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Decoded: The parental pressure to get into IITs


Entrance exams for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) cause much stress for Indian families. Parents often consider these exams as the culmination of several years of investment in their children’s studies. But a study finds that the parents’ intention behind all this time and effort differs across socio-economic class groups.

The study by Ravinder Kaur of IIT Delhi is based on a survey of 107 IIT students enrolled in 2015. Socio-economic and demographic data related to their families was taken and questions were asked about their parents’ role in their schooling and preparation for the entrance exams.

Parents from the lower middle class see an engineering degree from an IIT as the last step in their children’s education, hoping they will take high-paying jobs right after graduation and look after their parents. This reflects the parents’ desire for economic security and mobility, and the IIT degree becomes a way for their kids to not be in farming or small businesses like they were.

For upper middle-class parents though, the B.Tech. from an IIT is seen as just a first degree, to be followed by further technical education or an MBA. These are parents who have ensured their own economic security, so their efforts are about ensuring their kids have successful careers, this success being acknowledged by others, and their family’s status getting elevated.

The study also finds mothers shouldering a greater share of the burden. Many are homemakers helping kids with homework and making sure they stay away from phones and TV. Some even move with them to Kota, an entrance exam coaching hub, to take care of them as they study, research finds. This contribution goes unrecognized because of the traditional expectation from mothers to put their family first.

Also read: “Gendered parenting and returns from children in contemporary India: A study of IIT students and their parents”

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