Success in India, since time immemorial, has been defined within the limits of academic achievements. For every student across the country, the idea of success in some way or another is connected to academic excellence.
The importance of marks in a student’s life is emphasized from a very young age. Intellect and potentiality of students are solely measured on the basis of grades, whereas creative abilities such as musical, artistic, dancing, athletic and various other skills are often negated.
In most cases, this narrow and faulty perception of success is validated by parents and teachers and hence promoted in society. Many students fall prey to this stereotype and begin to associate their self-worth with their marks and grades.
Those with higher grades become naturally inclined to be more confident due to the appreciation they receive while those with fewer marks are left feeling like failures.
This systematic practice of associating success in life with grades has pushed students and young adults in a continuous spiral of preparing and planning for a future career direction at a very young age.
Students as young as 16 years of age are made to decide the stream which serves as a foundation for their future. Ultimately, all that the education system ends up doing is creating an assembly line of mass-produced students having the same level of knowledge with no space for innovative and critical thinking.
Concepts of social and emotional learning, which are a part of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, are rarely taught or introduced at the school level.
Instead of developing emotional competence, which is essential to form a moral compass and a sense of empathy, these students are taught the fear of failure and rejection. Unconventional dreams and aspirations that do not conform to this stereotypical idea of success are often shelved under the garb of realism.
Most students do not have the freedom to pursue their desired careers and are forced into a profession which is considered to be well paying and respectable. At this stage, various young adults start to develop feelings of fear and doubt, accompanied by bouts of anxiety and, in some cases, depression.
Fear and doubt have a crippling effect on an individual’s ability to dream, imagine and visualize.
Year after year, young adults throughout the world are categorically streamlined and virtually forced into this torturous race. Unfortunately, most of these young adults in this relentless pursuit of an optimal direction miss out on the most important years of their lives.
They are so busy searching and planning for the next step that their life becomes a system of goals and agendas. Life, which is meant to be unpredictable, that flows with unstoppable currents, is channelized into a realistic timeline.
Events and situations, which are meant to be appraised as challenges, begin to seem like threatening hindrances in achieving a particular goal. At just 18 years of age, these students are made to learn that in the real world, it is better to be a part of the herd than to take the road less travelled.
These unrequited dreams and aspirations are what lead up to a progressively deteriorating mental health, resulting in a high percentage of depression and anxiety disorders.
According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau of India, a student commits suicide every one hour due to academic stress. Reports such as these act as a wake-up call for India to develop counselling programs and actively advocate for the implementation of policies on mental health awareness in educational institutions.
In a country with a 34.3% youth population, it is our responsibility as a society to encourage and support their dreams and prevent them from falling into the vicious cycle of anxiety and depression.
In order to improve the future, we must learn from our past and thus allow our new generation to have the freedom to explore, experiment and discover the best possible direction for themselves.