In a degree-hungry country like India with a limited number of top-of-the-line educational institutes, getting into an elite institute is almost like winning a lottery. This desire for nothing but the best has given a major boost to the country’s coaching industry, and one of the many cities that have flourished on this demand is Kota in Rajasthan.
Every year, more than 100,000 teenagers head to coaching institutes in the city with dreams of cracking the highly competitive entrance exams for engineering or medical colleges. Parents, on an average, spend Rs 2.50 lakh to Rs 3 lakh every year on coaching. Add to that the living and other costs.
Today, the city has about 40 big coaching institutes and the thriving industry is worth Rs 2,000 crore. But their rigorous study schedule, exams and the stress of living alone take a toll on many students, pushing some of them to commit suicide. According to the Kota Police data, 72 students, many of whom come from humble backgrounds and are burdened by the expectations of the parents, have committed suicide in the past five years. The latest case was on December 28, 2015, when a 14-year-old boy committed suicide.
Responding to the crisis, Kota’s collector has written a letter to the students, urging them not to take these competitive exams as a do-or-die kind of an endeavour. In an open letter to students, collector Ravikumar Surpur urged them to “go trek a hill… play games (not strange video games)” because “life is beautiful” and that “clearing an exam or two is not everything”. In December, the district administration had directed the coaching institutes to hold a ‘no-studies, fun-day’, allowing students to paint, sing and let their hair down for a day and introduce a weekly off. The collector’s letter, with smileys and cartoons, said that not all those who clear big exams are happy and successful. Mr Surpur’s effort is commendable and those who question the efficacy of such efforts must realise that the words come from a man who does know thing or two about competitive exams and the stress because he also cracked one of the toughest exams, the civil services.
Mr Surpur’s letter must come as a wake-up call for parents more than the students actually. They must realise that pushing their wards to go through such a grind could also turn out to be counterproductive, and it can have fatal consequences far too often.