colleges, all children are stressed. They lack creativity and worse they lack conceptual understanding of the subjects they study. The list goes on. Every child is unique and thinks differently before going to the school. According to a study conducted by the NASA, 98 percent of children do think differently until the time they start going to school. Once they do, they follow the same education pattern. By the time they attain 25 years of age, only two percent think differently while the rest 98 percent think the same way. This is the fundamental flaw in today’s education system. No uniqueness, no creativity and students are lost in a rat race, where only the ‘fittest’ survive.
Why do 98 percent of children think the same? Our education system gives ready-made answers to the children right from their kindergarten days. It is the answers that make them the same. Even today, if someone asks us as to what the alphabet ‘A’ stands for; we shall automatically answer ‘Apple’ because we all learnt the same answer when we were in nursery or KG class. Our teachers taught the same worldwide. This is the underlying root problem in the whole learning system.
What Our Government Is Doing to Check the Flaws in the Education System
Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, vouches for the overall development of children right from the primary level to the higher secondary level. He proposed to cut 50 percent of the NCERT syllabus from the 2019 academic session, to be applicable from Class I to Class XII.
Javadekar reasoned, “Today, the syllabus is cramped. What is the aim of education? It is to bring out a good human being. For that, you have to have space for value education, life skills, physical education.”
He added, “We are not to produce data-banks. The human brain is not just a data-bank of information. It’s more than that – the analytical ability, the knowledge, the principles, the life skills which he needs in his life, value education which teaches ethics and the ethics on which he runs the business of his life. He must have physical education, too.”
Replying to a question if the current text books will be rewritten, he said, “Without compromising on basic knowledge and content, we shall ask the teachers as to what can be cut.”
Which Is Responsible – The Education System or the Modern Parenting Style?
Anita Segal, who served as the Principal of Air Force Senior Secondary School at the Race Course Road in New Delhi, sincerely blames both. She said, “Our education system and modern parents – both are responsible for children’s abnormal behaviours. How is the education system responsible? It does not allow a child to be detained in the same class up to Class VIII. Suddenly he is detained in Class IX because he failed in the examination. When they don’t know the basics, how can they cope with the Class IX syllabus? This has an adverse psychological effect on the students and constitutes the reason why students taking extreme steps like suicides. Had he been detained in smaller classes, he would be in a better state to cope up as he had already learnt the basics of mathematics and science.”
She added, “Guru-shishya affection is no more there because of current policies where a teacher can’t scold or get a student stand out of the classroom. So, teachers don’t take any interest in the students’ development, just impart lessons and sign the register.”
On why the parents are responsible, she said,” Parents fight in front of their kids. They abuse each other. As both are working parents, ego clashes and aggression are some of the traits that pass on to their kids as well. Kids learn abuses from them only.”
Are Schools Taking the Help of Psychologists and Psychiatrists?
Dr. Asha said, “Schools evaluate only two or three intelligence parameters out of nine intelligence parameters – verbal -linguistic intelligence and mathematics-logical intelligence. If the child is good in other intelligence parameters, it remains unseen.” She added, “Yes, counseling plays a big role in transformation. I have dealt with so many unreasonable students’ behaviour.”
Dr. Asha has mentored teachers and other educational professionals in sharpening their skills with psychological tools like art therapy and graphological therapy. She has been associated with many educational institutions in Bengaluru who seek her professional counseling from time to time. Some of these institutions include Jain University, Chinmaya Mission, ICPEM, Vibha International School and Chaitanya Techno.
No doubt, the list is only increasing with the latest entry being the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, which is taking the help of counselors for counseling students to control suicides and increasing depression among them.
Reporting by Varsha Priyadarshini Special correspondent, Bengaluru
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