“My son is struggling with his studies! He is not scoring well. Recently I found that he is very much stressed! Please counsel him” a worried father emailed me!
This is a common problem that we see in the recent times! In my counselling career of nearly 2 and half years, I have found many students, especially in professional courses, struggling with their curriculum and performing poor in the exams. Generally the basic issue behind this problem is that they join those courses against their will. Parents want them to become engineers or doctors and hence they get admitted into the colleges in order to keep up the status of the family.
As per the official statistics from Ministry of Human Resource Development, 42.5 lakh students have enrolled to Engineering courses across the country in 2015 – 16 out of which 72% of the students are male. Top 5 sub streams are Mechanical Engineering with 10.9 lakh students, Computer Engineering with 7.6 Lakh students, Electronics Engineering with 7.4 Lakh students, Civil Engineering with 6.3 lakh students and Electrical Engineering with 4.7 Lakh students enrolled. Since less percentage of students are passionate about engineering, the engineering studies start becoming a burden to the rest!
Presuming that this is also a similar case, I started my counselling for my client! But the issue which I found is really worrisome and I felt that it is worth sharing. The young man is studying mechanical engineering in a prestigious college. He was a very good student till 12th! He had got good marks! He took mechanical engineering based on his interest vis-a-vis other so called ‘lot of scope subjects’ like Electronics or Computer Science and joined this branch. Despite being an active learner, who asked questions and cleared his doubts in the class itself, he flunked in two subjects in the first semester! His parents were surprised about his result. They wanted to comfort him and give moral support to him. Initially they thought that it might be because of homesickness as he had not stayed away from home till 12th! However, they were little worried because, that could have reduced the marks to some level, but not to the extent of failing in the subject!
Though he passed all the subjects in the second semester, the marks were very low! Parents thought that he needed some more time to cope with the course! When they got to know that their ward was very much stressed in studies even in third semester, they thought of taking him for counselling.
He opened up during counselling to tell the actual reason for his poor performance in first year! In engineering, students from all departments have to study all subjects in the first year! So, teachers from other departments also come and teach. It was their attitude which had impacted the young boy.
As we can see discrimination between science, commerce and arts students in other degree colleges, there is discrimination between different branches of engineering! The teachers of Electronics and Communications (E&C) or computer science (CS) have developed a negative opinion about mechanical engineering students! They brand them to be rude, rough and ‘not so studious’. Because of this preconceived notion, the teachers from other departments were openly contemptuous towards mechanical engineering students in the class.
This complaint of the student was supported by the statements of some lecturers working in other institutions.
“They join engineering college only to enjoy and not to learn. They are not studious at all” said Namrata* who is a lecturer of computer science in a prestigious college in Bengaluru.
“I hate going to mechanical engineering classroom. It is a waste of time and energy. But what to do, we have to take class for them. So we simply go, tell whatever is there in the syllabus and come. I don’t care if they really listen! Because they hardly listen! I just do my duty” said Reshma* who teaches Information Technology in another college in Noida.
Similar attitude was seen among some other lecturers too with whom I interacted to understand the reality.
Such prejudiced treatment from the teachers had caused an intense disturbance of thoughts for my client. He had developed hatred towards those subjects! He started questioning the very need to study other subjects when he his purpose is to learn mechanical engineering!
When these thoughts dominated, the actual studies of the subjects got compromised and he flunked in those subjects! It was a shocker to the parents! The failure created a trauma for the student as he had to face criticism from the teachers and he had no answer for his parents. It was difficult for him to explain the real problem behind the failure to either parents or teachers! He consoled his parents and assured them that he will clear the subject in the upcoming semester! He tried to cope with the problem but continued to struggle with it, which created tension in his mind. This is how a bright boy had turned out to be a poor chap!
Who is responsible for his failure!? Is it he himself? Is it his parents? Is it his teachers? Is it the system? If we think from a broader perspective, there are lot of flaws in the education system itself. That is another debate altogether. However, if we look into this specific case, what we find is that the behaviour of a teacher influences the student’s learning capabilities! This instance is a clear indicator on how the preconceived notions and generalizations of teachers have resulted in reduction in desire to learn the subject! That means, the students need much more from teachers apart from teaching of the syllabus. The positive attitude of a teacher will definitely help in developing a liking for a subject!
The labelling causes tension in the minds of the students. They don’t take such criticisms as a challenge rather they take them as their fate! This in turn results in poor performance in academics as well as other activities.
The discrimination between the disciplines should be removed from the minds of the teachers, parents as well as students. Every subject has its own importance and every subject needs its own skill to understand. An expert in science may understand nothing about accountancy! Or an expert in science may not be able to narrate the history and culture of a country! Like each labour has its own dignity, each discipline has its own dignity too. Let there be no superior – inferior relations among them!
The lag that my client had faced in the first year continued in the second year too. The reason is very simple that he had to handle the subjects of first year along with the second year! That too, along with a badge of ‘failure’ with him, which he had not faced anytime in his life. It had created an emotional stress on him! This pushed him towards addiction of cigarettes! The whole thing had turned into a mess!
Thankfully his parents understood the need of counselling for their son and approached, which helped in addressing the problem. But there are so many students who are intelligent but end up in similar mess with no help for themselves from anyone.
Going by the data, mechanical engineering has largest number of students among all streams of engineering. It is a miserable situation if all these students are being subjected to similar prejudices! Then there is a bigger question, “what kind of engineers are we creating in larger number!?”
So teachers will have to think from multiple angles. If a student evolves his intellect, then he will be a resource for the country. If not, he will be a burden! Unemployment rate is rising because of unemployable candidates and not just less number of job creation.
Let us create a positive atmosphere all around so that the whole learning process, from primary education to higher education, would bear sweet fruits. Teachers play an important role in this regard. If they give good guidance, they can make wonders!
*Names have been changed to maintain privacy.
Psychologist and Founder
Mano Samvaada (manosamvaada.com)