The spate of suicides being reported from the coaching capital of India, Kota, should shock all of us. Young children are killing themselves not because they are not able to get admission into any Indian Institution of Technology (IIT), but because of sheer pressure of coaching and obsession of parents with IITs.
The most poignant is the case of a girl who killed herself despite "cracking" the joint entrance examination for IIT with a good rank. She took the extreme step of ending her young life because she did not want to become an engineer but a scientist. This is indeed a sad commentary on everyone - education system, parents, media, governments and politicians.
Kota suicides represent collective failure of the society. Over the years, we have created an atmosphere in which IITs have been placed on a pedestal - an ultimate goal for young children.
Any inability to reach there is considered end of career dreams for many. For middle-class and poor parents, an admission into IIT appears to be the best career option, a passport to megabuck jobs and good life. The biggest beneficiaries of this craze are coaching centres in Kota, Guntur, Hyderabad, Faridabad, Patna and elsewhere.
The frenzy begins with IITs, which themselves are under wrong impression that they are among the best engineering schools in the world. They always pride themselves by the number of students competing for each seat, hiding real academic indicators such as innovation, research output and teacher-student ratio.
|Kids are being deprived of basic schooling and robbed of their childhood.|
Forget any comparison with MIT and Harvard, the combined research output of IITs is far below that of just two technology universities in Singapore - National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.
The faculty shortage in IITs is pathetic, as pointed out by the parliamentary committee on higher education last month.
While all such serious issues are shoved under the carpet, all that we hear are unverified claims about salary packages - which help IITs further consolidate their brands and lure gullible middle class parents. Tall claims about placements by IITs actually boost business of coaching centres which are first contact points for parents.
Coaching centres then start hyping up their own brands by making false and unethical claims about ranks of their students.
Some of them even hold entrance tests - an entrance test for preparing for entrance test. The coaching business operates in connivance with state education departments, which turn a blind eye to "dummy schools" where children are enrolled for Class 10 or 12 CBSE or state board examinations but are actually studying in coaching institutes.
These kids are being deprived of basic schooling and robbed of their childhood. Their growing years are spent in 10-12 hours of rote learning and solving multiple choice questions, blunting their mental growth and capacity to think and ask questions.
It is time we wake up to end this menace. We will have to work at different levels. IITs will have to be deglamourised. Parents need counselling and the government needs to act tough with coaching industry.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)