By Nithin Sridhar
Rajasthan’s promising city of Kota, which has emerged in the past decade as one of the most prominent destination for education and for coaching children who are preparing for competitive examinations, may shortly end up being tagged as ‘city of suicides’.
With the suicide of a 14-year old boy who was in Kota studying in class IX and enrolled for science coaching classes, the number of students in the city who chose to take their lives this year reached 30. Most of these suicides are due to a combination of stress, pressure from parents and teachers, separation anxiety, and depression. The increasing number of suicides, though scary, is merely an outer manifestation of the deeper problem.
Education, as it has become manifest in the present times, is merely a tool to gain a sound and financially secure future. Though financial security is a necessity of life, it cannot be an end goal of education. The end goal of education is man-making i.e. material, intellectual, and spiritual development of an individual. Mahatma Gandhi had written (in Harijan, 22-6-1940): “Man is neither mere intellect, nor the gross animal body, nor the heart or soul alone. A proper and harmonious combination of all the three is required for making of the whole man and constitutes the true economics of education.”
The Gurukula system of ancient India was designed such that each student was allowed to transform himself into a man of learning, discrimination (between right and wrong), courage, and rooted in ethics, in addition to learning the knowledge and skills required to lead a prosperous life.
On the other hand, the modern education system, which traces its roots to the secularized education system of the British, successfully uprooted education from all its elements of man-making and has reduced education to a mere exercise in gaining ‘literacy.’ As a result, though children are learning math and science, they are not being trained in ethical and spiritual values that would equip them to tackle the challenges of the outer world, including handling pressure, anxiety, depressions, etc.
The system of education has more or less turned into a rat race for securing seats in the best colleges so that they may become placed in the best companies when they pass out of their graduate courses. This is demonstrated by the fact that for around 10,000 IIT seats, over 13 lakhs people compete with each other. This is not to suggest that children should not strive to get into the best colleges, nor that the simple opening of more quality engineering colleges will solve the problem. This heavy competition, which has more or less has turned into a rat race, has placed children under tremendous pressure to deliver. This pressure from teachers, parents, and peers in turn results in enormous stress and depression. The ideal goal of education is to make students blossom and never to force them into a do or die situation. Thus, Swami Vivekananda defines education as “the manifestation of the perfection already in man.”
The blame for turning education into a rat-race and putting children under intense pressure lies not only with the secularized system but also with the parents and teachers who often impress upon their children that landing up at particularly high paying job is the end of education. The issue is further complicated by the fact that streams like arts and pure sciences do not hold an attraction for the students due to the fact there is not much scope for employment.
Just a hundred years back, the arts stream had immense respect among the public. But today, especially in South India, the arts have come to be perceived as an option only for those who fail to secure engineering, medicine, or pure science streams. This is in contrast to countries like the US where the arts and pure science departments are flourishing.
It is high time that the central and state governments took notice of the condition of science and arts streams and take steps to make them attractive, employable and respectable options for children. More importantly, there should be long-term efforts to slowly drive education towards man-making, so that this rat-race put to an end. The spiritual and ethical elements must be reintroduced into the education system and the parents, teachers, as well as children should all be sensitized towards the real goals of education.