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Monday, May 22, 2017

Most students in India prone to depression - Asian Age

THE ASIAN AGE. | SUSHMITA GHOSH
Published : May 21, 2017, 3:05 am IST


The rising pressure often makes students prone to depression.

The varsity even provides an email-based counselling where students can write about their problems and the responses are delivered within 48 hours. (Photo: AFP)

New Delhi: A 2012 Lancet report claimed that India has one of the world’s highest suicide rates for youth aged 15 to 29. This means that every hour, one student commits suicide in the country. This may be hard to digest but with the cut-throat competition and high aspirations of peers and family, the pressure on students keeps mounting. Even college life is not filled with fun and frolic.

The rising pressure often makes students prone to depression. Over the years, “depression” has become a primary reason for students to take the extreme step of ending their lives. It is during this phase that the support mechanisms in educational institutions play a crucial role in reaching out to students. With lakhs of students studying in the Delhi University, it makes sure to deal with the puzzling issues the students may face.

Initially, the DU ‘Mind Body Centre’ (MBC) located at North Campus offered face-to-face counselling to girl students and faculty. The varsity also launched a helpline number in the year 2015 to offer free counselling. The varsity even provides an email-based counselling where students can write about their problems and the responses are delivered within 48 hours.

Unlike DU, Jamia Millia Islamia’s “counselling and guidance centre” conducts weekly/fortnightly workshops, lectures, meetings, and orientation programs to assist students in overcoming current and specific problems. 

With the increasing suicide cases at the IITs in the last few years, even IIT-Delhi has decided to revamp its curriculum, which would focus less on theory and more on practical experience.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The tragedy of those left behind by the IITs - Quartz

SUCCESS AND SUICIDES


WRITTEN BY
Sanjay Srivastava

At this time of the year (April-May), national newspapers are full of front-page news and full-page advertisements of young women and men who have cracked the Joint Entrance Examination-Main (JEE), the test that qualifies students to take admission in a variety of technical institutions. It is also the pathway to appearing for the JEE-Advanced examination for admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology. Major coaching institutes, mostly headquartered in that surreal Rajasthan city of Kota, exhibit photographs of their star students—confident posture, unwavering gaze, uniform attire—in these advertisements. Their “All India Ranks” adorn the publicity material as concrete proof of both their own worthiness and that of the coaching institute. Among all this, there are two JEE-linked individual stories this year–one signifying spectacular success and the other of colossal failure–that provide necessary insight into the tragedy of our educational system. Tragedy has become so much the norm that we may not think of it as such.
First, the celebrations of success. In a deeply asymmetrical society, it is perhaps natural that we rejoice in the against-all-odds performance of a 17-year-old Dalit boy from Udaipur who achieved a perfect score in the examination. Kalpit Veerwal’s father is a medical compounder and his mother is a teacher in a government school. Veerwal is reported as saying that he started preparing for the examination when he was in Class 8, studying up to seven hours a day and mainly using the internet to gather information. He joined the Udaipur branch of one of Kota’s best-known coaching institutes and is now preparing for the JEE-Advanced examination. There are many social media posts congratulating the young man. Most speak of the extraordinary nature of his success, given his social background. Some speak of it as a challenge to the upper-caste monopoly over knowledge systems and material progress.
You might have missed the other JEE-related story that appeared immediately after the media coverage of Kalpit Veerwal. It was not on the front page of any newspaper. This was about a student from West Bengal who had been undergoing coaching in Kota but committed suicide as he failed to qualify for the 2017 JEE-Mains. His name was Ajit Pramanick. Though Pramanick’s life-blood simply bled into the back-page newspaper ink, his death tells us something about the end of education itself. Individual successes within our education system—if it is that—provide very little indication of the wider miseries it produces, both in terms of individual tragedies and the tragedy of the education system itself. Of course, the two are connected.
Killing fields of Kota
According to one newspaper report, Kota Police data indicates that 72 students from the city committed suicide between 2011 and 2015. The competitive examinations system and its auxiliary, the massive (and massively lucrative) coaching industry, are part of a broader educational landscape where rote-learning forms the basis of success and failure. These are the killing fields of education in more ways than one. They demand extraordinary capacities of mechanical learning, which have little relation to creative thinking that provides solutions—scientific, technical, social–to societal problems. This is not an individual failure of the imagination, for everyone seeks to better themselves through their own circumstance. Rather, it is a policy failure: the death of public imagination that can create a social-useful but also individually hopeful educational system. And, one that is able to engineer multiple ways of nurturing human capacities. The many hundred thousands of young men and women who throng Kota each year are only promised dead end solutions on both these counts. Ajit Pramanick’s suicide is a personal tragedy for his family but it is also a form of social suicide for a society that so wholeheartedly endorses the idea of educational success that underlies his death.
There are, we know, multiple actors in this personal and social tragedy, for suicides have both personal and social lineages. It is a tragedy scripted by national and multinational corporations with substantial investments in the examinations business, as well as the state that creates and maintains the grounds for it. Between private profiteering and public inaction lies an entire population of young people forever marked as failures because of their ineptitude at mechanical learning. It is rarely that private investment is made for the purposes of furthering social good (if that happens, it is usually a byproduct), but when state policy is unable to identify it, we are truly in an educational abyss. Given the manner in which state policy has wilfully allowed education to be so narrowly interpreted, is it any wonder that our universities are research institutes—while part of one of the largest systems in the world—that hardly produce cutting-edge research or innovative solutions to social problems?
Frequently, there are references to the coaching and examinations ecosystem as a grotesque caricature of education, and hence not the actual system. Unfortunately, the gap between the actual system and that represented by its supposed caricature is not as wide as we might think. The actual is now barely distinguishable from its apparently distorted image. The monstrosity of our thinking might be gauged by the normalised tones of media reporting on Ajit Pramanick’s suicide. His parents, one report noted, were scheduled to arrive to pick up their son’s body. As the minuscule numbers of the successful gazed at us from newspaper front pages, a representative of the massive platoon of failures was banished to the anonymity of a single column many pages beyond. There was a discarding of human potential and there was blood. But the blood is seeping through the entire body politic.
This post first appeared on Scroll.in. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Success and suicides: The two sides of the IIT-JEE story reflect the failure of the education system - Scroll.In



