Young People Fade Away When There Is No Vision

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Why in News?

  • Recent incidents in Kota, Rajasthan, have highlighted a disturbing trend: young people driven to suicide by the overwhelming pressures of entrance examinations and this alarming phenomenon is not isolated to only Kota.
  • The pressure to excel in competitive exams, compounded by familial and societal expectations, has created an environment where the mental health and well-being of students are severely compromised.
  • Therefore, it is imperative to understand the root causes of this issue and to implement solutions that prioritise the holistic development of young people.

The Pressure Cooker Environment: Cause and Consequence

  • The Rise of Coaching Institutes
    • Kota has earned its reputation as the coaching capital of India due to the proliferation of coaching institutes that prepare students for entrance exams like the IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) and NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test).
    • These institutes promise high success rates and have become the default choice for students aiming for top-tier engineering and medical colleges.
    • However, this comes at a substantial cost to students' mental and emotional well-being.
  • Inhumane Methods and Rigid Schedules
    • Many coaching institutes employ rigorous and often inhumane teaching methods.
    • Students are subjected to gruelling schedules that leave little time for relaxation or personal development.
    • A typical day in such an institute might begin at 5 a.m. and extend until 10 p.m. or later, packed with study sessions, tests, and more study sessions.
    • These schedules are designed to maximise academic output but often disregard the basic needs of the students, such as adequate sleep, recreation, and social interaction.
  • Loss of Adolescent Normalcy
    • The relentless focus on academic performance means that students miss out on crucial aspects of adolescent development.
    • Normal activities like sports, hobbies, and social interactions are sidelined or completely sacrificed.
    • As a result, students often become socially isolated, their lives revolving solely around academics.
    • This isolation can lead to a range of psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, and a profound sense of loneliness.
  • The High Cost of Failure
    • The stakes are extraordinarily high in this pressure cooker environment and success in entrance exams is often seen as the sole determinant of a student’s future.
    • Failure, on the other hand, can lead to severe consequences, including social stigma and disappointment from family members who have invested heavily in their child's education, both emotionally and financially.
    • The fear of failure and the resulting consequences can be overwhelming, driving some students to extreme measures.
  • Psychological Toll and Mental Health Crisis
    • The constant pressure to perform well academically takes a significant toll on students' mental health.
    • Reports of stress, anxiety, and depression are common among those attending these coaching institutes.
    • Unfortunately, mental health issues are often stigmatised in Indian society, leading to a lack of adequate support and resources for struggling students.
    • The tragic suicides in Kota are symptomatic of this larger mental health crisis.

Impact of India’s Education System’s Reliance on Entrance Examinations (NEET, JEE, CUET, etc)

  • Decline in Cognitive Skills and Critical Thinking
    • A significant consequence of the narrow focus on entrance exams is the decline in cognitive skills and critical thinking among students.
    • The coaching institute model emphasises rote learning and memorisation over conceptual understanding and analytical thinking.
    • Students are trained to excel in multiple-choice questions and standardised tests, but this often comes at the expense of deeper learning and intellectual curiosity.
    • Teachers in universities and colleges have reported a noticeable decline in the quality of students admitted through entrance exams like the Common University Entrance Test (CUET).
    • These students often struggle with basic concepts and lack the ability to engage in higher-order thinking.
    • This decline is concerning as it suggests that the current system is failing to prepare students for the intellectual challenges of higher education and beyond.
  • Educational Equity and Accessibility
    • Access to high-quality coaching centres is often limited to students from affluent backgrounds who can afford the high fees.
    • This creates a significant disparity in opportunities between wealthy students and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
    • As a result, the education system perpetuates and even deepens social inequalities, limiting upward mobility for disadvantaged students.
    • Moreover, the pressure to attend coaching centres has led many families, including those of first-generation learners, to take on substantial financial burdens.
    • These families invest heavily in their children's education, often at the cost of other essential needs.
    • Despite this investment, the high-stakes nature of entrance exams means that many students still do not achieve the desired outcomes, leading to financial strain and disappointment.
  • Broader Societal Implications
    • The narrow focus on entrance exams has broader implications for society. It fosters a culture of competition rather than collaboration, where success is measured solely by academic achievement.
    • This mindset can perpetuate a zero-sum view of success, where individuals see their peers as rivals rather than potential collaborators.
    • Furthermore, the emphasis on standardised testing and narrow academic criteria limits the diversity of talents and skills within the workforce.

Way Forward

  • The Need for a Holistic Approach
    • To address these consequences, a shift towards a more holistic approach to education is essential.
    • This approach should value diverse aspects of student development, including academic performance, critical thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence.
    • Educational reforms should also focus on improving the quality and accessibility of schooling, reducing reliance on coaching centres, and ensuring that all students have the opportunity to succeed regardless of their socio-economic background.
    • By nurturing a supportive and inclusive educational environment, we can better prepare students for the challenges of the modern world and create a more equitable society.
  • Strengthening School Education
    • Strengthening government schools by recruiting qualified teachers and improving infrastructure can provide a solid foundation for students.
    • The National Education Policy's emphasis on school education is a step in the right direction, but it needs to be implemented effectively.
    • Schools should be seen as the primary institutions for learning, with coaching centres playing a supplementary role rather than dominating the educational experience.
  • Focus of Personal Interviews
    • One of the most effective ways to humanise the admission process is to incorporate personal interviews as a significant component of entrance exams.
    • Personal interviews can assess a student's personality, interests, and talents, providing a more holistic view of their capabilities.
    • Institutions like St. Stephen’s College have successfully used personal interviews for over 70 years, proving that this method can mitigate the pressure associated with high-stakes exams and offer students a sense of worth beyond their academic scores.

Conclusion

  • The crisis of student suicides in India is a multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive approach involving educators, policymakers, parents, and society at large.
  • By prioritising the well-being of students over mere academic performance, and by implementing policies that recognise the importance of holistic development, we can create an educational environment that nurtures rather than destroys young minds.
  • The incorporation of personal interviews and the strengthening of school education are crucial steps in this direction. 

Q) What are the key features of the Indian education system?

The Indian education system is characterised by its structured hierarchy, which includes primary, secondary, and higher education. It emphasises rigorous academic standards and extensive examination systems. Key features include a strong emphasis on science and mathematics, the use of English as a medium of instruction in many schools, and the significant role of private institutions alongside public schools. Additionally, there is a growing focus on digital learning and vocational training.

Q) What challenges does the Indian education system face?

The Indian education system faces several challenges, including a lack of adequate infrastructure, especially in rural areas, and disparities in quality between urban and rural schools. There is also a high student-to-teacher ratio, which affects the quality of education. Moreover, issues such as rote learning, inadequate teacher training, and the pressure of high-stakes examinations hinder the overall effectiveness of the education system. Efforts are being made to address these issues through policy reforms and increased investment in education.


Source:The Hindu