The devastating news of seven students ending their lives after the announcement of the first and second year Inter results has put the scanner on the education system in India once again. A 2016 study by The Lancet found that India had the highest suicide rates in the ages of 15-29 years in the country, while the latest data from National Crime Records Bureau showed that a student commits suicide every hour in India. And one of the main causes is exam stress and fear of poor results.
Multi-level approach needed
According to educationist Anjali Gupta, “There is no one particular stakeholder that can be blamed or asked to solve the problem. Schools, teachers and parents need to bring about a shift in thought process collectively. Teachers and schools together need to educate parents to not get worked up if their child does not get the best grades.” Gupta, who has been the principal of Global Edge School at Kukatpally, added that doing away with exams was not the solution. She said, “Since exams are very important in our country, and will take years for our mindset to change, we can focus on support systems such as workshops where professionals can provide guidance and help. Maybe schools could even conduct yoga lessons to calm their nerves leading up to exams. The important thing is to make sure that they know exams are not the end of the road.”
Have more polytechnic institutions
While the government and private institutions need to introduce more polytechnic colleges to offer alternate career options, teachers and parents need to recognise the different skill sets in each child and hone them accordingly, said Dr Lalita Anand. Lalita, who runs Teenage Foundation, said, “We have only a few dozen polytechnic colleges while abroad the numbers run into hundred, “Today, there are a range of different career options such as professional sports, baking and food industry, event management and art and design. Children need to be given the courage and confidence to follow their passions.”
Can’t blame exams alone
While the scenario is bleak, the issue may run much deeper than meets the eye, according to a leading psychiatrist in Hyderabad. Dr Bharatkumar Reddy, consultant psychiatrist, Apollo Hospital, said, “We assume any suicide attempt in March or April has to do with exams. One cannot deny that there are cases of impulsive behaviour but they are minimal, else the suicide rates among students would have been much higher. Usually, there is a major collateral history that happens for up to a year or six months, leading to a suicide. The child could be facing personal, family or peer related issues with the exam results serving as a final tipping point.” Dr Reddy added, “Many children would have sent a signal — a cry for help to their families, teachers or peers, but they may have been ignored. No one likes to believe their child could be suicidal but the truth is every child can be susceptible under certain circumstances.”