The competitive exam system and the coaching industry demand extraordinary capacities of mechanical learning.

Yesterday · 10:30 am.  

At this time of the year (April-May), national newspapers are full of front-page news and full-page advertisements of young women and men who have cracked the Joint Entrance Examination-Main, the test that qualifies students to take admission in a variety of technical institutions. It is also the pathway to appearing for the JEE-Advanced examination for admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology. Major coaching institutes, mostly headquartered in that surreal Rajasthan city of Kota, exhibit photographs of their star students – confident posture, unwavering gaze, uniform attire – in these advertisements. Their “All India Ranks” adorn the publicity material as concrete proof of both their own worthiness and that of the coaching institute. Among all this, there are two JEE-linked individual stories this year – one signifying spectacular success and the other of colossal failure – that provide necessary insight into the tragedy of our educational system. Tragedy has become so much the norm that we may not think of it as such.

First, the celebrations of success. In a deeply asymmetrical society, it is perhaps natural that we rejoice in the against-all-odds performance of a 17-year-old Dalit boy from Udaipur who achieved a perfect score in the examination. Kalpit Veerwal’s father is a medical compounder and his mother is a teacher in a government school. Veerwal is reported as saying that he started preparing for the examination when he was in Class 8, studying up to seven hours a day and mainly using the internet to gather information. He joined the Udaipur branch of one of Kota’s best known coaching institutes and is now preparing for the JEE-Advanced examination. There are many social media posts congratulating the young man. Most speak of the extraordinary nature of his success, given his social background. Some speak of it as a challenge to upper-caste monopoly over knowledge systems and material progress.

You might have missed the other JEE-related story that appeared immediately after the media coverage of Kalpit Veerwal. It was not on the front page of any newspaper. This was about a student from West Bengal who had been undergoing coaching in Kota but committed suicide as he failed to qualify for the 2017 JEE-Mains. His name was Ajit Pramanick. Though Pramanick’s life-blood simply bled into the back-page newspaper ink, his death tells us something about the end of education itself. Individual successes within our education system – if it is that – provide very little indication of the wider miseries it produces, both in terms of individual tragedies and the tragedy of the education system itself. Of course, the two are connected.

Killing fields of Kota
According to one newspaper report, Kota Police data indicates that 72 students from the city committed suicide between 2011 and 2015. The competitive examinations system and its auxiliary, the massive (and massively lucrative) coaching industry, are part of a broader educational landscape where rote-learning forms the basis of success and failure. These are the killing fields of education in more ways than one. They demand extraordinary capacities of mechanical learning, which have little relation to creative thinking that provides solutions – scientific, technical, social – to societal problems. This is not an individual failure of the imagination, for everyone seeks to better themselves through their own circumstance. Rather, it is a policy failure: the death of public imagination that can create a social-useful but also individually hopeful educational system. And, one that is able to engineer multiple ways of nurturing human capacities. The many hundred-thousands of young men and women who throng Kota each year are only promised dead end solutions on both these counts. Ajit Pramanick’s suicide is a personal tragedy for his family but it is also a form of social suicide for a society that so wholeheartedly endorses the idea of educational success that underlies his death.

