Indian entrance exams Manan Vatsyayana/Stringer

India’s Deadly Entrance Exams

India's renowned Kota coaching institutes – whose sole purpose is to prepare high-school students for brutally difficult university entrance examinations – have produced nine suicides this year, and 56 in the last five years. This is what happens when an entire country commits to a perverse conception of academic excellence.

NEW DELHI – In late April, a 17-year-old girl named Kriti Tripathi leaped to her death in Kota, India, shortly after passing the country’s examination for admission to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). A week later, another Kota student, Preeti Singh, hanged herself, succumbing to her injuries after a few days. Singh’s was the ninth suicide by a student in Kota this year alone, and the 56th in the last five. All attended Kota’s “coaching institutes,” whose sole purpose is to prepare high-school students for the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (JEE).

In a five-page suicide note, Tripathi expressed her frustration at having been compelled to study engineering, when her real ambition was to become a NASA scientist. She also described the pressure she had faced at the coaching institution. Tripathi implored the Human Resource Development Ministry to shut down such institutes, which force their students to endure unbearable stress and depression. The story is all too common, but should the blame really be laid on the coaching institutes?

In fact, Kota’s coaching institutes are a symptom of a larger problem, hinted at by the city’s senior administrator, District Collector Ravi Kumar Surpur, in an emotional letter he wrote in response to the latest deaths. Addressing parents directly, Surpur pleaded with them not to subject their children to excessive stress in an attempt to live vicariously through them.

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