Suicide, the 4th leading cause of death in the 15-19 age group in south Indian students. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year old’s and the second leading cause of death among college students (Arria et al. 2009). What are we doing here? How can education be related to such statistics? Moreover, how can we accept this?

Well I refuse to. Even if we see the above cases as extremes, we are as a society actively pushing our kids into enormous amounts of debt[1], high pressure environment and a situation with one of the highest chances of alcohol and drug abuse (Cheung et al.). Why are we risking so much?

We are caught in the rat race of believing: Get good education → Get a good job → Live a happy life. Well, that might have been true at some point but it’s not anymore.

I studied in 3 countries and finished my Master’s degree just a week ago. I remember the times I got my degrees. Future grads, I hate to break it to you. You will feel nothing. I was about as happy as a circus lion would be after jumping on a ball and trying to balance, probably thinking, “Why the fuck am I balancing on a ball instead of chasing a zebra?”. In all the countries I have been to, all the students I have talked to, I found one thing in common. Everyone involved in education was upset. Students were upset about the system making them into photo copy machines and there was no learning, only memorizing. Researchers were upset about the fact that they had to teach and teachers about the fact that they had to produce research. Don’t get me wrong, there were some amazing teachers who shaped me into the person I am now. But that was in spite of the system, not because of it. We are guilty, guilty of killing individuality and creativity. How did we come to this? How is education doing the exact opposite of what it is supposed to do?

I believe that the flaw lies in the centralized, structured system which focuses on the wrong thing. The fact that one teacher can teach the same syllabus to hundreds of students for over a period 10 years is not only massively flawed but also extremely arrogant. Any classroom you walk into these days is a lecture hall, not a learning environment. We need to change the structure of classes from one person teaching everyone to everyone teaching everyone. What if the students decide what they want to learn ? What if we change the focus from “Getting a Job” to “being happy and healthy”? Finland is a great example of good education. With small working groups, short school days as well as a focus on individuality and creativity they train kids for life, not for a desk job. And here is the best part; almost no homework.

There is a need to introduce life skills like nutrition, health, cooking, finance, money management, public speaking… The list goes on. We as educators, parents and policy makers should catch up. Catch up to the use of technology, positive psychology and the application of knowledge instead of gathering of information. There is no single solution to this problem but through focusing on health and happiness, we can come up with creative ways to build the future generation to be healthier, happier and excited for work they choose to do.

[1] North America, England, Australia, New Zealand etc. charge ridiculous fees for college education.

– Written by Ashwin Phatak