Many grown-ups believe, without much insight, that children are without worries or woes, apart from the odd broken toy or two. Sure, school life can bring on new issues, but how hard can it be, reason adults, when all of one’s “real” concerns are taken care of by parents?
Why is it then that we continue to see some children succumb to performance pressure and feelings of inadequacy, which at times lead them to take their lives? It’s about time adults took a long hard look at emerging trends such as depression and suicidal tendencies.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 2010 people committed suicide due to failure in examinations, in 2009. The situation has far from improved in the subsequent years. Pressure surrounding academic performance is among the primary causes for stress, and in extreme cases, for suicides among school students. Paying heed to this, measures were enacted last year to overhaul the education system, by making these exams optional for Class 10 students, introducing a grading system and focusing more on continuous, comprehensive evaluation. An attempt has also been made to reassure students that performance in Board exams is not a prerequisite for a successful life.
While people remain divided on the effectiveness of these reforms, there are many among students, parents and teachers who think that these measures play a conclusive role in reducing exam-induced stress. Sarah Najmi, whose son appeared for his Class 10 exams this year, says, “There has been a considerable drop in pressure with the Board exams being made optional. While the level of seriousness may have gone down too to some extent, the decrease in pressure is a welcome move since now students don’t have to live in constant dread of the exams anymore.”
There have been innumerable cases of students going on to have satisfying careers despite not scoring high percentages in their Board exams. Sonal Chhablani, a third-year student pursuing BA LLB from IP University, Delhi, says, “I was disappointed with my Class 10 results since I felt that I would not be eligible for the stream of my choice – commerce. Eventually, I opted for humanities and it is a decision I have never regretted since. I liked the subjects and consequently, my score also went up in Class 12. Humanities enabled me to develop a strong knowledge base which has helped me in doing well in my law course.
Truly, sometimes when one door closes, a new one opens elsewhere.”
Just like Chhablani, many other students feel depressed because their ‘plans’ are disrupted because they did not do as well as they had hoped to. But that doesn’t automatically lead to a dead end. Diksha Choudhary, a student of commerce, felt let-down after her Class 12 results, because the college cut-offs were very high, especially for commerce courses. “I felt a sense of inadequacy, leading to anxiety. However, I went on to clear the entrance test for bachelor of business studies, a course I had always been interested in and got admission to Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, one of the premier commerce institutes in Delhi,” she says. Choudhary is joining Ernst & Young Global Shared Services as an associate analyst soon.
Exam results are not the be-all and end-all of life. Parents need to explain this to their children by playing a positive role instead of imposing unrealistic expectations, or worse, the weight of their personal ambitions on them. Dr Geetanjali Kumar, who has been a counsellor with the Central Board of Secondary Education for nearly 10 years, says, “It is of utmost importance for parents to be there for their child, to love their child and to strengthen the parent-child bond. Fear is a big reality in a child’s life, and parents must address this fear, but should not aggravate it or dismiss it.” Most schools have in-house counsellors these days, but no one can replace parents. Also, as Kumar says, not everyone with a degree in psychology can be an effective counsellor. “Counselling is one step ahead of psychology. It involves the creation of a rapport with the child, by starting a conversation with her, keeping her secrets. Sometimes, what a child needs is not advice but someone who is willing to listen to her worries.” The Board results must not be synonymous with rising stress levels. As the saying goes, give your stress wings and let it fly away.
Great reads for feeling good
. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen - R295
. You Can Win by Shiv Khera - R365
. The Bounce Back Book: How to Thrive in the Face of Adversity, Setbacks, and Losses by Karen Salmansohn - R613
. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach - R199