We are quite sure that the parliamentarians who have raised the disturbing issue of students across the country committing suicides are genuinely concerned about the levels of stress that our youngsters have to face before examinations. The figures are alarming and even though different children react differently to stress — and indeed to exams — the official figure of 5,857 suicides in 2006 from exam-related stress is increasingly looking like a trend. But while much of the blame is being directed at the board examination system — with its frequent adherence to rote learning and mindless ‘bureaucratic’ details rather than knowledge-building in the holistic sense — the real generator of stress among children lies at the twin chambers of the home and the school. The system may be rehauled, even to the point of scrapping a grading system. But at the end of the day, the intense competition of entering college or simply performing well — which at its most intense level is the proverbial ‘rat race’ — will remain unless one disables the very source of extreme stress before examinations: neurotic expectations.
It is here that the HRD Ministry or any other extraneous entity can do little and parents and teachers can do much. If youngsters can be brainwashed into believing that exam results and entry into a (prestigious) college are the be all and end all of high school life then surely they can be ‘brainwashed out’ of believing it. In most cases of extreme stress among students, it is the unrelenting pressure from parents that make many youngsters snap. Ironically, it is this dread of failure that comes in the way of many a good performance.
On the part of the teachers, the fact that learning is as important, if not more important than ‘scoring’ must be driven home. In this context, those responsible for framing board exams should ensure that as much correlation between learning and scoring marks is maintained. But then, there will always be differences in performance. And there is bound to be those who will ‘fail’, regardless of what new tag one wishes to put to ‘failure’. So what is necessary is not to lash about against the proverbial system but to ensure that our youngsters are able to take success or failure as it comes. Above all, parents must drive home one single message to the children: nothing, definitely not exams, is worth killing oneself.