[Editorial Analysis] Preventing student suicides

Mains Paper 2: Governance

Prelims level: Navodaya Vidyalaya schools

Mains level: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes

Context

• The deaths of 49 students in Navodaya Vidyalaya schools in the last five years, and of three students preparing for the IIT entrance examinations in Kota in a span of four days, brings the issue of youth suicides to the fore again.

• More youths are taking their lives due to the fear of failing in examinations, constant flak from teachers, bullying from peers, family pressure and a loss of a sense of a decent future.

• These cases force us to recognise that youth suicides are ubiquitous, and the educational ecosystem must take the blame for this.

Current scenario and reasons

• There have been frequent news reports of suicides taking place in coaching centres that train students for medical and engineering entrance examinations.

• According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2014 and 2016, 26,476 students committed suicide in India. Of them, 7,462 committed suicide due to failure in various examinations.

• The rising number of these cases provokes a serious discussion on the way in which outcomes of education are perceived in India.

• The instrumental value of education in India is its potential in generating socio-economic and cultural capital through a promise of decent job opportunities in the future.

• The education system has not been successful in generating enough job options.

• The International Labour Organisation’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends Report of 2018 says that in 2019, the job status of nearly 77% of Indian workers would be vulnerable and that 18.9 million people would be unemployed.

• With their job future being so bleak, students are put under constant pressure to perform.

• They have failed to learn to enjoy the process of education. Instead, the constant pressure and stress has generated social antipathy and detachment among them.

• Sociologist Emile Durkheim had famously hypothesised that suicides are a result of not just psychological or emotional factors but social factors as well.

• With a loss of community and other social bonds, students in schools, colleges and coaching centres end up taking their lives.

Background of this incident

• The reports of suicides in Navodaya Vidyalayas, the National Human Rights Commission sought information from the Ministry of Human Resource Development on whether trained counsellors were present on campus.

• In the recently concluded winter session of Parliament, the HRD Minister said that an expert committee has been set up to look into the matter.

• According to Navodaya Vidyalaya Samitis, merely one or two training sessions are included to sensitise the teachers and principals regarding safety and security of the children and to prevent suicidal tendencies.

• The framework for implementation of the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) recognises the role of guidance and counselling services to students.

• In 2018, the government approved an integrated school education scheme subsuming the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the RMSA, and Teacher Education from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2020.

• However, without any significant rise in budgetary allocations for education, it is likely that there would be cuts in “non-productive” areas of education such as guidance and counselling.

The way forward

• The stop-gap solutions to setting up expert committees and counsellors in schools have not been able to solve the problem.

• The deep-rooted causes must be addressed.

• The government must undertake a comprehensive study on the reasons behind these suicides. Second, the curriculum should be designed in ways that stress the importance of mental exercises and meditation.

• The Delhi government’s initiative on the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ may be a step in the right direction.

• With regards to higher education, 12 measures were suggested by the Justice Roopanwal Commission.

• One of them stressed on making Equal Opportunity Cells with an anti-discrimination officer functional in universities and colleges.

• It is high time we seek to reinvent our educational ecosystem in ways that impregnate new meanings, new ideas of living, and renewed possibilities that could transform a life of precarity into a life worth living.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Country Partnership Framework is an ambitious five-year framework which aligns India’s objectives of high, sustainable and inclusive growth. The framework is the brainchild of:

A. IMF

B. WEF

C. World Bank

D. UNESCO

Correct Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) The rising number of cases must provoke a discussion on how outcomes of education are perceived in India. Critically examine.

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