No lives should be lost, they are our kids: education minister on Kota suicides

Ongoing efforts aim to create a student-centric education system with measures like confidential test results, no rank-based segregation, and a 120-day exit and refund policy

Representative image of a coaching centre
Representative image of a coaching centre


The alarming number of student suicides in coaching hub Kota is a sensitive issue and it is our collective responsibility to keep students stress free, Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, adding that the issue of dummy schools cannot be ignored.

In an interview to PTI, Pradhan said no lives should be lost and the Centre is taking initiatives to ensure that coaching is not required, and school education is enough.

Asked about record student suicides in Rajasthan's Kota this year, Pradhan said, "It is a very sensitive issue. No lives should be lost... they are our kids. They do not even have maturity or knowledge about what is happening to them. It is our collective responsibility to keep students stress free.

"There are enough positive models in the country, they need to be replicated.... through technology, through social outreach, through taking care and counselling. NCERT is brainstorming about it, education department is working too... state government is also coming up with various circulars and guidelines...but the society needs to work together on implementation front on this issue."

This year has seen the highest number of student suicides in the country's coaching hub — 23 so far — with two students ending their lives within a gap of a few hours on 27 August. Last year, the number of such deaths was 15.

Over 2.5 lakh students move to Kota annually, primarily to prepare for engineering and medical entrance exams JEE and NEET. Several candidates enroll themselves in schools in their home state and move to Kota to attend coaching classes.

They only appear for board exams directly and do not attend fulltime schools. The issue of "dummy schools" has been flagged by several experts, who believe not attending school hinders students' personal growth and they often feel isolated and stressed.

"The issue of dummy schools cannot be ignored. Although the number of such students is not very high in comparison to the total number of students... but time has come to have serious discussions and deliberations on the subject," Pradhan said.

The minister said that the central government is working to ensure that students do not require coaching.

"We are making attempts and taking initiatives to ensure that coaching is not required and we have a progressive and student-centric education system. There are examples like Navodaya Vidyalaya, where we see good performance of students in competitive exams without coaching... so, it is a collective responsibility of the Centre and state governments to ensure that school education is enough," he said.

No glorification of toppers, results of routine tests to be kept confidential, no segregation of students in special batches based on their ranks and a policy for easy exit and refund within 120 days are among the recommendations made in the recently issued Rajasthan government guidelines for coaching institutes.

The guidelines, which have been framed in consultation with coaching institutes and other stakeholders, also restrict institutes from encouraging students below class 9 to take admission in coaching institutes to prepare for medical and engineering entrance exams.

With the record spike in suicide cases, the Kota administration has taken several steps, including mandating installation of an anti-hanging device in fans and ordering coaching institutes to not take any exam for two months.

The anti-hanging device installation was proposed by the Kota Hostel Association in 2017 and finally mandated by the district administration this year. The device has a spring attached to it which expands if an object weighing more than 20 kg is hung from the fan, making it impossible for someone to end their life by this method. Simultaneously, a siren goes off.

'Anti-suicide nets" are also being installed in balconies and lobbies of hostels in Kota to prevent students from taking any extreme step.

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