The suicide committed earlier this week by a first-year-student of Anna University, Chennai, purportedly due to difficulties in coping with studies, after gaining admission by virtue of 92 per cent score in Plus Two, has baffled parents.
How could a meritorious student have taken the drastic decision? Such a score by a rural student from a Tamil medium background is no small achievement. Daughter of a poor farmer, the student, whose higher education was funded by a bank loan, was old enough to understand the family situation.
Alas! Parents may be in for a shock to learn that the predicament faced by the girl is not unusual on the campuses of prestigious institutions. There are several thousands like her facing similar situations after comprehending the rude reality that the school system is not compatible with the scheme of things in higher education.
The larger focus in schools on scoring marks through rote learning pushes knowledge acquisition to the background, as blueprints are skipped. In engineering disciplines, where knowledge application matters the most, students falter because of inadequacy of their learning in the school, according to V. Rhymend Uthariaraj, secretary, Tamil Nadu Engineering Admissions.
“Also, students are made to believe while at school that once they pass out with good marks, the going will be easy in higher education. In an environment of freedom in higher education system, students tend to get distracted due to peer pressure and lose concentration in the first semester. And scoring in second semester becomes tough. The first year being a transition period is indeed critical for students.”
According to Mr. Rhymend, there is a way out if students utilise the interregnum between Plus Two and engineering admission for going through the higher secondary books again in a relaxed pace to grasp the concepts.
S. Sundarrajan, Director, National Institute of Technology–Tiruchi, explains another dimension: several bright students who secure admission in prestigious institutions as top-rankers in their respective schools are unable to come to terms with fluctuations in performance in a peer group with others possessing similar or better capabilities. Students suffering a setback get easily disoriented. Permanent presence of professional counsellors in higher educational institutions is necessary to guide such students.
The system of counselling by teachers must be revived, M. Ponnavaikko, Vice Chancellor, SRM University, said. Students must know who to approach for wise counsel whenever they face problems on academic or even personal front what with western culture invading the campuses. For every group of students, there must be a teacher counsellor. In the first place, the stigma that only mental patients go to counsellors must be removed, said Dr. Ponnavaikko.