By Gunjan Sharma
To help students cope with the pressure of JEE and NEET preparations, experts have urged parents to groom and counsel their children before sending them to the country’s coaching hub Kota, a method they called “preparing for the preparation”.
Educational experts and psychologists, who have been keeping a tab on the recent incidents of suicide in Kota, said children before going to the coaching hub must be prepared through professional aptitude tests, mental grooming and adaptability with routine chores.
Majority of parents send their children to Kota for coaching with almost zero preparation and the focus is only on arranging finances and logistics, they noted.
The recent death of four coaching students by suicide has trigerred a debate yet again about mental health of the students who are often bogged down with the pressure of fast paced curriculum and expectations from family.
According to Harish Sharma, Principal Counsellor and Student-Behaviour expert at Allen Career Institute, maximum parents send their kids to Kota with almost zero preparation and the focus is only on arranging finances and the logistics.
“When a child is in class 5 or 6, parents decide that two years or four years later he or she will be sent to Kota. They start saving up accordingly or start making plans to move to the city well in advance. However, they never try to professionally analyse whether their child actually wants to do that or is even fit for doing that,” Sharma told PTI.
He said that parents mostly focus on their children getting higher marks without understanding their mental capability.
“Scoring above 90 pc in class 10 or 12 cannot be a benchmark to decide whether a child is meant for engineering or medicine. We often find students here who either come in parental pressure or did not have an idea early on about their choice of subjects. This is where professional aptitude tests can help,” he added.
Sharma explained that talking to neighbours and relatives whose children might have gone to Kota is not enough and professional help should be sought at an early stage.
A record 2 lakh students are enrolled in various coaching institutes in Kota this year. At least 14 students studying in coaching centres here have committed suicide this year allegedly due to academic stress.
Dr Chandra Shekhar Sushil, who is the head of the Department of Psychiatry at New Medical College Hospital here, said that instead of pushing their children to become doctors and engineers, parents should make their children take an aptitude test and then decide what’s best for them.
“I do not believe coaching institutes have much of a role in student suicides. We have to admit that JEE and NEET are very tough exams and hence the teaching and learning is also supposed to be of the same level,” he said.
“However, taking an aptitude test before sending students to Kota is very important. It is equally important that some sort of counselling and grooming is done at least two years before the child comes to Kota as majority of these kids have never stayed away from home before, ” Sushil added. His thoughts were echoed by RK Verma, Managing Director and Academic Head, Resonance, another prominent coaching institute in Kota, who said that developing proper communication channels between parents and their children well in advance is very important.
“The parents cannot expect that their child will suddenly start communicating with them when he is here. This bond and comfort level has to be developed before. We have also noticed that the kids are completely dependent upon parents till the time they come here,” he said.
He said the academic pressure in Kota’s coaching centres are far more than what students usually deal with prior to coming to the coaching hub.
“The academic pressure which is far more than what they have been dealing with so far, the inability to manage the routine chores like arranging your wardrobe, sending clothes for laundry, reaching the mess on time to have meals, waking up themselves, all of these things the children have not done on their own before coming here,” Verma said.
“So suddenly, the child finds himself lost. So we advice parents to stop keeping their children in their laps at least two years before sending here. So that the only difficulty they find is the dealing with the academic part, which we can resolve here,” he added.
On December 11, suicide by 3 students within 12 hours rocked the coaching city Kota, prompting the district and coaching authorities to swing into action to take measures to check the same.
Two of the 3 deceased students, identified as Ankush Anand (16), a NEET aspirant and resident of Supaul district in Bihar and Ujjwal Kumar (18), a JEE aspirant also a resident of Gaya district in Bihar, had hanged themselves from the ceiling fan in their respective rooms in the same PG in Talwandi area under Jawahar Nagar police station.
While the other one, Pranav Verma (17), a NEET aspirant from Shivpuri district in Madhya Pradesh, allegedly died after consuming some poisonous substance in his hostel room in Landmark city under Kunhari police station of the city on the same day.
Another student Aniket Kumar, a resident of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his hostel room on December 23.