Reducing “pressure” and “fear of failure” emerged as major areas of focus for ensuring the mental well-being of students during a meeting of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) council, the apex coordination body of all the 23 premier engineering colleges across the country, on Tuesday. This comes at a time when a spate of student suicides over the past few months at these institutions has triggered a national debate on the status of their mental health amid concerns about caste-based discrimination on campuses.
The council, headed by union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan, looks after the administrative and other important affairs of the IITs across the country. Directors of all 23 IITs, members of governing bodies, and officials from the education ministry, among others, form the council that met after two years at Bhubaneswar. The last meeting was held on February 22, 2021.
Underlying societal, psychological, and other health issues were discussed as the possible reasons behind depression among students during the meeting, which had students’ mental well-being as an important item on agenda.
“The council discussed several steps needed to ensure the mental health and wellness of students at IITs including the need for a robust grievance redressal system, increasing psychological counselling services, reducing pressure, and highlighting the importance of reducing fear of failure/rejection among students,” said a senior ministry official.
It also called for a “proactive” approach by institute directors in providing all kinds of support to students including developing a robust mechanism of “zero tolerance” for discrimination on campuses. The reasons for student dropouts were also discussed.
Last month, the Lok Sabha was informed that 33 students took their own lives at IITs, which was the highest among other higher education institutions over a period of five years. Nearly half of these students were those belonging to SC, ST, and OBC communities.
Two student suicides rocked the IIT-Bombay and IIT-Madras campuses this February, one after the other (on February 12 and 13). The family of first-year Dalit student Darshan Solanki at IIT-Bombay had alleged caste discrimination against him as the cause behind the suicide. While the institute had denied the charges, a police investigation into the case is still on.
In March, another student ended his life at IIT-Madras.
Pradhan asked officials to ensure that students are allowed multiple options as per the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, while directing the higher education department for a “further detailed report and scheduling discussion on the matter”.
The council also agreed to enhance support to SC/ST students and decided to augment the tenure of support to female PhD students for an additional year.
Also, measures to overcome language barriers, which is another major problem seen across IITs, to reach out to students of rural India, and making teaching-learning available in regional languages including technological tools, were discussed. This was the council’s 55th meeting.
Another important issue on the agenda was the fast filling up of vacant faculty positions across these institutions. However, any decision on the restructuring of tuition fees, which was last done in 2016, though being on agenda did not find mention in the statement released by the ministry.
Disclaimer:This news piece may be triggering. If you or someone you know needs help, call any of these helplines: Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669, Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050, Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090, Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525, Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841, Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830, Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530, Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000, Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata)
Read all the Latest Education News here