26 January 2016
Increase in the number of suicides by students has become a major concern for engineering institutes in India. Many students have succumbed to the competitive pressure they experience in these institutes. The recent incident of discrimination leading to the death of Rohith Vemula, a PhD scholar from Hyderabad, has sparked a debate of student suicide and discrimination they face in the campus. To help students adjust to the rigorous academic life at the IITs, an initiative called Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) is being conducted by IIT Gandhinagar (IITGn).
PAL is an initiative where senior students of the institute assist newcomers adapt to the atmosphere at IITGn. Two psychologists have been appointed by the institute to identify students who may require assistance by having interactive sessions with them. These students are provided a tutor to help them overcome their discomfort. Tutors are students from the second and third year. Each tutor has two first year students to take care of.
"It is important to develop a good rapport between the students and their tutors. Tutors should not just be able to help newcomers become independent by end of first year, they should also help them deal with academic pressure on their own," says Professor Kabeer Jasuja, who is the brain behind PAL initiative.
Under the watchful eyes of the faculty members, tutors are given freedom to assist the newcomers. Garima Chaudhary, a second year student at IITGn who is also a PAL tutor, said, "Our interactions are informal in the beginning. The help provided is not limited to academics; we acquaint them to all activities that take place in the campus."
Prof. Jasuja added, "Most of the students who benefit from PAL are first generation students in their family. They face problems coping with English, which is the medium of instruction at IITGn." Shubham Kumar, a first year student who hails from Jharkhand, said, "We are staying away from our family for the first time. With a senior to guide us, we feel assured. The tutors don't just comfort us, they also respond to the queries our parents have."
With increasing number of students falling prey to hectic schedules, an initiative that encourages a healthy interaction amongst the students is worth emulating in engineering institutions.