Understanding the burden of expectations on our young minds

Understanding the burden of expectations on our young minds

The great Indian middle-class dream often begins with admission in a coveted university and culminates with the promise of a stable and secure future. It is not uncommon for young minds in India to be fed with the notion that their whole lives depend on cracking that one ‘life-changing’ exam and then they are set for their whole life. If you have grown up in an average Indian household, you would certainly be aware of the sacrosanct treatment
engineering and medical exams are given in this country.

Did you know every year approximately 12 lakh students sit for the JEE Main Entrance exam and roughly 2,20,000 students are selected for JEE Advanced. Similarly, millions of students appear for the coveted IIT examination every year and out of which only 10,000 students get the seats in 23 IITs around the country. It is not only the families who live and breathe the desire of their children cracking one of these professional courses, but it is also the coaching institutes that sell these dreams of crores of packages, in exchange for lakhs of fees and dusty piles of books and more books.

Appearing for competitive exams in the year of the pandemic

So, what exactly happens during a
pandemic that continues to claim lives across the globe? What happens to the millions of students whose coaching classes have now been reduced to poor connectivity and no-network zone? With limited resources and a ravaging pandemic, it was only fair that the students across the nations demanded these exams (JEE main entrance and NEET exams) to be postponed. However, the Supreme Court rejected the plea to postpone these entrance exams, despite increasing protests from the students and the opposition leaders.

Instead, the regulatory authority has issued certain guidelines for the students appearing in these examinations. In addition to carrying a hand sanitizer and a personal water bottle, the students are further advised to wear face masks and hand gloves while writing their paper. Perhaps, the dream needs to live on, even when a pandemic wreaks havoc across the globe and even if a student decides to end his life.

The suffocating burden of expectations and dreams

According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), every hour one student commits suicide in India, with about 28 such suicides reported every day. Yes, every hour. Students dying of suicide after not being able to deal with the burden of ‘letting their parents down’ is sadly not an uncommon occurrence in India. What is horrifying is that little to nothing has been changed to reduce this enormous burden of expectations on the children of our country.

When we ask our children to dedicate themselves entirely to these competitive exams, when we rob them of their childhood, their holidays, their free time and ask them to solely focus on THE examination– we actually make it a matter of life and death ourselves. When we as a society glamourise the front-page news with pictures of the toppers while the suicide of a student doesn’t find even half the coverage– we fail our children, collectively and shamelessly.

So, probably the next time you read a news about a student who died by suicide, don’t flip the page. Pause to think what you can do for the children around you (perhaps even your own) to bring down the burden from these tiny shoulders and help them prepare for a future where the onus of the whole family does not lie with them. While the pattern of these exams will certainly need to make the shift from rote learning to concept-based learning, we also need to focus on finding the balance of encouraging our children to study while not robbing them of their childhood.

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