India exam pressure leads to wave of student suicides

In many nations in the world, it is the dreaded university entrance exam that is the sole determinant of whether or not you get into a university or not – not your high school grades, extracurricular activities or achievement scores – just an exam. You think that pressure can get to you? Well, apparently it does to many Indians, as reported in this disturbing AFP article, “India exam pressure leads to wave of student suicides:”

“…In 2006, the most recent year for which official figures are available, some 5,857 students — or 16 a day — killed themselves due to exam stress. Police say thousands more suicides go unreported because parents want to keep the cause of death a secret. Competition to get into higher education in the country of more than 1.1 billion people is fierce with stratospheric averages needed to obtain the few places available in India’s “Ivy League” colleges. For instance, the cut-off average mark to pursue an undergraduate economics degree at Delhi University’s top commerce college last year was 97.8 percent. “Unsurprisingly only a small fraction of the 500,000 school leavers each year will make it,” said Sunil Sethi, columnist for financial daily Business Standard. India has just a couple of dozen top-notch “branded” colleges, seven Indian institutes of technology and six of management. Together they take only 16,000 undergraduates each year.”

5,857 suicides due to exam stress! (I really wonder if this is really an official category!). I looked up in Wikipedia, and in 2004 there were a total of 4,599 suicides between the ages 10 to 24 (of course, India’s population is almost 3.6x as large as the U.S.’s) for all reasons. (As you may know, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, Asian-American women ages 15-24 have the highest suicide rate of women in any race or ethnic group in that age group.)

Certainly, when getting into a university may be the only path out of poverty and you have only one shot, the stress has to be tremendous. But obviously this is not necessarily the healthiest environment to promote academic achievement…

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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