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Should Parents Really Be Blamed For Pushing Their Kids To Take Up Engineering?

By Harshita Murarka:

It is welcoming to see Mr. Shashi Tharoor engaging with the nuances of education in India. He, in fact, has been one of the few leaders engaging with a number of real issues of national importance time and again. I am glad he brought up the issue of how having “a professional degree in the right field” is perceived as the “passport to social and economic development” in his recent article titled ‘India’s Deadly Entrance Exams‘ published in the Project Syndicate. He adeptly talks about the academic pressures Indian parents put on their children for whom engineering and medicine remain the top career choices. But sadly what goes amiss is an understanding of what drives them to do so.

It is crucial to explore the plight of higher education in the country, particularly in the humanities and social science streams, in light of this incumbent debate. Technical education paves the way for a bigger paycheck and that is the motivation for the aspiring students wanting to make it big in life. This has inadvertently led to neglect in other domains of education, particularly humanities. The disciplines that focus on shaping the mind are pushed to the lower rungs of the education hierarchy. This rigid hierarchy in the education system wreaks havoc on the aspirations and creativity of innumerable students wanting to carve a path for themselves. The undue validation given to success stories of the IITs or IIMs in terms of the pay packages stands in sharp contrast to the lack of acknowledgement to important research in unheard of topics in the social sciences. Besides, the funding offered to humanities’ institutions are crumbs as compared to what their science counterparts make. This also leads to a huge pay disparity between the two.

Why would the average middle-class Indian parent, then, not want their kid to go into a premium engineering or medical college? Looking at the picture from their side gives a completely different side to the story which often goes unreported or is conveniently ignored at best. After all, as parents, all they want is their kids to do well in life and have a decent standard of living, something that they have been struggling for.

The massive pressures that the children deal with in coaching institutions and engineering colleges often finds sympathisers and onlookers but what about the stress that innumerable social sciences and humanities students undergo every day of their life? What would they do with their degree? What about the years of investment they have made in a subject of their choice? Why are they supposed to settle with peanuts in terms of the monetary compensation they get for their jobs as opposed to their technology counterparts who end up with a lot more money and perhaps stability?

The plight of countless researchers and academicians in the country is a testimony to the unfair treatment meted out to the ones who are brave enough to follow their passion. The uncertainty looming over their jobs, the absolute aspersion of dignity in terms of the insane amount of workload assigned to them and the probable sacking of new jobs demands immediate attention. These are of course the material concerns because the emotional trauma experienced as a result of such prejudices is way too depressing to be even documented.

It then comes as little surprise for parents to adopt the civil services, engineering or the medical sciences as the ‘national hobbies’ they want their kids to pursue. And the money verus satisfaction debate seldom works when you have to pay bills and work for a living. These conventional vocations come with a promise of a stable and secure future which remains the top priority for an average Indian. At the end of the day, all parents want the best for their children. This obsession with STEM education seems justified however deep the ramifications of the same happen to be.

New IITs are sanctioned and so is the focus on proliferation of a ‘tech culture’. Are the students or parents left with any choice but to succumb to the pressures of keeping up with the rat race? It is high time that such questions are addressed. Creating better opportunities in myriad fields, promoting vocations diverse in nature, addressing the massive pay disparities, creating space for research are the need of the hour.

It is true that education is the only way towards social change but there can be no single path to the same. It is even more central to a diverse nation like India with people having diverse tastes and interests. Once proper steps are taken to resurrect the crumbling educational situation, I am sure a lot many parents will be brave enough to let their children follow the path they want to. But are we waiting for more suicides to follow before addressing this pressing issue which gets camouflaged amidst hate speeches, political rhetoric and empty promises?

Featured image credit: Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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