50 deaths in 60 days: Are coaching centres driving students to suicide? | editorials | Hindustan Times
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50 deaths in 60 days: Are coaching centres driving students to suicide?

The fear of letting their family down, peer pressure and low self-esteem can compel students to take the extreme step

editorials Updated: Oct 22, 2017 17:30 IST
Hindustan Times
Students cross an IIT - JEE preparation institute's promotional board in Delhi.  Despite the obsession with engineering, 80% of the engineers in India are unemployable, says the National Employability Report 2016 by Aspiring Minds.
Students cross an IIT - JEE preparation institute's promotional board in Delhi. Despite the obsession with engineering, 80% of the engineers in India are unemployable, says the National Employability Report 2016 by Aspiring Minds. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT)

The pressure to succeed can often prove fatal. Last week, a 17-year-old girl aspiring to be a doctor from rural Andhra Pradesh hanged herself at her Hyderabad hostel. Samyuktha, who had scored 95% in class 12 and enrolled at a coaching institute to prepare for the entrance exams , left a note behind, which mentioned the growing pressure of expectations. Last month, unable to tolerate the jibes of his teachers who insisted he wasn’t good enough, another 17-year-old student in Andhra Pradesh jumped off a building. In the last two months alone, more than 50 students have reportedly committed suicide across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. On Wednesday, disturbed by all this, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu met managers of educational institutes. New rules introduced in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana stop teachers from subjecting students to verbal or physical assault . There have been many instances of teachers telling students that they will not make the grade. Also, they can’t be made to attend classes for more than eight hours a day at a stretch and institutes must hire trained staff to counsel students.

In all these cases, the impressive track record of students from the two states in clearing exams to coveted institutes such as IITs and medical colleges was blamed for the mushrooming of pressure-cooker like coaching institutes. But Andhra and Telangana are not alone. In the coaching hub of Kota in Rajasthan, where 1.75 lakh students go every year dreaming of clearing engineering and medical entrance exams, a hostel association has installed ‘suicide-proof’ fans in students’ rooms, in a short-sighted and bizarre move to address the problem without going into the root causes. The 2016 National Crime Record Bureau said at least 17 students committed suicide in Kota owing to the fear of failure. Because of the limited number of medical and engineering seats in State-run institutes, for every successful person, there are thousands of others who don’t make the cut.

Although there are many more private universities in the country now, but their tuition fees are prohibitive for many students. The availability of seats keeps shrinking as the student moves from primary to secondary to higher education. The fear of letting their parents down, peer pressure and low self-esteem drives students to suicide. Earlier this year, in April, the HRD Ministry had written to states asking them to regulate private coaching institutions, expressing concern over the spate of student suicides. A report by the Ashok Misra committee, submitted to the HRD ministry in November 2015 also proposed setting up a regulatory mechanism. Since the regulation of secondary education is a state subject, the onus of evolving such a mechanism also falls upon the states. The government’s efforts aside, the inability to procure admission into an engineering college should not be viewed as worth ending one’s life for. Despite the obsession with engineering, 80% of the engineers in India are unemployable, says the National Employability Report 2016 by Aspiring Minds. The curriculum is outdated and geared towards rote learning. It is because education is solely focused on a competitive job market that so much pressure is being put on students, but the aim of the authorities should be to convince students that education is part of a larger process of acquiring knowledge.