Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Educational suicide

From the The Times Of India:

In 2006, 5,857 students — or 16 a day — committed suicide across India due to exam stress. And these are just the official figures.

Shimla superintendent of police (crime), Punita Bhardwaj, said incidents of children committing suicide because of examination stress often did not get reported as traumatized parents wanted to keep the issue under wraps.

Anita Naresh, a 16-year-old from Kanpur who swallowed dye last week as she felt she had not done well in her Class X exams, is one of them. Her condition is still critical. A teenager from Chandigarh attempted suicide inside the examination centre but was taken to hospital just in time. Bangalore has witnessed a series of attempted suicides by students denied a hall ticket for a board examination owing to poor attendance.

Comment: In the U.S. this sort of pressure simply does not exist. Our public schools are doing such a lousy job preparing our children for the real world outside of K-12 that just about any real reaction by a student failing a class or an exam would be cause for celebration. Considering that we are spending about $8,700 a year on average per student we do not seem to be getting much value for our money. Countries like Finland are spending less (about $7,500) and their students are considered high achievers on several world-wide measurements.

Tragic events such as are seen in India are not only foreign to our national culture but also completely unimaginable since we have long ago removed any sense of accountability and accomplishment from education. While I would never condone suicide and I believe that the great pressure that Indian children are forced to submit them selves to be extreme. Overall, there is something to admire about a culture that greatly values education and the promise of progress it instills in children. Would it be excellent if Indian society could find a happy balance for its school age children? Absolutely. And it would be quite a leap forward if American children and the educational system that serve them would have loftier goals.

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