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Indian Education- Suicide–Madura beats

It is not that education is in crisis. Education is a crisis now. When people involved in education face problems in practicing it, it is an educational problem or educational crisis. Education as a crisis is it has become an instrument of crisis in society. How? Everyone, be it a politician, administrator, educationist, teacher, parent, student and thinker wants education to become an instrument of change and transformation, but in their own perspective and perception. Education needs to fulfill the basic material needs of an individual  is one thing, a major thing, but it needs also serve the greater purpose of societal and human needs of transforming the society to another level of human development. Does it serve the purpose? It is time for all stake holders of education to reflect and introspect on it. ‘Current tragedy’ of suicides by children soon after the board examination in the state of Telangana and the places where the coaching factories operates stands a testimony of how education is posing a crisis  in today’s children, parents, teachers and the society as a whole. An education which is mandated to nurture children with values and qualities to face the world with courage and determination is killing them. The recently reported number of suicides reported in the above mentioned state is about 20. This is only reported and there may be many more. Why do children commit suicide? This is an open open known fact. They expected above ninety, but failed or secured less than the expected number. Who expected – the child, parent, school, everyone in the neighbourhood and whole country?  Yes, the whole country expects only above 90 and cracking the high stake examination like the NEET, IITJEE and to realise the great ‘Indian American Dream’. No one asks for how the child with her familial and school circumstances has been able to put up a brave face and cleared the examination. Everyone wants to be the first class first ranker so that they can get into the premier institutions and move to any other lucrative job giving country. Aspirations are not a crime; everyone should aspire to achieve something in life. Do we need to put our children’s life at stake and push them to end their life?  The most worrying thing is nobody seems to bother about these suicides, loss of young lives. It is news, as usual, part of 24X7 breaking news.  They are repeated once or twice and forgotten. Release of the highest money invested movie, slapping of a politician or an official or by someone who matters, who has twin electoral voting cards, drunken driving accidents are reported a hundred times and discussed in the ‘yelling intellectual talk shows.’ Death of 20 children after a board examination is only passing news. It appears this country has come into terms with educational suicides as normal or ‘new normal’. Even educationist and educational administrators seem to be accepting it as normal.

It is high time that the country woke to the bitter truth that our educational system has become a crisis. Children are burdened for unfounded reasons. Education has been commodified to the extent that rich get rich education and poor get poorer education. Privatization of education is the order of the day. The state where the suicides has  happened has a series of residential schools where children are stressed to the extent that they have no time except studying, coaching, drilling and learning the techniques of cracking the board examination and high stake entrance examinations like NEET and IITJEE.  Quarter of a century ago (in 1992-1993) as a follow up to eminent writer R.K. Narayan’s maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed a committee to study the burden on children under the chairpersonship of noted scientist and educationist Professor Yashpal. The report of the committee, rightly titled as, Learning Without Burden, brought out appalling condition of teaching-learning in school which burden children. There were efforts to reduce burden- no or less homework for early learning stages in primary school, reduction in the number of tests, abolition of corporal punishment, reduction of curriculum load were some of the initiatives. National Curriculum Framework – 2005 (available at www.ncert.nic.in) which is under implementation across the country has also recommended reduction of curriculum load as one of its five guiding principle. Right to Education Act 2009 (which is now diluted) also set some non-negotiable norms to make learning less burdensome for children in school. But the real stress and trauma begins in high school where learners think of or are made to think of their higher education and making a career. This is being influenced by many factors. Who decides this matter more than what the children wants to become in life.  Majority of the cases it is not the child who decides what she will do in her higher education. It is the over ambitious parents, skewed society which runs after one kind of professional courses or looking forward to job outside the country. This shows that school education has failed to instill confidence in our children. The gap between board examination and the high stake entrance examinations is another major reason for this tragedy. Has education failed? No. Even it has, we ought to believe that education cannot fail.  The way it is practiced has become a threat to children and society as a whole. It is high time that the governments, particularly state governments and institutions working in and for education of children in school gave a renewed thinking on the crisis. Any concerned citizen would not hesitate to suggest that there needs to be high level committee of educationist, administrators, politicians, people from judiciary, writers, thinker, artistes, students and teachers to delve deep into the problem and check the educational menace which affects the society as a whole before it (education) becomes a catastrophe.

Dr. Ramanujam Meganathan

rama_meganathan@yahoo.com

Associate Professor of Language Education

Department of Education in Languages

National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)

Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi 16


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