A Rajasthan government committee, led by state higher education secretary Bhawani Detha, is set to propose a series of recommendations aimed at addressing the alarming rise in student suicides in Kota, India's test-preparation hub. This year, the city has witnessed 24 student suicides, the highest since data collection began in 2015. The committee, comprising various stakeholders, aims to submit its report to the government soon, forming the basis of a new policy to be presented in the Rajasthan assembly, as reported by Hindustan Times.
One significant recommendation likely to be put forward by the committee is to limit the admission age for students in coaching centers to class 8, typically around 13 to 14 years old. Additionally, they are expected to propose an "easy exit and refund policy" for students who wish to leave coaching institutes mid-course. This is a response to the financial burden faced by families who have invested significant sums in their children's education.
To identify students experiencing severe depression or displaying suicidal tendencies, the committee may suggest implementing a 20-hour gatekeeper training program for coaching authorities, hostel owners, and paying guest accommodations. This training aims to equip them with the skills to recognize troubling behavior in students, Hindustan Times quoted.
Kota attracts tens of thousands of students from India's rural areas, offering a chance at economic mobility through its renowned coaching institutes. However, the intense competition and the challenges of being away from home have led to extreme stress among students.
The committee's recommendations may also include the establishment of a permanent students' cell to address students' issues and concerns. They may propose "cross learning sessions" to provide career guidance beyond the competitive exams like JEE and NEET. These sessions would allow students to interact with individuals who achieved success in their careers despite failing to crack these exams.
The committee could also emphasize raising awareness about 'Tele-MANAS,' a mental health care service under the Union government's National Health Mission, offering students access to professional psychiatrists and counselors through toll-free helplines.
While Kota has been grappling with student suicides for years, the latest recommendations aim to enforce policies rather than mere guidelines. This change will empower authorities to take action against stakeholders for any violations.
Prominent figures in the education sector and student accommodations have welcomed these recommendations, including age restrictions on admissions and the introduction of mandatory days off. Sociologists like Rajiv Gupta advocate for transparent policies that encourage students to prepare for competitive exams independently, reducing their reliance on coaching institutes.