The stressful lives of students in Kota | Data

A CSDS-Lokniti study shows that a majority of the students live alone, sleep less in order to study more, and feel homesick

November 09, 2023 09:10 am | Updated 11:30 am IST

Testing time: Students after attending the classes with the backdrop of hostels and coaching institutes at the landmark area of Kota in Rajasthan

Testing time: Students after attending the classes with the backdrop of hostels and coaching institutes at the landmark area of Kota in Rajasthan | Photo Credit: Moorthy RV

A typical image that people have of Kota is of students preparing for various entrance exams at one of its many coaching centres. Many think that the mentoring provided by these institutes goes a long way in helping students secure a place in top ranking engineering and medical colleges. It is perhaps because of this expectation and hope that an overwhelming 85% of students studying in Kota spend as long as six to seven hours in coaching centres every day (Table 1). This was one of the findings of a study conducted by Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) to understand the rigours of student life in Kota. This is the second data point of a three-part series. The first, titled ‘Who goes to Kota’s coaching classes and why’, was published on November 6.

Also read |Who goes to Kota’s coaching classes and why | Data

Table 1 | How many hours do you spend daily in coaching centres?

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The amount of time that students spend in coaching centres appears to be determined by the exam for which they are preparing. Among students appearing for JEE and NEET, over 80% reported that they spend six to seven hours daily at the coaching centre. Compare this to the 63% of students who spent as many hours studying for other exams.

Apart from attending classes, students also need to go to their coaching centres in order to appear for tests that are frequently conducted. With the goal of tracking students’ performance, most coaching centres hold at least one test every week. This has the potential of putting further pressure on them. However, more than half (54%) of the students in Kota said that these weekly tests are helpful for their preparations.

Table 2 | Do you believe that the weekly tests that are conducted in coaching institutions every week are required for students to succeed in entrance exams or do they only serve to increase stress for students?

One of every 10 students said they find weekly tests stressful and three of every 10 said that the time between tests should be longer than seven days (Table 2). To get some respite from such a hectic schedule, more than eight of every 10 students therefore felt that coaching centres should set one day every week for leisure activities.

Table 3 | Most students experience homesickness

For those studying in Kota’s coaching centres, the continuous cycle of classes and tests becomes a part of their life for an extensive period of time. At the time of this study, one-third of the students had been in Kota for about a year while another one-fourth for two years. A little over one-third of them said that they feel homesick often, while close to half said that they feel homesick from time to time (Table 3). Along with this, 19% of students admitted that they do not have friends in Kota with whom they can share their feelings when they feel low or demotivated. What is nonetheless heartening is that the majority of them have managed to find close friends after shifting to Kota.

During their time in Kota, only two of every 10 students said that they share accommodation with friends. An even lower number said that they stay with parents or siblings. Close to two-thirds of students live alone. The choice of living alone is most likely driven by a desire to have an environment where they can study with few distractions. Students who need to attempt more than once to clear their exams perhaps feel the need to have such a living space even more acutely. This could be the reason why among those who already sat for the exam once, 67% live alone. That figure climbs to 71% with regard to students who have made two attempts. In comparison, 63% live alone from among students who are yet to sit for the exam (Table 4) .

Table 4 | With whom do you live in your current place of residence in Kota?

Beside living alone and following a tight academic schedule, students also face discrimination of various kinds. This can significantly add to the pressure that students already feel owing to the expectation and desire to perform well. A considerable number of them complained about improper behaviour meted out to them due to their caste (21%) and economic situation (26%). Religious identity has been a source of discrimination for 17% of students. Out of them, just over one in five are Hindus while 34% are Muslims. What is more alarming is that nearly half the students (47%) said that they face discrimination over their academic performance.

In order to divert their attention from the daily pressure of classes and exams, the majority of the students (68%) talk to their families. Many tend to use social media or meet friends. Less than half (46%) said that they watch movies or listen to music every day. Only 26% turn to mediation or physical exercise to balance their daily study routine. An even smaller number take to reading that is not related to their syllabus. Fewer students are indulging in these activities not because they are disinterested, but perhaps because they just do not find the time.

Table 5a | What time did you usually go to sleep and wake up before/after joining Kota?

Living for long under such a strict regime brings about significant lifestyle changes. Given the routine that they have to follow, the majority of students (50%) have started going to bed later since moving to Kota. At the same time, 32% said that they have started waking up earlier than they used to (Table 5a). They use the time gained from sleeping less to study more. Fifty-nine per cent of students now dedicate more time for self-study than they did before. As opposed to 23% whose meal intake has increased, nearly half the students (47%) said that they have started eating less after shifting to Kota (Table 5b). Thus, life at Kota is stressful and marked by considerable loneliness.

Table 5b | How many meals do you get before/after joining Kota? Self-study time before/after joining Kota?

Abhinav Borbora is a researcher at CSDS; Sanjay Kumar is a Professor at CSDS; Suhas Palshikar taught political science at Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, and is chief editor of ‘Studies in Indian Politics’; and Jyoti Mishra is a researcher at CSDS

Source: Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) survey of students in Kota

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