I come across ads like the one above on a regular basis, claiming that a ‘unique and research-based program’ can bring out ‘the genius in your baby’. I remember seeing another in a doctor’s office advertising a similar ‘make-your-baby-a-genius’ program which boasted that your ‘little one will speak five languages and read the newspaper by the time he or she is five’. A friend complains that her 3-year-old brings home homework from playschool!
Needless to say, education is highly valued by Indian parents and they will do all they can to help their children succeed. A friend’s colleague paid 40,000 rupees (636 EUR / 1000 USD) in bribes to get his son accepted to a good school! This says something about parents’ desperation to get their children a good education (as well as something about the state of corruption in this country).
Though the Montessori system focussing on creativity is very popular for pre-school children in India, as soon as children start school they are subject to rote-learning which is the dominant teaching method used in schools here. Independent thinking and creativity are not given much emphasis as examination results, grades and percentages count for everything. Students are pushed to become doctors, lawyers or engineers. The arts are frowned upon. Competition for university places is extremely high.
This being examination time, students are currently sitting for their final exams before the summer break. Many parents take time off work to help their children prepare. Examination time puts an extreme amount of pressure on students and sadly, many decide they cannot cope. In 2006, 5,857 students — 16 a day — committed suicide across the country. Here are only some of the distressing reports I come across in the papers:
This is the one I read this morning:
Bangalore: Tension prevailed in front of S N High School in Jeevan Bima Nagar on Thursday, when angry relatives of an SSLC student who committed suicide protested against the school authorities, holding them responsible for the girl’s death.
The deceased is T R Shanthala (16), student of Visveswaraya School on Airport Road and daughter of Ramesh, a security officer. She hanged herself at her residence in Jeevan Bima Nagar on Tuesday.
Her act came to light after the house owner and neighbours broke open the door to find her hanging from the fan. Her parents were away when the incident happened.
The parents and relatives, who tried to barge inside the school on Thursday morning, alleged that the school authorities did not allow Shanthala to appear for the Kannada exam, since the girl had lost her hall ticket and had only a photocopy.
(The Times of India, 4 April 2008)
BANGALORE: Fearing that he might fail in his examination, a second year PUC student committed suicide by hanging himself at his house in Chickpet police station limits on Wednesday.
The police gave his name as Praveen Kumar (19), a student of The National College in Basavangudi. He was the elder of the three sons of Nagaraj, a goldsmith and a resident of Kilari Road.
According to the police, Kumar hanged himself from the ceiling with a dhoti when he was alone at his second floor house. The incident came to light around 12.30 p.m.
The police said Kumar has left a note in Kannada that he was taking the extreme step as he feared that he might fail in his Mathematics examination, which was held on March 24. He was scared that he had to face humiliation if he failed in the examination. After autopsy at Victoria Hospital, the body was handed over to the family. The Chickpet police have registered a case.
(The Hindu, 27 March 2008)
Bellary: Depressed over poor performance in the ongoing pre-university examinations, an 18-year-old girl committed suicide by setting herself on fire at her house in Satyanarayanpet here on Tuesday.
Rashmi, daughter of a police constable, returned from college after writing her Business Management paper and set herself on fire. Her mother was away when the incident occurred, police said.
She was immediately rushed to a hospital, but succumbed to burn injuries, police added.
(The Times of India, 20 March 2008)
Unlike in the US, it’s not a faulty gun law that’s killing Indian kids. Here, we have another way to kill our children. It’s called examinations! At least six students ended their lives across the country last Thursday. And all the suicides were attributed to examinations.
Two teenagers from Delhi were found hanging from the ceiling at their homes. One could not cope with studies and the other was afraid of an English exam. A final-year student hanged herself in Mumbai — she wasn’t prepared for her economics paper and didn’t want her family to be ashamed of her poor marks. A Class XII student from Surat hanged herself from the fan, as another threw herself before a train in Allahabad. And a Class X student killed herself in Andhra Pradesh after her principal made her stand outside the classroom for not paying the school fee. All these happened on a single day.
But this could be just the tip of the iceberg. While, five students have killed themselves in Mumbai since January, Delhi witnessed six student suicides in the last 10 days. With board exams going on, three students ended their lives in Gujarat and two in Uttar Pradesh.
(The Times of India, 17 March 2008)