There are various instances that suggest that study and examinations are the root causes of stress and depression in students. A girl studying intermediate placed her hands on a railway track as she had performed badly in math and her parents scolded her. She died of excessive bleeding. In another incident, two teenage boys hanged themselves as one of them was lagging behind in his studies and the other was afraid to appear for his English language examination.
There are several such cases that highlight this fact. Academic stress is building on students and they are unable to bear the pressure, leading to them taking extreme steps, causing harm to themselves and to others. In this article, I would like to discuss a few other factors that add to the stress and anxiety in school students.
Parents’ unrealistic expectations, wanting their children to accomplish their dreams
From a young age, parents want their children to be exposed to all activities and excel in whatever they do. There are parents who expect ‘more’ in terms of performance each time from their children. It is only natural that parents would want the best for their child. But, the parents’ desires should not over-burden the child. Parents put a lot of pressure on their children knowingly or unknowingly. It is common for parents to force their children to take up science as it is their desire to see the child either as a doctor or as an engineer. The child’s interests perhaps lie elsewhere, but he/she is forced to enroll in a course of the parents’ choice. The child goes through a lot of anxiety, perhaps due to disinterest in the subject or lack of understanding. The child feels the pressure of securing good marks which are necessary for them to gain entry into reputed colleges or universities.
Excessive use of mobile phones and computers
We live in a technology driven world. There are new inventions everyday. There are student apps, student forums, interactive classes that help children in their quest for knowledge by making information available at the click of a button. They are able to access information on any topic making learning so much easier. Though this is a boon for students, there are negative aspects as well. Today, children sit glued to the computer or are so engrossed with their mobile phones or laptops that they do not have the time to interact with family or friends. This has ill-effects. After a tiring and stressful day at school, if children stay away from people it becomes difficult for them to discuss their problems either with family or with friends. This starts eating into them causing emotional conflicts and thus growing into bigger problems. They get detached from the real world and live in the virtual world, falling prey to the evils of social media.
Unpreparedness at the time of tests and examinations are a major contributor to stress in students. When the child is unprepared, there is uncertainty in their performance. The child spends long hours trying to finish studying, thus missing out on the required amount of sleep, leisure time, and even meals. Last minute studying causes stress and anxiety as the child is racing against time.
Right from an early age, parents instill in their children the importance of excelling at everything they do. There are times when a child who has been the topper in class has not done well due to reasons like sudden ill-health, death of a family member or other unforeseen events. When parents, teachers, friends, and relatives fail to understand and begin to question the child’s abilities and knowledge, it upsets the child. This unhappiness and sadness can cause the child to withdraw from routine activities or to take calculative steps in harming him/herself or the child who performed better.
Over-emphasis on extracurricular activities
Most parents want their children to master all activities at an early age. Children spend most of their day in school. Once school is over, parents either send their children for tuition or have a tutor who comes home to teach the child. The child hardly has any time to sit back and relax after a hard and tiring day at school. The child is also enrolled for various extracurricular activities. The child’s day does not end with school and tuition. Instead, the child will have to go for swimming, painting, dancing, or sport classes. By the time the child gets back home, it is time for dinner and then sleep. The child has no time for anything else. No time with friends, to watch TV, or even to just relax. The child has a list of activities that need to be completed by the end of the day. If the child fails to keep pace with the scheduled routine, he/she will be reprimanded by the parents or teachers leading to frustration and stress.
Punishment in school
This is yet another reason for student stress and anxiety. Students are punished for indiscipline, bad behaviour, incomplete work, late arrival and for not following the rules of the school. In some schools, students are insulted and beaten in front of other students and teachers or are made to stand outside the class. The child goes through a lot of humiliation and embarrassment. Though corporal punishment is not supposed to be practiced in schools, there are schools that practice it even today. There have been examples where teachers have physically abused children or beaten them to death.
Parents and schools have an important role to play in the life of a student. They need to build a relationship of trust with the child and stand by him/her not just during the good times, but through the bad as well.
- Is Exam the sole factor causing stress among students in India? (2014). Retrieved from http://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/education/is-exam-the-sole-factor-causing-stress-among-students-in-india
- Causes of Exam Stress in Children.(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.indiaparenting.com/stress-and-depression-in-children/493_4525/causes-of-exam-stress-in-children.html
- Academic Stress, Parental Pressure, Anxiety and Mental Health among Indian High School Students.(n.d.). Retrieved from http://article.sapub.org/10.5923.j.ijpbs.20150501.04.html
The author is a teacher of sociology and history in a well-known school in Bengaluru. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership and Management from a reputed university in Bengaluru. She enjoys learning about the challenges and triumphs in education and believes in sharing ideas to extend her understanding. She can be reached at [email protected].