There are, we know, multiple actors in this personal and social tragedy, for suicides have both personal and social lineages. It is a tragedy scripted by national and multinational corporations with substantial investments in the examinations business, as well as the state that creates and maintains the grounds for it. Between private profiteering and public inaction lies an entire population of young people forever marked as failures because of their ineptitude at mechanical learning. It is rarely that private investment is made for the purposes of furthering social good (if that happens, it is usually a byproduct), but when state policy is unable to identify it, we are truly in an educational abyss. Given the manner in which state policy has wilfully allowed education to be so narrowly interpreted, is it any wonder that our universities are research institutes – while part of one of the largest systems in the world – that hardly produce cutting-edge research or innovative solutions to social problems?

Frequently, there are references to the coaching and examinations ecosystem as a grotesque caricature of education, and hence not the actual system. Unfortunately, the gap between the actual system and that represented by its supposed caricature is not as wide as we might think. The actual is now barely distinguishable from its apparently distorted image. The monstrosity of our thinking might be gauged by the normalised tones of media reporting on Ajit Pramanick’s suicide. His parents, one report noted, were scheduled to arrive to pick up their son’s body. As the minuscule numbers of the successful gazed at us from newspaper front pages, a representative of the massive platoon of failures was banished to the anonymity of a single column many pages beyond. There was discarding of human potential and there was blood. But the blood is seeping through the entire body politic.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.

Monday, May 15, 2017

‘Suicides at IITS not due to academic stress alone’ - Sunday Guardian Live


By Anshika Ravi | NEW DELHI | 13 May, 2017

IIT Kharagpur has seen eight suicides in the past five years (2013-2017) till April this year. IANS

Students, researchers and counsellors say that indifferent administrations, lack of parental support, and failed love affairs are also responsible for the unsettling trend.

In the first semester of 2017 alone, three students committed suicide at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur. 

According to the reply to an RTI filed by The Sunday Guardian, the total number of suicides in the past five years (2013-2017) stands at eight in this institution till April this year. In another case, an IIT BHU (Varanasi) student committed suicide by setting himself on fire before jumping off the third floor of his hostel in April. The figures of student suicides in the past five years at other IITs are: six at IIT Bombay, two at IIT Delhi and one at IIT Roorkee. 

While many students at the various IITs blame it on the extensive academic pressure that triggers stress and depression, compounded by a “non-cooperative administration” and “strict professors”,  other students and experts are of the view that academic stress is “highly misunderstood”, which more often than not, gives a “distorted narrative” and diverts attention from other pressing issues like drug addiction, lack of parental understanding, and failed love affairs which are also among the various reasons leading to suicides. While it’s difficult to ascertain the real reason for suicides in cases where suicide notes are absent, The Sunday Guardian tried to understand the plausible reasons behind the unsettling trend by talking to students, researchers and counsellors of the IITs. 

INSENSITIVE ADMINISTRATION
A “non-caring” and “ineffective administration” at IIT BHU, according to a 2016 pass-out who admitted to attempting suicide himself in 2013, not only conveniently dismisses students’ concerns, but aggravates their academia-induced stress by failing them in exams. Talking on the condition of anonymity, the alumnus recounted how one of the teachers, who “favoured some students over others”, failed a student who raised a voice against him, causing the student to reappear for the paper multiple times.

“This is how stress builds up and spirals out of control. There is always a pressure on an IITian to perform well and get good grades, but by failing students on purpose, the administration only makes things worse for us. We can’t even complain against the teachers as nobody takes their case,” he said.

However, on the recent suicide case at IIT BHU that happened in April, he said that the student was involved in “malpractices like drug abuse”, which thrive at IIT BHU.

Linking an incident of 2015, where a violent clash between the law students of BHU and the students of IIT following a dispute over sharing a cricket playground, led to 10 students of IIT being severely injured, he said: “There is a lot of pressure on students here because of a hostile relationship between students of law and engineering. Also, because the administration doesn’t help or cooperate to resolve the issues, the students are left to fend for themselves. This builds a lot of pressure and students resort to alcohol and drugs. The administration brushes everything under the carpet.” 

 A student pursuing PhD from IIT Madras reiterated the sentiment, saying that a “strict and indifferent administration” often instils a sense of under confidence in the students by not providing adequate help with assignments and exams, which eventually amounts to stress and depression.

Calling failure to excel at academics a probable reason, and the administration’s practice to fail students or give them poor grades a major trigger for suicides, a student from IIT Roorkee, on the condition of anonymity, said, “In 2015, 73 students from IIT Roorkee were expelled because of poor grades, and about 90% of expelled students were from lower castes. They were readmitted because of court order, but the pressure didn’t cease to exist with that. The other reason is that most of the jobs are still centered towards IT, and people from core branches face double stress of managing their own courses along with the coding bit. I know many friends from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who are brilliant in their respective fields, but face serious issues while working on digital platforms. This creates a lot of burden at the time of placements because people with good communication and IT skills are highly preferred, and students who do not have these skills face problems that lead to depression, and sometimes suicides.”

