Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

330 - IIT students crumble under study load, expectations from family and peers - Economic Times

By Sreeradha Basu, ET Bureau
5 May, 2015, 04.20AM IST

MUMBAI: When Shankar K (name changed) arrived at one of the older IITs a couple of years ago, he became the first person in his family to attend college. His parents had pooled together their life's savings to send him to coaching class and then IIT, and today, the 20-year-old is in his second year of electrical engineering. 

Every day, he says, is a struggle. The pressure to keep up with his grades is taking a toll. So much so, he hasn't had time to make good friends. And with his poor English and communication skills, he fears that landing a good job is going to be a real challenge. 

Stress is part and parcel of college life, but for some students at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs),
it can get overwhelming. 

Stress is part and parcel of college life, but for some students at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), it can get overwhelming. Everything adds up: daunting academic loads, struggling to keep up after a lifetime of being an overachiever and the burden of expectations from family, friends and peers. 

Last year, the IITs saw an estimated 14 student suicides, probably the highest ever across these elite colleges. On Sunday, Jitesh Sharma, a third-year student of chemical engineering at IIT Bombay, allegedly committed suicide. He left behind a note, talking about poor performance in his exams as well as his worry about placements. The inability to cope - often spiraling into depression - has haunted several students. "The world creates artificial expectations. There's peer pressure, family pressure, societal pressure.

Unfortunately, for some students, their ambition is centred around pay packages. To their mind, their success will be judged only around their pay packages and placements," says Indranil Manna, director, IIT Kanpur. 

Agrees Mohak Mehta, placement manager at IIT Bombay: "There are students blindly taking up computer science and engineering even if they aren't inclined towards it just because that's where the fattest pay cheques are. Parents call up the placement cell to find out the schools or branches getting the top salaries, and that's the one they pressurise their children to join." 

At a leading IIT, a top 50 AIR holder in JEE took up computer science but could not cope with the pressure. He went into depression. "In this competitive environment, when someone starts slipping, stress just keeps building up from there," says a director at a top IIT, who does not wish to be named. 

"There are students coming into the system thinking that once they've made it to an IIT, things are easy from then on," says Parth Vaswani of IIT Kanpur. "They don't realise it's just the first hurdle. You could have been a topper all your life, but here you may be struggling to get by." Pressure builds up in various ways. There are students who see their batchmates bag coveted internships in the second and third years and suffer from comparison. There are those who have been faring poorly academically. Then there are students from humble backgrounds whose families have sold their land or put in all their savings for what they believe is the ticket to a better life. Some of these students don't even have the time to bond or make friends. "Stress and depression is more prevalent among people who are shy and quiet. There are counsellors on campus but they won't reach out for help," says IIT Bombay's Mohak Mehta. 

Anonymity helps, says Richa Singh, an IIT Guwahati alumnus who started a crowdfunded online platform called Your D.O.S.T. to provide emotional support. They have over 30 counsellors on board so people can reach out anonymously and vent their feelings online. 

While providing an enterprise solution at IIT Guwahati, 360 students signed up within the first 10 days. Around 100 queries came in ranging from difficulty in concentrating on their studies and poor grades, to apprehensions about not getting placed. Singh says she is in talks with other IITs to implement the initiatives there as well. 

IITs too have their own systems in place. There are counsellors on board, buddy systems, faculty advisors at hand to look out for students at risk. "We try to make sure there are multiple ways of reaching out to students," says Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director, IIT Madras. "It's not always foolproof but we try and ensure we do everything we can." 

Read more at: