The Indian Institute of Technology -Madras is all set to introduce a life skills course for freshers from the current academic year, which will begin from July 29, in a bid to check the rising cases of campus suicides.
As many as five engineering students ended their lives at the institute’s Guindy campus between 2011 and 2012.
The rising number of suicides reported from different IITs in the country resulted in the Centre setting up the Ananthakrishnan Committee to study the phenomenon in all centrally-funded institutions and come up with measures for prevention, according to L S Ganesh, Dean of students, IIT-M.
“The committee came up with several interesting recommendations,” he said.
Ganesh, who was a member, said the panel specifically looked into what could be built as an institutionalised system to help students cope with difficult situations. “In this regard, IIT-Madras has come up with a new life skills course, which will be part of the curriculum at the entry-level from this academic year,” he pointed out.
Addressing a press conference with Lt Col Jayakumar, deputy registrar (training and placement), and M S Shivakumar, professor, department of applied mechanics, here on Friday, the dean said the objective of the course was to address two components that comprised a student’s IIT-M tenure: living and learning on campus.
“We want to make our country competitive. We want a healthy, vibrant and stimulated student community on our campus,” he said.
Pointing to the steady increase in the student strength in the institute from 3,000 in the 1980’s to about 8,000 now, he said 900 freshers had enrolled themselves for various programmes this year. Hailing from different parts of the country, they are in the 17+ age group and have prepared for a long time to do well in the entrance examinations. Students who were top rank-holders in their schools, now find that they have to compete with students as good as they are. Some of them are living separately from their families for the first time. “There is also a new-found freedom, which they do not know how to handle,” he said, explaining their difficulties.
High expectations from parents, gender and relationship issues and technological distractions were other factors that added to their stress, said Shivakumar, who is part of Mitr, the guidance and counselling unit of IIT-M. “They have not seen failure and do not know how to deal with it,” he said.
What started as workshops and seminars last year to cater to the needs of the students evolved into a formal life skills course this academic year, Ganesh said.
The course, comprising activities, projects and workshops, would be taught by experts from different fields during the first semester and assigned two credits (30 hours). It would cover three aspects of living: self-dependence, inter-dependence and independence. With a rise in the number of women students, focus would also be given to gender sensitisation, he added.