The Dark Side Of Entrance Exams: Suicide Over Failing NEET
On September 1st, 2017, Anita a medical aspirant from Tamil Nadu committed suicide after failing to secure a medical seat through NEET exams. Before taking this extreme measure, Anita led the fight against NEET in Tamil Nadu.
Most of the articles about this incident focused on political feuds, questioned the cause of death, controversy among different groups of people but none or very few addressed the root cause of the issue.
India has one of the highest suicide rates for youth between 15-29 years according to the 2012 Lancet report.Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveal that close to 40,000 students in India committed suicide from 2011 to 2015, with 8,934 cases in 2015.
In 2013 alone, 2,471 suicides were attributed to “failure in examination”.
Cut Throat Competition
In 2015, over 6.3 lakh students took the Medical exam.The total number of MBBS seats in the country is around 52,300. Government colleges have a little under 25,000 seats. The all-India quota is 15% of these, excluding institutions like AIIMS and JIPMER. Thus only 0.6% of students who took the exams could only crack it. Undoubtedly, this kind of competition puts extreme pressure on students. Also, it is a societal norm in India to make kids feel that 12th exams as ‘do or die’ situation. Thus, challenged with such difficult choices the students find the problem insurmountable and tend to take extreme measures.
As mentioned above, parental and societal pressure are two of the most significant factors for suicides in student population. Unfortunately, we are a country with a billion population with the majority of them being below the age of 35. Thus, unless we scrap the entrance exam system, this kind of ridiculous competition will continue. Although we can blame external pressure for such incidents, there is an important trait the students are not taught in school. Resilience. This is one of the main skill for any human being to survive in a competitive world. Students should be taught that it is okay to fail and failure should be seen as a badge of honor and not an embarrassment. Students are being told from an earlier age to root for success, accolades, and fame by the society which gets deeply ingrained in their brain. Thus when they come to high school, they fear to try anything new because of the possibility of failing and thus end up in a protective bubble. Unfortunately, when they are about to enter college, this bubble gets broken for some of them. Unable to cope with the pressure some students take extreme measures.
India has highly intricate societal and cultural setup.Most of the families tend to live together. Parents share their kids’ achievements to another family member. While this may give a morale boost to kids, it has its own pitfalls. Kids tend to look at these praises and compliments as a result of success. Thus when they do not succeed they are ashamed of it. If one notices a parenting of a typical Indian family, a kid is praised for the result and not the process. Very few parents say “Kudos for the hard work”! Most of them appreciate their kids for the trophies and medals.This behavior extends till the kid becomes an adult and trophies and medals are replaced with salary package and reputed companies. Also, most kids tend to believe that they are either good or bad at something. This mentality can be altered by practicing a very simple exercise. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, synthesized in her remarkably insightful Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (public library) — an inquiry into the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. She talks about ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’. A fixed mindset person believes that he or she is either inherently good or bad at something. For example, believing a person is a ‘natural born singer’ and someone else is not is a fixed mindset but a person with a growth mindset believes that he or she can learn any skill with practice. They trust the work to make them good at something. This sounds simple, but incorporating this idea can immensely benefit a student. Failure will no longer be permanent and thus students will be more persistent and willing to try. This kind of mentality can be observed in western countries like the United States where college dropouts go on to become billionaires.
By 2020, India’s median age will be 29, while it is 37 for China and 48 for Japan.We are going to be one of the youngest countries and we will be leading the world in the workforce. To tap this manpower in an efficient manner, it is incumbent upon us to address this issue and provide a conducive environment for today’s youth to grow and thrive. It is high time that we understood the importance of mental health and be more open and receiving. A happy and healthy nation is undoubtedly a more productive one.