India and China has more than one link: Exam stress and student suicides
Now that the board results are out, parents and psychologists worry that the suicide 'season' may soon begin. With some happy with their marks, others disappointed miserably. This is followed by attempts to suicide to avoid public humiliation.
According to the Health Ministry, failure of exams has led to 2010 students committing suicides in the year 2009, the number of similar suicides is 2479 and in 2011 is 2381. The numbers increase by the day. More surprising figures emerge if we analyse the year 2006 when 5,857 students - or 16 a day - committed suicide across India due to exam stress.
Surprisingly, these are statistics not just from India. The situation is the same in China where students lose their lives to the 'zhongkao' and 'gaokao', an exam that determines which high school or university they can attend. According to the Annual Report on China's Education (2014), which is also considered the Blue Book of Education, out of 79 suicides by elementary and high school students last year, just about 93% happened after an argument with teachers or under pressure of studying.
Cheng Pingyuan, a professor of Nanjing Normal University said,"The pursuit of high test scores not only brings pressure to students, but also to teachers, making the relationship between teachers and students worse, especially when students perform poorly in exams, which finally leads to some students' suicides."
While counselling in school premises and colleges are mandatory these days. Parents' counselling are also being organised, appealing them not to pressurise their wards on failure. They are also trained to tackle issues related to suicidal tendencies and the way they can play a role in supporting their children.
It is a different thing that educational institutes are taking precautions within the school premises by installing anti-suicide barriers in balconies and stationing staff for safety. Consider this: According to a BBC.com blog, in China, 10m people on the Weibo network took part in a conversation titled "college entrance exam is not the only route".
Interestingly, job portals are also waking up to it. A young writer Tiancan Tudou posted a job in a publication he runs, saying that university degree was important was important but not necessary. "Although the university entrance exams are important, they are not the only route. Eighteen-year-olds should be in charge of their own lives," he said.
While this is China, the Indian side sees a surge in commercials and youtube videos featuring Bollywood celebrities against suicide.
Vir Das, a well known stand-up comedian and actor tells students in a video that is more things to do than worry about their marks in the 12th exams. Moreover, he lists a number of life-affirming experiences that can motivate a student not to take his own life over a trivial matter.
"You are going to meet someone, or be waiting for someone until you discover that the person you were waiting for wasn't the person you were looking at, or person you ever thought you'd meet. You will beg and borrow and steal, so that eventually you can risk and rent and lose, so that maybe you can own and invest and grow... What do all of these things have in common? Not one of them requires a mark sheet" he says.
Clearly, students suicide cannot be ignored anymore. Change may be a gradual process, but it is bound to come with community support and help from teachers and parents.