The pressure to perform, at some of our top educational institutes, is so unreasonably high that the focus is stolen from the real objective of either research or plain studies.
Every year, we hear of student suicides at the IITs and the NITs. Mostly pushed to extreme levels of peer and academic pressure, they choose to end their lives.
These are no ordinary students. They are the ones who have made it through some of the most gruelling entrance examinations. Having made it through all the grime and sweat, why would they want to give it all up? The answer may lie in the undue amount of stress that these youngsters go through in fighting an academic system, which places so much emphasis on academic achievements as an indicator of success.
Almost all of these students are toppers from their respective schools, and when they land at these institutes they realise that everyone here has been a topper at their previous studies. The peer pressure to perform followed by the realisation that not all can remain toppers can create quite a scare in many of these young minds.
Every year these institutes see at least a handful of students who have ‘given up’ on this fight — deciding that performance benchmarks in such institutions are merely an illusion, and not worth the fight. They are no longer interested in the gruelling regimen of classroom lectures, assignments, labs, and examinations; and we are so quick to brand them as ‘failures.’
Most of these institutes have a history of drug abuse in their hostels. More often than not this is not just a lifestyle choice, rather it is a desperate attempt to look for substances that are assumed to provide relief from this mad rush.
On paper all these institutes speak of counselling groups within the campus and of at least one faculty advisor for a group of five students. Of course they do exist, but any student from these institutes will tell you that they are a joke. Counselling sessions either suffer from a lack of student participation or counsellor participation resulting in a highly defunct structure.
More than anything, these students see the faculty (however friendly and good natured they may be) as unapproachable structural barriers in their struggle.
The next pressure point is home. Most parents add to this stress by placing undue expectations on their wards. Little do they realise what their children are going through and more often than not are guilty of judging them by the evil cumulative grade point average or CGPA.
The relative grading system and continuous evaluation practices, which were cited as the panacea of all academic problems, have not actually turned out to be so.
Recently the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, restricted day time internet access from the hostel blocks as it was leading to drop in attendance and an environment in the hostels where students were becoming less social. Though the problem identified by the IITB management is very true, I do not think the solution implemented is the right one.
This is a systematic endemic that we have introduced into the academic world and the onus is on us to find a cure.