Publicado: 12 octubre 2023 a las 12:03 am
Categorías: Noticias Asia
India/October 12, 2023/By: Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shaikh Azizur Rahman in Kota/Source: https://www.theguardian.com/
Suicides throw spotlight on gruelling culture of cramming for entrance exams and great burden placed on students.
For the 300,000 students who flock to Kota every year, this hot, dusty city in the Indian state of Rajasthan is a pressure cooker of performance, where 18 hours of study a day is common and where your exam marks are everything. Some will become India’s next generation of doctors and engineers; but for others, it will break them.
Kota has become known in recent decades as India’s “coaching capital”, where almost a dozen specialist institutes have sprung up offering intensive courses to prepare students for the highly competitive exams, either for medicine or engineering college. With 65% of India’s population of 1.4 billion people below the age of 35 and more young people pursuing higher education than anytime in its history, the stakes – and competition – have never been higher.
This year, more than 2 million people sat the entrance exam for medical college – known by the acronym Neet – competing for just 140,000 places, while more than 1 million students sat for the engineering exam in the hope of getting one of the 10,000 coveted places at the top technology institutes, known as IITs.
For the hundreds of thousands of students studying in the city, largely between the ages of 17 and 20, keeping up with the curriculum often means an eye-watering schedule. They work seven days a week and, in order to keep up, many said they started studying at 4am before attending six hours of classes, which accommodate around 300 students. They have an exam every two weeks, and are all publicly ranked according to their marks. “I don’t have time for friends or socialising. My books are my friends,” said Rani Kumari, 22, who is studying for her medical college exam.
“This is the most stressed city in all of India,” said Shree Kumar Verma, 19, who is preparing for his Neet exam at the Allen Career Institute, the largest coaching school in Kota. “Everywhere you look, you can see the desperation of young people in this country. So many have this dream to be a doctor or an engineer and they will go to very intense hardship to get there. Being at Kota is either going to bring you success or totally break you down; it’s all or nothing here.”
Nowhere is this desire for success more visible than in the city’s Radha Krishna temple, where thousands of prayers are scribbled frantically on the walls. “Dear god give me success”, “Krishna ji, please stay with me, please keep my parents happy … please help me crack Neet 2024” and “God teach me how to work very hard” are among the messages written by students. The temple priest Pandit Radhe Shyam said he had to whitewash the walls every two weeks to make room for more.
Such is Kota’s ubiquity that it has been heralded by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, as India’s “kashi [holy city] of education”, and the coaching industry here is now worth an estimated 120bn rupees (£1.2bn). “Toppers”, those who achieve the highest marks in the country, are treated like celebrities, with their photographs plastered on vast billboards and awarded cash prizes of 100,000 rupees by their respective colleges, which compete fiercely to dominate the top rankings.