More counsellors, helplines for students to beat exam blues

State education board realises counselling as important as disseminating info after observing increase in stress-related calls

As there has been an increase in the number of stress-related calls made to counsellors on the state education board's helpline numbers by students, this year the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) has deployed extra counsellors.

The board has also started additional helplines for students to help them handle stress and anxiety before and during board exams. With exams commencing from this week, the board has issued directives to its eight divisions across the state to establish counselling centres and set up helplines for students at their respective divisional offices.

Unlike previous years, where the helplines mostly provided information to students and parents over issues related to hall ticket, subjects and centres, among others, this year the board decided to increase the number of stress-related helplines for Pune division as several private counsellors are voluntarily offering help.

"Unlike previous years, where we used our helplines only for administration queries, this year we have set up additional helplines and deployed extra counsellors for students. Students across the state can seek help from the experts we have appointed at the Pune division," said Shahaji Dhekane, secretary of MSBSHSE.

According to private counsellors, this year each of them has been attending to over 50 calls per shift as compared to previous years. "Stress during exams is common. Everyday we get to hear repeated complaints like how they (students) keep forgetting answers or how they are finding subjects difficult," said a psychologist from Wandrewala Foundation, who is one of the counsellors.

Counsellors also added that this year, most of the students are under immense pressure due to the introduction of the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) concept by the MSBSHSE for Std X to promote application-oriented studies of math and science, as the students are clueless about the kind questions they can expect.

"Rather than students, it is their parents and teachers who are more scared of HOTS, which is nothing but high thinking information application," said Dhekane. Last month, the board had published a special issue of its monthly magazine Shikshan Sankraman, to inform students and teachers about HOTS.

Some city psychiatrists said that these days, students to beat anxiety are turning to anti-anxiety and anti-depressant pills, which could be harmful in the long run. "Due to high stress, students don't get adequate sleep and just to keep themselves awake during daytime they take such tablets, which could be dangerous. I have come across several such cases," stated Dr Batul Sahni, a psychiatrist.

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