A 17-year-old IIT-aspirant committed suicide in Kota, making it the seventh death of a student this year and 57 in the last five years in the coaching centre hub of India. Helpline, counselling and stress-relieving sessions by coaching centres have failed to stop the steady rise in the number of study pressure-related deaths in the country. What must our education system do to curb the death rates? And how can parents help ease the pressure on their wards?
Khushboo, actor-turned-politician: ‘Best to leave career choices to children’
Peer pressure starts in the family and later, schools and society come into play. Most parents want their child to be either a doctor or an engineer. The competition is crazy. Even if a student fails in their first attempt, we need to ensure that they get a second chance. I believe it is best to leave career choices to the children themselves. Teachers could help students understand their aptitude, so they make an informed decision. Education is a must but it isn’t worth losing one’s life.
Krishna Kumar, actor: ‘Encourage the talent your child has’
I have four daughters and I understand that each one of them has different interests and temperaments. My daughters Ahaana (20) and Diya (18) have already joined professional courses. I have never demanded anything of my daughters — I don’t even push them to study. I didn’t oppose when Ahaana told me that she wanted to pursue a course in visual communication, after getting admission in an engineering college. Doing something I love gives me maximum happiness, so why should I stop my children from pursuing what they want? My second daughter Diya says she wants to pursue mass communication and I have done all I could to secure a seat for her. There is no point comparing your child with the neigbour’s kid, who might be super-intelligent. Each child is unique and has a talent and as parents it is up to us to encourage that talent.
Sudipto Das, author and IIT-Kharagpur alumnus: ‘Parents must allow kids to fail’
A lot of issues with the education system can be attributed to a medieval way of thinking, that needs to be nipped in the bud, the moment they originate in our heads. Engineering is viewed as one of the safest and simplest bets for people to make money and is also perhaps the most lucrative, financially rewarding option for the rather mediocre lot. Any other profession would need much more creativity and talent. Parents need to look beyond the mediocrity. It’s time to advocate compulsory counselling for parents of students appearing for competitive exams and as a society we need to learn to respect varied disciplines. The education system is in dire need of reform and the least we can expect is more lucrative options as careers. Only then will kids feel proud of their choices and won’t make a beeline for an IIT coaching centre. Parents must allow kids to fail and change their perception about rejection.
Archana Puran Singh, actress: ‘Guide your children, don’t control them’
There’s too much pressure in India to succeed and excel; there is no appreciation for children who come second. There are so many professions now that really don’t require a 100 per cent score in all five subjects. I think this pressure is because India still has the job security mindset. Our society is driven by fear and parents make sure they instill that fear in their children as well. Nobody cares if the child has artistic leanings or an interest in social work. It is this pressure that leads children towards suicide. Academic success is the only thing that the society looks for.
It is not the child but rather the parents who are at fault. In India even youngsters, who are 18 or 19 are still considered children. At that age, people are capable of making their own decisions. Parents and guardians must only guide them, not control them. In the West, this distinction is made when the children turn 18 and they are given autonomy. Indian parents need to understand this; the children must be given autonomy not just to succeed, but also to fail. The parents are so afraid of societal pressures. It is important for parents to a) stop bothering about society, and what they will say about the failures of their children, and b) be open and talk to them about what they want and need to do. Problem is that most parents want to realise their own dreams through their kids.
Sangeeta S. Bahl, socialite and CEO at Impact Image Consultants: 'Overnment needs to minimise undue pressure’
The selection process makes it extremely competitive for students to get into higher learning educational institutions. Also, getting into these institutions is linked to employability. If parents make it a do or die situation, it will push their kids to the edge. What we need is an encouraging environment at home. The government, on its part, needs to minimise undue pressure on candidates. And parents need to make their children understand that marks aren’t the only way to success. Unfortunately, the learning skills to deal with such difficulties aren’t taught in schools and universities. What can help perhaps is a curriculum- based subject for students who have just passed their 12th standard exams....