The battle with exam stress in Karnataka
In the last month alone, several teen deaths have been reported in Karnataka, with a majority of suicides being attributed to exam stress.
BENGALURU: For students preparing to write their final and board examinations, it’s the season of stress and unbearable tension.
In the last month alone, several teen deaths have been reported in Karnataka, with a majority of suicides being attributed to exam stress. Dying by suicide is not uncommon, as pressure leads students to take extreme step, especially around the start of the year, when they have to begin preparing for board examinations. “It’s a cycle, and it’s common to see children stressed as soon as they enter high school. The pressure put on them is immense, and needs to be addressed,” Unicef education specialist Sheshagiri K M Rao told TNIE.
Dr Bhavit Bansal, working as part of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) child and psychiatry department, told TNIE that the rising culture of media consumption itself has led to students being tenser than they otherwise would be. This, combined with the constant need to study, increases the likelihood that a child is more stressed.
In the post-pandemic era where technology addiction is considered a serious disorder, experts have noticed several parents raising concerns over their children’s gadget use, and if they are addicted to it. Dr Thomas Kishore, child and adolescent psychologist at Nimhans, said that in a city like Bengaluru, children often do not have the facility for many outdoor activities. “They end up spending leisure time indoors on their gadgets. There is no harm in allowing children to use tech gadgets for some time if both parents and children are confident they are not addicted to it,” he said.
Dr Kishore suggested that children must set clear goals in their minds and work towards them. It is important for children to continue having a balanced routine involving proper sleep and leisure time. Parents play an important role in determining a balanced routine for a child while providing them with a healthy and balanced diet. They should not change their routine for the children’s exams, as it sets a bad example.
He explained that students tend to panic at the last hour when they are not well prepared. Just a few days before exams is not the right time to gain conceptual clarity on any subject; a child should only revise the syllabus. Lack of preparation is the primary reason why children get stressed during exams.
Sometimes, teachers also play a major role in inducing stress among students during exam time. It is not advisable to compare an individual’s performance with a set of students, Dr Kishore asserted. He said a student must only be compared with previous performances and not that of peers. It causes undue insecurity and pressure in a student’s mind, which can affect performance during exams.
Besides, teachers are often biased towards children, depending on their choice of subjects. Despite the subject of choice, teachers must appreciate students’ good performance. It gives them a sense of pride and motivates them to perform better in general.
A student with low scores should not be treated differently, and instead, be given optimised learning to ensure that scores improve eventually. Experts also opine that for a parent and child to remain stress-free during the crucial exam months, they should start preparations four or five months ahead.
However, expectations continue to skyrocket, with students forced to achieve higher grades due to changing trends. “The expectations of students have increased overall, as they need to achieve more to be able to get into good institutions. Especially with costs increasing, the need to be able to score better for merit-based scholarships is high as well,” one parent told TNIE. This, combined with not being exposed to other potential avenues of employment or careers, tend to make a student stressed not only about examinations, but their future as well.
Factors leading to stress
While there are several contributing factors to what could stress a student out prior to examinations, specialist Rao said the main problem was a fundamental issue with the education system. “We’re only beginning to understand the changes adolescent children are going through, and it’s on both parents and schools who sell these high dreams, where students are pressured from the minute they enter high school. Examinations are often the reason why children drop out, with little to no documentation on where they end up,” he said.
The trend of going to coaching centres often leads to more stress for students. “There is an almost an obsession about getting into good institutions. Coaching centres make a business out of training students, with the conditions set for students being incredibly stressful,” he said. He cited examples of students being made to wake up at 5am or sleep in cramped quarters, while spending most of the day studying for competitive examinations.
This is seen almost daily, with videos viral on social media of students being singled out or mistreated for not paying attention. “There needs to be a bigger focus on how to deal with a student going through stress. More importance needs to be given to counselling. While there are many private schools which employ counsellors, this isn’t the case with government schools. Students need a proper support system where they can talk about what’s going on in their minds and how they are feeling in an environment that is non-judgmental,” said Rao.
Environmental factors also pose a huge issue for students, be it family circumstances or city planning. Recently, Bengaluru’s traffic was a source of stress for students writing the ongoing Central Board of Secondary Examinations (CBSE) papers. A few parents complained that their children missed the exam as they were stuck in traffic and had requested they be allowed to reappear. CBSE issued a notice on March 1, stating, “Any candidate will not be allowed to enter the examination centre after 10am.
Students are requested to plan or schedule the conveyance till the centre in advance; the board will not be responsible for any inconvenience caused to the candidate due to late arrival.”
Expert tips to cut exam stress for students
Set clear goals, work towards them
Ensure balanced routine, including adequate time for sleep, leisure activities
Ensure adequate preparation to lessen last-minute stress and panic
Make proper timetable to account for study time, ample revision time prior to exams
Do not neglect other duties and routines
Preparation can ensure stress levels are low during exams
Ensure a calm and stable environment to study
For Parents and Teachers
Every child is different, do not compare performances and routines to peers or contribute towards insecurities
Do not be biased towards child based on their goals
Be open-minded towards the child
Ensure children have a good support system and can speak on their issues in a non-judgmental environment
Do not push them towards achieving your own goals
Ensure their mental state is stable before pushing them towards academic excellence
Make sure they are able to prepare for examinations in a calm environment, where they are less likely to panic