Every year when the results of the board exams are declared a good number of students commit suicide. The newspapers on May 15 reported that as many as 11 kids attempted suicide across Madhya Pradesh after the announcement of board results on May 14. Of these, six had died. Around 34% students in class X and 32% in class XII have failed in exams in Madhya Pradesh this year.
On May 16, IBN News 18 reported a strange incident that took place in the Sagar city of Madhya Pradesh. A family distributed sweets and took out procession for son who failed in class X. People were amused to see a family celebrating their son’s failure in class X. But when the family explained the reason for the celebration the onlookers started admiring the parents. The family members claimed that this failure at an early age should not crush the morale of the boy as this is not the last exam of his life. “We did not want him to think about any foolish step after failing an exam,” said one of the family members.
The student, who could not clear four subjects, was surprised when his father Surendra hugged him after knowing the result. He was further astonished when his father summoned friends and relatives, distributed sweets and took out a procession with drums beating. The father told the people, “I wanted to convey the message that mere failure in one field does not end all roads in life. My child should explore other options in life with positivity and never consider giving up.”
Every hour, one student commits suicide in India, according to 2015 data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In 2015, the number of student suicides stood at 8,934. In the five years leading to 2015, 39,775 students killed themselves. The number of attempted suicides, many unreported, is likely to be much higher.
According to a Hindustan Times report on 2017 May 5, in the past six years, Kota in Rajastan, a much sought after coaching hub in the North India, has seen over 60 student suicides, with a majority of them attributed to exam failures. In a video message recovered after his death in 2016, Aman Kumar Gupta, a student from Bihar, apologized to his parents for not being able to live up to their expectations. “Everyone at the coaching institute and my friends helped me, but I am not able to do it right”, he said in the 11.14 minute long video clip.
The educational system, teachers, and parents are equally responsible for the phenomenon of increasing suicide among the students, especially after the declaration of results. We have an education system that judges the capacity and performance of a student based on the marks he/she scores in the board or university examination. The whole focus of the school and the teachers is the result of the students in the board exams. They put all kinds of pressure on the students to score as high as possible. The performance of a school is assessed on the basis of board exam results. The management is proud if the school scores 100 per cent pass with as many distinctions and first classes. They don’t want any child to score less than first class. The parents’ expectation from the child is as high as the sky. They want the child to score the highest mark at least in his/her school. They cannot think of their child failing in the examination. The cumulative effect of these multiple expectations is huge pressure on the child. As a result some children commit suicide even before they appear for the examination.
A very narrow understanding of education by parents and teachers is the main cause for creating stress in the students, which finally leads to suicide. For parents the purpose of education is to prepare a child for a lucrative job. Children are treated as money making machines. If the students are to get a money-spinning job they need to get admission in a high profile college or a higher education institution and this requires high mark in the 10th or 12th board examination. The school management and teachers do not have a broad vision about education and they cater to the aspirations of the parents. As a result education has become a huge business.
In this context the definition on education given by Swami Vivekananda is very pertinent. “We need an education that builds character, increases the strength of mind and expands intellect and equips a person to stand on his feet.” The first and format goal of education is character formation. Building competence in the absence of character is very dangerous because it is the character that decides how the competence is to be used. Failure of the education to build character is the reason for many crimes like corruption, communal polarization, hatred, revenge and violence in our society.
The second goal of education is increasing strength of mind. Children commit suicide when they fail in the examination because they are not mentally strong. The students are not prepared to face failures and difficult situations in life. They are not taught that by facing failures and going through struggles one can bring out the best in his/ her life. One of the means for increasing mental strength is instilling in the students the habit of reading biographies of great personalities who have undergone failures and struggles. The biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, A P J Abudl Kalaam, Milkha Singh, Mary Kom will definitely motivate the children to dream big and work hard with determination in spite of difficulties and failures.
The students are to be told how great people accepted failures as turning points in their lives. One failure is not the end of life. In every failure there is a hidden opportunity. It is said that Thomas Alva Edison tried thousand and one times to invent the electric bulb. Once a journalist asked him what he felt when he failed 1000 times. Edison replied, “I did not fail, I learnt that 1000 ways did not work”. One instance of failure has to motivate the students to search for alternatives instead of becoming disillusioned and disappointed. By celebrating the failure of his son the father, Surendra of Sagar told his son, “this is not end of life; there are various alternatives in life, perhaps better ones and search for the alternatives”.
The third goal of education according to Swami Vivekananda is expanding the intellect. Expanding the intellect does not mean only development of intellect; but it mainly means choosing between the right and wrong. Education should enable a student to make correct choices in life. In the absence of making correct choices they may become blind followers of a particular hero or of an ideology. Expansion of intellect means developing critical thinking. A person of critical thinking will not blindly follow what others say or do. Such a person will not end his/her life when faced with difficulties and failures.
We are in world where individuals are fired with the spirit of cut throat competition. This leads to seeing the other competitors as enemies. The success of others also creates disappointment in the young students which may lead to suicide. Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) Indore has been conducting enlightened leadership training for high school students for the last nine years. The young students are motivated to compete with themselves and not with others. The following quotation is kept right in front of the students in the training hall. “Compete with yourself, not with others. Don’t aim to be the first, aim to do your best”.
The parents, teachers and all those who are involved in education have a great responsibility to guide the students. They have to educate students for life and not for a living, for a high paying job. The root cause of the menace of suicide is distorting the very purpose of education and focusing on ‘education for living’. Education for life requires having a broad understanding of education as defined by Swami Vivekananda.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 21st May 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 21)