Teachers' domination forces suicides
The examination oriented Indian education system coupled with heavy-handed domination by teachers are the major reasons for the growing number of suicides among school students, say noted educationists.
"Our education system has been overwhelmed by the examination system. The whole purpose of education is getting diluted, leading to more stress and suicide," said Brenden MacCarthaigh, who advocates educational reforms in India.
MacCartheigh, an Irish by birth, has lived in Kolkota for over 45 years. He said that aping the British educational system in India had worsened the situation.
"There is excessive domination by teachers in classrooms. Though parental pressure is growing, it's the teachers who are mostly responsible for the impoverishment of school kids," MacCartheigh said.
MacCartheigh, who has written a book Where the Child is Without Fear, was recently in New Delhi to deliver a lecture on student suicides.
Quoting West Bengal government data, he said, "Of all the reasons, 24 per cent of suicides take place due to failure in examinations.
"It's time to reorganise the technique of pedagogy by bringing in more participation of students. Teachers have to keep their personal ego and family problems away from classrooms."
"Schooling is not about teachers but about children learning. And the focus of parents and teachers to make it a ticket for higher education is not always fair," said Janaki Rajan, a former director of the State Council for Education, Research and Training (SCERT), Delhi.
She said the capital experiences approximately 110 cases of student suicides during the examination period but less than 20 per cent get reported.
"Classrooms and examinations are killing children and it's high time we change our way of looking at education. Just three hours of writing should not determine the future of students," said Rajan, currently a professor at Jamia Milia Islamia University.
She said that setting up examination centres outside their school was not a good system at all. "It creates a fear psychosis, which in many instances hinders the output of the child."
Further, she said that the low number of seats and courses in Delhi were forcing many talented children to stay away from higher education.
"In India, only seven per cent of students enter the higher education mode, which is really deplorable."
Speaking about parental pressure, Rajesh Kochar, a senior scientist and former director of the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS), said that parents too were to blame for suicides.
"In many cases the parents evaluate their kids on the basis of marks. If the daughter scores 90 per cent marks in the examination, then she gets better treatment than her sibling who scores 50 per cent," Kochhar said.
He said that the education system should seek to make students better equipped to handle life in general and should be more in sync with Indian society.