Another student of IIT Guhawati, requesting anonymity, called life at IIT “exceedingly hectic”, and blamed the failure to manage multiple courses, and mid and end semester exams as catalysts for triggering suicidal tendencies among students.
“The administration and the media talk of packages worth crores, but they don’t realise that there are students who get jobs between Rs 4-5 lakh with bonds for two or three years. The society has high expectations of an IITian, who sees this as a failure.”

In order to curb the disturbing trend, directors of IITs in a council meet in April were asked to organise a compulsory induction programme and encourage students to participate in more extra-curricular activities to deal with stress. Recently, IIT Delhi has decided to redo its curriculum to shift focus from theory-based subjects to practical learning. However, a few experts and students say that the move will not make any major difference.

Pointing to the futility of the move, Professor Dheeraj Sanghi, former Dean of Academic Affairs, IIT Kanpur, said: “The point they are trying to convey is that students are only interested in getting a hands-on experience, which is certainly not the case. Chucking out theory is not advisable from the quality point of view also. The administration’s assumption is that every single suicide is related to poor academic performance. However, between 2006 and 2008, out of the seven suicide cases at IIT Kanpur, only two were of students who were academically weak. Whether they committed suicide due to academic pressure or not is still not known. The common perception is that if a student commits suicide, what else could be the reason than academic failure? Nobody really acknowledges that it may have happened because of parental pressure or a failed love affair or drug addiction.”

Dr Shikha Jain, counsellor at IIT Roorkee, is of the view that students find it difficult managing their newly-found independence with the expectations that come with being an IITian.

“Students start showing withdrawal tendencies when they see they are not living up to what the society expects of them. Zero extra-curricular activity outside of academics is another reason why students start getting depressed. Otherwise, if you look at the academic curriculum at IITs, it is pretty much the same as that in every other college. The course doesn’t burden students with too many subjects or exams.”

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELLING NEEDED
According to Dr Jain, proper counselling services at IIT Roorkee started in 2014 when she was hired on a permanent basis, but are still not adequately accessible considering the growing cases of depression among students who more often than not hesitate to share fearing privacy issues.

Professor Dheeraj Sanghi said that at IIT Kanpur, counselling services were ramped up to stem suicides and every undergraduate student was assigned a student guide to help him adjust to the new environment. Apart from that, every student goes through a psychometric test and students facing psychological issues are asked to meet the counsellor to discuss their problems.

At IIT Madras, counselling committees like Mitr and Saathi have students and professors as their members who help students deal with their problems through online and offline counselling. However, experts who have done research on the matter, say that student counselling groups are grossly inadequate because they don’t have professional training, and also because people in depression do not confide in students when it comes to their personal matters.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Suicide epidemic creeping into education system - DNA

Fri, 5 May 2017-08:10am , DNA

Consider the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau: one student commits suicide every hour in India. In 2015, close to 9,000 students took their lives


India’s academic institutions are caught in the throes of a silent epidemic that has barely received the attention it deserves. Both the academia and the government have failed to find redressal for a problem that is increasingly assuming terrifying proportions.

Consider the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau: one student commits suicide every hour in India. In 2015, close to 9,000 students took their lives. Between 2011 and 2015, the suicide figure ballooned to 40,000. Leading the suicide tally is Maharashtra which saw 1,230 students commit suicide in 2015.

Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh followed in at second and third places with 955 and 730 suicides respectively. While there is no official authority maintaining a record on the number of suicides committed in the IITs, a blog run by Ram Krishnaswamy, a former student of IIT-Madras, puts the number of suicides in IITs since 1981 at 83. This is unpardonable given that IITs are India’s premier technology institutes that admit the best and the brightest minds of this country. This alarming state of affair cannot be allowed to continue any longer, and some positive action on this front seems to be materializing finally.

The Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi this week decided to revise its syllabus so that there is a greater emphasis on practicals than on theory. It is expected that a shift of focus in its curriculum will effectively reduce the heavy pressure that often befalls IIT students.


Supplementing this step is another decision of the IIT council- the governing body of the 23 IITs in India- as per which wellness centres will be set up in these colleges. Hyper-competitive environments, pressures of securing a high-paying job, exalted academic expectations, addiction issues- all of these, and more, continue to mar the confidence and self-esteem of students not just in IITs but in institutes across the Indian education spectrum. Small steps are welcome but sans comprehensive policy-based measures, suicides may not end soon.