Saturday, May 25, 2024

Stress, Depression, and Suicide: A Look at the Dark Side of the Modern Education System

Priyal Dholakia

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela’s profound quote has a powerful impact. 

But modern statistics paint a different picture.

According to the WHO, suicide is the world’s second-leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds. Studies show that the following factors cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors in students:

●      fear of failure

●      academic stress

●      pressure to succeed

Schoolchildren aren’t the only ones affected by these problems. These difficulties are plaguing students in colleges as well. There is a reported rise in depression and stress among college students, too. Estimates claim that one in every three college students suffer from depression.

Our educational system has a lot to contribute to these growing issues among students. The high stakes, constant evaluation, and competition are putting tremendous pressure on them. The following examples will indeed shock you.

●      South Korea has one of the world’s highest student suicide rates. Many experts attribute this to the country’s intense academic pressure and competition.

●      In China, academic performance pressure has led to high stress and depression in students. This has resulted in increased suicide rates in many cases.

●      In India, the pressure to perform and secure a job is causing stress and depression in students. Experts link this stress to many recent student suicides.

●      The American College Health Association conducted a similar study. It found that one in every twelve college students in the United States has made a suicide plan. And one in every fifty has attempted suicide in the previous year. The study says 30% of college students feel so depressed that it’s difficult for them to function.

It is important to note that these are just a few examples. Student suicides, depression, and stress due to modern education are worldwide concerns. It is affecting students across all countries.

How is the modern education system causing stress and depression among students?

The rise in students’ depression and suicide rates relates to flaws in our education system. The modern system of education leads to stress and depression in students in many ways.

●       High academic expectations

The modern educational system places a high value on academic achievement. This puts students under intense pressure to perform well. They face constant pressure from parents, teachers, and peers. This results in rising stress, anxiety, and depression among them.

●       Standardized testing

Many educational systems rely on standardized testing to assess student performance and progress. This can lead to a “teaching to the test” mentality. Due to this, students only focus on memorizing information to pass a test, rather than learning for the sake of learning. This can be demotivating and stressful for students.

●       Lack of flexibility

Modern education systems can be rigid and inflexible. This makes it difficult for students to learn at their own pace. They are unable to adapt to their individual learning styles. This can lead to feelings of frustration and inadequacy. This, in turn, contributes to depression and stress.

●       Lack of social-emotional support

Students in most modern educational systems don’t get enough emotional and mental support. They are not taught how to manage stress and emotions. This can lead to feelings of isolation and hopelessness.

●       Too much emphasis on competition

Modern education systems often encourage competition among students. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. Instead of cooperating, students compete with each other. This can be for grades, scholarships, and other opportunities.

●       Lack of physical activities

Physical education and physical activities are often undervalued in many modern education systems. This can make students sedentary and more vulnerable to mental health issues.

Remote learning and online classes have also added to the stress and depression. Students are unable to socialize, interact, and get support from peers and teachers.

Such factors compel us to think:

Even if a student manages to succeed in the modern education system, is it worth it?

The question of whether success in the modern educational system is “worth it” is a subjective one. Many argue that it arms us with higher-paying jobs, career advancement, and fulfilment. But, it comes with a cost of intense pressure and stress associated with it. It harms a person’s mental and physical health, relationships, and well-being.

Academic success should not determine a person’s worth or happiness. There are many paths to success and fulfilment in life, and what works for one person may not work for another.

It’s also worth noting that today’s education system isn’t designed to meet the needs of all students. The system can be rigid, and not all students learn best in a traditional classroom setting. Alternative forms of education may be more appropriate for some students, like vocational training, apprenticeships, or self-directed learning. Individuals must check the costs and benefits of today’s education system. This helps them make an informed decision about their own education and career goals.

The damage caused by the current educational system is not irreversible. Education institutes must recognize the potential negative effects of excessive pressure on students. They should take steps to address these issues. They can do so by

●      promoting mental health and wellbeing

●      fostering a more collaborative learning environment

●      giving students more opportunities to pursue their interests and passions.

To meet the needs of all students, the education system should also focus on:

●      more flexibility

●      social-emotional support

●      individualized learning approach

●      greater emphasis on physical activities

●      focus on critical thinking and problem solving

Above all, there is a pressing need to introduce something like the Vedic system of education (gurukuls). We need to reconnect to our roots and reiterate the spirit of learning in students. Want to know why? Read on to find out.

Why do we need to go back to our ancient gurukul system?

The Vedic system of education is also known as the gurukul system. It is a traditional system of education followed in ancient India. It emphasizes personal mentorship, close student-teacher relationships, and a holistic approach to education. It enshrines the essence of community living and learning. The guru or teacher serves as the student’s mentor and guide.

Many regard it as an effective system of teaching and learning. They argue that returning to this system would have several advantages, including:

● Greater emphasis on personal development and character development than academic achievement

Students in the gurukul system lived and studied with their teachers. The teachers served as mentors and guides. This close relationship allowed for more emphasis on personal growth and character development.

●   Stronger bonds between students and teachers, fostering a sense of community and belonging

Students and teachers lived and studied together in gurukuls. This developed a sense of community and belonging among them. This close relationship may lead to improved student understanding and cooperation.

●      More focus on traditional values and cultural heritage

The gurukul system emphasized traditional values and cultural heritage. This may be beneficial for preserving and promoting cultural identity and tradition.

●      Increased emphasis on practical learning

The gurukul system emphasized practical experience, apprenticeship, and hands-on training. This prepared students for real-world challenges and careers.

Some of the other reasons why reviving the Vedic system of education is important include:

●       Holistic development

This system focuses on the student’s holistic development. This includes their intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being too. Also, this approach can help develop well-rounded individuals. Such individuals are capable of leading fulfilling and meaningful lives.

●       Personalized learning

The guru tailors the education to the student’s specific needs, abilities, and interests. This allows for more personalized and effective learning and a sense of student empowerment. Owing to a customized learning approach, the learner is able to realize his or her full potential.

●       Strong mentor-student relationship

This system encourages the development of a strong mentor-student relationship. It can provide guidance, support, and encouragement to the student. Such a relationship serves as a positive role model for the student. It fosters a sense of belonging and community too.

●       Cultural and moral values

This system emphasizes the value of cultural and moral values. It strives to instill the same in students. This aids in developing responsible and ethical citizens. Such citizens persevere to make a positive difference in the world.

The gurukul system encourages self-discovery and self-reflection. This can assist students in developing a sense of purpose and direction in life. Such an approach can also foster a sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. Both can be beneficial to personal growth and development.

 The youth of today needs nerves of iron, muscles of steel, and a mind like a thunderbolt. To create gems out of stones and diamonds out of rocks, we need to revert to our ancient system in today’s time.


The modern challenges we are facing today call for ancient ways of living. Our time-tested and sustained practices hold a cure for almost every problem we face. It’s high time we, as a society, accept, acknowledge, and revive our age-old wisdom. And embrace it to tread on the path of knowledge enlightenment.

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