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“Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure. I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence”. The current study data analyzed through thematic analysis revealed six major themes. These include Health issues, Flaws within the education system, societal pressure, parental influence and guidance, Educational setting, and prioritization of mental health. Majority of the participants were found to have significant hardships in their journey and almost everyone was able to maintain an optimistic perspective in their journey. Different perspectives of an optimistic attitude were reported by participants.
“In health there is freedom, Health is the first of all liberties”. – Henri-Frederic Amiel. This theme focuses obstruction faced by participants during the preparation of competitive exam. Health being a major concern of a few participants led to a noticeable decline in their performance. Two participants revealed that they faced major health issues while preparing for their entrance exam. 23-year-old participant said: “I went into depression. I started thinking about it a lot and then gradually I went more down and down”. “I was diagnosed with acute depression at first and because of that I had to leave coaching and come back home and I did self-study but it was not enough especially when you are dealing with headache”.
Another participant of age 21 year reported: “I was diagnosed with vascular headache because of stress and slowly it spread in my whole body, I was on medication and because of the steroids present in them I used to sleep the whole day and I did not study enough”. Health plays a noteworthy role in every individual’s life. It constraints the capability of a human being both physically and mentally.
To treat mental ailments is as essential as the treatment of physical ailments. Participants who faced health issues in their journey mentioned that improper health posed as a stumbling block in their preparation and made them recognize the role of healthy mind and body in their lives.
Since the higher secondary school itself, the students are forced to look upon lucrative career paths and are not motivated to follow what they actually want to pursue. And if the student wants to continue in their course of action in spite of difficulty and opposition they have to convince the entire society before going ahead with it. In India, a student has to appear for many entrance and qualifying exams within a short span of 4-5 years after leaving school and in the process the student loses interest in sports and other creative pursuits. 24-year-old participant said: “When I was in 11th standard, I thought of doing fashion designing but as it was not considered a secure career I had to choose commerce stream and go ahead with it”.
Another participant told: “I went against my family and took admission in IHM to do hotel management but then again everyone persuaded me against it or mujhe wapas aana pada because ye subjects ki koi importance nhi hai” 23 year old participant said: “I switched to three fields before I finally settled for UPSC. 12th mei maine arts stream li so that I can go into graphic designing but then again aajkal to sab government services or CA or Engineers ko hi puchte hai to I also started preparing for UPSC. Although I have cleared my UPPCS mains exams but still I have this dream of doing something in that field too”.
Few participants showed their disliking towards the education system and how it affected their career choices. They also felt that if all the subjects and career paths were equally valued and recognized in our country, they might have opted for something that made them happy.
Students preparing for highly competitive exams go through emotional turmoil during the phase of their preparation. The biggest challenge in front of them seems to be their competitors but the criticism one receives from their family, friends, teachers, and other close ones can be really disheartening for them and can make them fall flat on the surface before they even begin. A participant aged 22 years reported: “There came a point of time, when I did not clear my exam and I had been preparing for 2 years, that time I nearly faced criticism from everyone, koi bhi kuch bhi bol kar chala jata tha”.
Almost every participant received criticism during their preparation. Some participants had a positive effect of the criticism which further pushed them to enhance themselves and do better in the areas where they were lacking behind whereas some of them felt really demotivated by the criticism they received. A participant aged 25 years said: “whenever my relatives used to pin point my failure I made sure that I put my 200%in that particular area and improve my performance and give them blow back in their face”.
Success is hard to achieve. It takes time, perseverance, and discipline to succeed. Coaching classes have gained immense popularity in the metropolitan cities of India in recent times. There are classes catering to diverse needs in terms of different courses, varying timings and locations and course material requirements. Coaching classes, which were initially viewed as a last option to understanding course matter, have slowly evolved into a necessity of sorts for students. Classes providing guidance on every course and field of study are now available to students with great facilities in terms of locations, timings and method of instruction based on their needs and wants. One participant said: “coaching ne mjhe personally kaafi help kiya, kaafi basics bhi the jo mere clear nhi the or unhone clear kiye or unhoe mjhe strategic plans btaye ki tum aise aise inko improve kar sakte ho to coaching mere liye to kaafi beneficial raha join karna”. Another participant revealed: “so according to me it’s according to the capability of students if they are able to grasp some information by themselves and it’s ok for me I can’t do that so I need a coaching”.
Self-study is important aspect of effective learning. According to every participant, self-study is one of the most important things not only to qualify for an examination but it is also important to acquire practical approach of theoretical information. It is the key to success according to almost everyone. Moreover, in order to qualify an exam self-study is inevitable. One participant said: “I feel that self-study mere liye itni important hai ki agar mai bahar 10 ghante bhi pdhlu or ghar aakar self-study na karu to vo mere liye waste hai”.
Almost every participant emphasized the importance of self-study in their interview. They gave different reasons as to why self-study is beneficial for them.
Another major theme of our study is parental influence and guidance. The participants in their interview reported how much important is parental support for them. It not only motivated them to do better but also helped them to overcome their failures. The participants revealed that when they felt supported and loved by their parents, they had more confidence in their own abilities to conquer their fears which led to positive results. One participant aged 22 years said: “motivating factor the mere papa matlab jo most positive man hai meri life mei ya aajtak bhi maine dekha hai, papa bas humesha yahi bolte the mujhe ki matlab ki medical entrance nhi chaiye tu zinda chaiye zaroori nahi doctor banna bs tu chaiye”. Another participant said: “whenever I was low I used to talk to my dad, so every time I use to have a doubt that am I a right person or do I have that potential to deal with this, I always use to seek refuge in my dad and he made me believe in myself and his faith in me made me believe in myself”.
One participant aged 20 years: “I always thought I am a good student, I mean I am good in studies pr agar parents ne bhi sath diya hota to acha hota, abhi thoda emotional support kum hai” Those participants who did not receive enough support from their parents found themselves more in stress. And parent’s disbelief in the participants made them question about their own abilities and potential. whereas those participants whose parents supported them were quite confident and even when they developed second thoughts about their capabilities, they found that their parents were always around to push them ahead to make them realize their goals.
“Mental health isn’t all of me, but it is a massive part of my journey, it is a massive part of my whole being” – Adwoa Aboah. Mental health plays a significant role in every individual’s life. It is as important as physical health and deserves the same quality of support and attention. In this study, most participants acknowledged the importance of mental health. One participant said: “it is very important you need time for yourself you need to love yourself, 2-3 days break once in every 2 months is very crucial and again when you get back to study you feel refreshed” Another participant told: “it is more about awareness, there are people who are unfamiliar with this issue and it is more in India nobody discusses about it thinking it is a very minute issue, no one discusses about it” Most of the participants felt that they were not provided with any guidance about mental health. And they understand how important the issue of mental health is, especially in today’s time, where everyone is so much engrossed and consumed in the humdrum of daily life.
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