In the Indian state of Telangana, the results of intermediate examination results for 12th graders, which are crucial for college admissions in India, were released on April 18, 2019. In the next seven days, at least 18 of the students who received grades took their own lives, leading to a widespread protest among parents and students who claimed many low marks were in error. Some students even said they were marked absent though they attended and submitted an exam. As a result, the Telangana government ordered more than 300,000 tests to be reassessed, and as reported by The News Minute, “A three-member committee, formed by the government to probe the fiasco, found that the BIE [Board of Intermediate Education] and Globarena Technologies, the IT firm whose services were hired by the BIE, both committed mistakes in preparing the results.
The Board of Intermediate Education claimed that almost half the students who committed suicide already had poor academic records, so they should not have been surprised by their poor marks. Ten of the students had failed more than one subject. Moreover, the board said, these students likely were depressed or troubled already, hence their grade troubles.
As Independent reported, the family of G. Nagendra disputed this assessment, saying that while their son had been somewhat depressed and withdrawn–not unusual among adolescents–they never thought he would take his own life. They also didn’t believe he failed his math test, because math was his favorite subject.
This story occupied the attention of the establishment global media for only a short while. Initial reports from sources such as CNN, Fox, the BBC, the New York Post, and Vice differed in the number of suicides claimed to have resulted from the exams. The obvious parallels in other nations—including, for example the pressures of standardized testing and the public-health problem of adolescent suicide in the United States—went largely unexplored.
“Telangana Inter Board Says the Academic Record of Students Who Committed Suicide Was Poor,” Hindu BusinessLine, May 6, 2019, https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/telangana-inter-board-says-academic-record-of-students-who-committed-suicide-was-poor/article27050445.ece.
“Hyderabad: Inter Panel Says Marks Weren’t Cause of Suicide,” Deccan Chronicle, May 5, 2019, https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/060519/hyderabad-inter-panel-says-marks-werent-cause-of-suicide.html.
Saptarshi Ray, “‘We Never Thought He Would Take His Life’: 18 Students Kill Themselves after Failing Exams,” Independent, April 25, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-student-suicides-failed-exams-telangana-state-school-pressure-a8886551.html.
“Student Deaths in Telangana Due to Poor Grades and Not Due to Fiasco: Inter Board,” The News Minute, May 6, 2019, https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/student-deaths-telangana-due-poor-grades-and-not-due-fiasco-inter-board-101274.
Student Researcher: Maysa Oliver (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)