Hyderabad: The alleged suicide of K. Parameswara Rao from Visakhapatnam at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, on Thursday has ignited the debate on the competitive environment in IITs and the rising suicide rate.
Experts say that the difference in learning at coaching classes (before the Joint Entrance Exam) and at the IIT, demotivates a lot of students, driving them to suicide.
While academic pressure is most often blamed, the alumni of IITs say the skewed expectations of students themselves are a common reason for suicide.
The exact cause of Parameswara Rao’s death is yet to be ascertained, but it is thought that low grades pushed him to suicide.
Dr P. Anand Raman, mentor-director at FIITJEE, Hyderabad, said that the transition from learning in JEE coaching classes to learning at IITs is quite precarious though the environment in IITs is not the most vigorous.
“With the predictable format and questions of JEE now, students are encouraged to rote learn. But when they go to IITs, they find it requires the individual application of one’s mind.
That’s what happened with the topper of IIT JEE 2010. When he passed out of IIT-Bombay his CGPA, was only 7. Teaching systems are different and so they get de-motivated.”
Experts rue the fact that while Andhra Pradesh and Telangana State send the most students to IITs, students from these two states also have the highest suicide rate.
Shilpa Muduy, an alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur, said, “The curriculum in IITs doesn’t put pressure on students but the environment does.
The pressure of excelling at everything you do makes you emotionally weak. More emphasis should be laid on support and guidance.”
While parents, whose wards have committed suicides in IITs always assert that their children were academically brilliant, low grades are the most common reason.
Sky-high expectations are another reason. “The biggest problem is skewed expectations from all quarters, including the students themselves.
At that age, everything feels like the end of the world. They require counselling. Colleges must set up units to address issues ranging from academic, monetary and relationships to internships and placements,” said Sri Nitya A., an alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur. Alumni also suggest setting up of anonymous hotlines like in the United States.
Students from economically weaker sections face a steeper climb, and if they miss a step, it adds to the emotional pressure. “Students from economically weaker sections face the lack of emotional support from parents, which affluent students get.
They also have a lot of responsibilities. They feel they have to get a good job to support their parents,” an IIT- Hyderabad professor said.
Students also get distracted and obsessed with new-found freedom, sitcoms, movies, gaming and relationships.
“In school, many believe that getting into an IIT and landing a job is the final milestone of their life and it will be a smooth ride post that.
When their grades suffer and the axe looms, they get depressed and frustrated,” Sumit Kumar, an alumnus of IIT Madras said.