In this challenging academic landscape, where exams can feel like scaling a steep mountain, stress becomes an unavoidable companion. Envision this ascent as a tricky journey, with everyone carrying a heavy backpack of expectations. Peer support is akin to having companions on the same climb, making the journey less daunting.
Imagine walking up the mountain together, step by step. Peer support revolves around the exchange of experiences, grounded in the belief that those who’ve conquered challenges can guide others. Providing this friendly support is a crucial asset in navigating the stress associated with academic challenges, acting as a guide on the bumpy road to success.
This aligns with the National Education Policy of 2020, emphasising the interconnectedness of mental health and academic success. The National Council of Educational Research and Training conducted a comprehensive survey in 2022, whose report titled ‘The mental health and well-being of school students’ highlights their experiences with online learning, a prominent aspect in the wake of the Covid pandemic, when traditional learning was curtailed. Despite the advantages of virtual learning, challenges surfaced, prompting students to reflect on their feelings about this new educational paradigm. A striking finding was the consensus among students about the “lack of social interaction with peers,” with 35 percent expressing this feeling.
In his book, Exam Warriors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi encourages every student to “be a warrior, not a worrier”. The narrative unfolds as each student embraces the role of a warrior, conquering academic challenges. Amid this journey, some of our fellow warriors face heightened stress and trouble during exams. Just as being a warrior involves navigating personal challenges, it also means extending support to our brothers. Walking, helping each other through the journey, and making it easier for fellow warriors is an essential aspect of being a collective force. In the spirit of Exam Warriors, it becomes imperative for all of us to embody the warrior spirit not only for ourselves, but also for our fellow warriors, creating a supportive and united front during challenging times.
Peer support, holds deep-rooted historical significance in various contexts. Its principles are based on the notion that those who have triumphed over adversity can provide unique insights, encouragement and hope to others facing similar challenges. In the realm of mental health, peer support has been a longstanding practice, making it a relevant and effective approach in addressing the unique stressors associated with academic pursuits.
The benefits of peer support are multifaceted, encompassing empowerment, social support, empathy, stigma reduction, and fostering hope and motivation. Empowering individuals to overcome the stigma and social isolation associated with mental health difficulties enhances self-esteem and confidence—crucial components for facing academic challenges head-on.
In the context of academic stress during exams, the principles of peer support find practical application. Learning from others’ experiences becomes a valuable asset as peers share coping mechanisms and strategies for managing exam stress. Seniors in school or college, having faced similar situations, serve as valuable resources for guidance and support.
The clarity in thoughts that peer support offers becomes particularly valuable on the days before an exam, when confusion and anxiety often hinder clear thinking. Providing a space to express emotions, peer support facilitates the sorting through of thoughts and emotional clarity, reducing the feeling of isolation associated with exam stress. While peer support plays a pivotal role in alleviating stress during exam times, creating a supportive environment requires a collaborative effort from educational institutions. The integration of peer support programmes into the institutional framework enhances the accessibility of support for students. Creating designated spaces for peer support sessions and promoting awareness about these resources ensures that students are aware of the available avenues for assistance.
Strengthening peer support during exam times is not solely the responsibility of individuals; educational institutions play a crucial role in creating an environment that prioritises mental health. By acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between mental well-being and academic success, institutions contribute to the holistic development of their students, preparing them not only for academic challenges but also for life’s broader experiences. This collaborative effort resonates with the ethos of Modi’s Pariksha Pe Charcha initiative, a movement aimed at fostering a stress-free environment for students nationwide.
I encourage all my young friends not to stress about the future or compare themselves to others. Trying to emulate someone else’s path is like following a conventional route, instead, opt for the road less travelled. Let’s set specific goals that propel us forward without causing undue stress, following the wisdom of mantra 26 from Exam Warriors: “An ideal goal is one driven by passion and inspiration, not pressure.”
As the anticipation builds, the nation eagerly awaits this year’s edition of Pariksha Pe Charcha. The prospect of witnessing the prime minister engaging with students, educators, and parents, sharing valuable insights and encouragement, adds an extra layer of excitement. It’s a collective eagerness to participate in an event that not only addresses the challenges of exam preparation but also inspires and empowers individuals on their academic journey.
The countdown to Pariksha Pe Charcha has become a symbol of hope, unity and the shared commitment to creating a positive and supportive environment for our students. The nation is poised for an enriching experience, eagerly looking forward to the wisdom and motivation that will unfold in this unique and impactful interaction.
Subhas Sarkar, Union Minister of State for Education