Burdened by Parental Expectations

By Ritika Bisht
In Cover Story
May 7, 2015
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school-burdenTushar Srivastava, a 13 year old boy, a student of eighth standard, lives with his family which dreams of seeing him getting admission into one of the top IITs. However, Tushar loves photography, painting and dreams of getting into a fine arts college. Parents have spent money for tuitions so that he finishes with top grades in all the subjects. But, Tushar manages to achieve average score that has left his parents distraught.

Similar situation can be witnessed in majority of Indian families where parents’ expectations are way too much for kids to achieve.

Increasing pressure from parents to do well in the national board examinations, especially in Class XII, is a huge concern. This is because scores in these exams often determine college admissions and subsequent employment opportunities. Students are often subjected to undue pressure at home to succeed in academics and when they fail to live up to the sky high expectations, many succumb, taking extreme measures like suicide we often sadly read in newspapers.

India has the world’s highest suicide rate among 15 to 29 year olds, ahead of even North Korea, according to a September 2014 report by the World Health Organization. Parental pressure and competition for highly paid jobs, psychiatrists say, are prime triggers of suicides among Indian youth.

NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences) study on suicides, carried out in 2014, has revealed that 11 percent of college students and 7-8 percent of high school students have attempted suicide. Dr. M Manjula, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry at the institute, who led this study, said that the current adolescent generation is stressed due to academics, relationship with parents, peer groups and romantic relationships.

With increasing suicides among the students, Dr. John Vijay Sagar, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, advises counseling for parents so that children are not driven to suicide under undue pressure of parental expectations.

Difference in Approach

Kids are guided by parents to select a particular course because supposedly that course comes with higher chances of getting a high paid reputed job opportunity in future.

It would seem strange to parents that there are courses available for being a librarian, carpenter or a painter. Indian Library Association offers bachelors in library science and similarly Indian Institute of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) provides courses in plumbing.  

Majority of parents in India would not think of encouraging their kids to a field of their choice, if it includes plumbing. The point here is not to focus on non-academic careers but to know and support their kids’ choice.

Every individual is different and when it comes to education, not everyone would wish to be a doctor or an engineer. Unfortunately the herd mentality has taken a strong hold over Indian society, prompting parents to ask more from kids than their actual potential.

Majority of Indian students take up courses and careers that are nowhere near their interest. This impacts their learning as it is half-hearted in such cases, leading to unemployability. According to an article published in a business magazine last year, only about 30 percent graduates in India are job worthy. In case of engineering graduates their employability lies somewhere between 20 to 25 per cent. Many academicians feel it could be still lower.

The foremost reason, the article mentioned, was the deteriorating quality of education in these institutes that have failed to generate any skilled talent among students. The second reason was the lack of interest among students in courses they were studying. These students were either pursuing engineering because of parental pressure or because of absence of knowledge or encouragement towards other fields.

The issue is whether we need to concentrate on solving problems faced by students or should we first start counselling parents who offer guidance to their wards without enough knowledge themselves.

The point here is not to insult or mock parents but to make them think from a child’s perspective. They only wish the best for their kids but parents cannot pressurize them for higher marks.

Taking off burden

borad-exam-educationEducation is of utmost importance but applying pressure on kids to achieve top grades means ignoring mental health of the child.

Today, more than ever in the past, student’s perception of life has come to be dominated by the burden of academics and problems they experience in relation to study, their peers, future planning and handling parents’ expectations. Very often, they are forced to accept parents’ decisions without realizing their caliber.

Parents and teachers should know the ability of a student to sustain pressure of a particular course. What is lacking is the understanding nature of parents to find their kids’ ability and then instil a sense of confidence among them to choose a path of their own choice.

Protective factors for mental well-being are linked to cohesion at the community level, family well-being, individual behavior and skills and social services including healthcare   services. Strengthening the protective factors in schools, homes and local communities as well as improving quality of mental health care for adolescents, can make important contributions to improving developmental outcomes of vulnerable young people.

Apart from bringing in innovative ideas to the current education system, the capacity of a student should be understood and he or she should be encouraged to take up a course accordingly. For example, extra-curricular activities have been implemented on greater scale and parents even support the idea of it but still they won’t accept it as a career choice.

Changing thought process is not easy and certainly a great deal of counseling is required for both kids and parents when it concerns matter of choosing education and career. But nothing is more important than one’s life, which in case of adolescents, is depending on career choices they, rather their parents are making.

To be fair to parents, it is understandable that they are spending exorbitant amount of money to assure a secure and bright future of the child. But is it right to impose a choice that would make parents happy but not the kids?

What parents and society needs to understand is that all kids are not the same when it comes to academic and career choices and there are many choices available to students today other than the higher academic ones. Evolving society has thrown open many avenues which need talented students and which are rewarding also. Parents need to acknowledge the same.