Positives and Negatives of Peer Pressure in comtemporary education system

The life of man is a never-ending race. No sooner than you learn to walk, you are expected to start sprinting. And at times, many sprinters succumb to the cut-throat competition, with only a handful stealing the limelight. The rest mostly drown into the trap of drugs, alcohol and suicidal tendencies. And a large part of the crisis doesn't arise due to pressure of syllabi or parent's expectations, but due to the pressure form peers.

What is peer pressure?
Peer pressure is the "influence that a peer group, observers or individual exerts that encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform the group norms". A large part of this pressure can today be attributed to the race of scoring better grades than one's peers. This hallmark of adolescent experience has grown into a menace that transcends all barriers of nationality, social setup and type of education curriculum. While the positive pressure does go a long way in shaping one's personality, the negative pressures leave no stone unturned to ruin the life of a student.

Positive peer pressure
Let's have a look at how positive pressure works. Imagine a school or college student who just doesn't understand the importance of good grades, until he one day comes across one of his seniors or acquaintances who tells him how vital are grades to get suitable jobs or to get admission in reputed colleges. This is further supplemented by a 1-hour long typical yet motivational speech by his parents on the importance of good assignment writting.. No wonder the student will perspire for brilliant grades on his report card which will eventually pay him off a few years later. I still remember that my excellent scores of matriculation and high-school still put me in a very strong position during interviews for jobs and those of B-schools.

Negative peer pressure
Let's now flip the coin. Suppose the same lecture given by his parents goes on to compel the child for scoring above a particular threshold. This is where negative pressure comes into play. It has been observed that such students also find themselves at the verge of falling into depression in case they find their peers running ahead of them and achieving more in academics. This adds to the mental anguish of the students. And believe it or not, such cases have also been reported to be aggravating incidence of suicides in the dejected students.

Ill-effects of negative peer pressure
The nuisance of negative peer pressure manifests itself in other forms too. In US and in a myriad of other countries, students who are not good at studies make fun of those students who try to work hard for grades. And the tools of this distraction come out to be coercion for alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and even unprotected sex. As a result of such destructive peer pressure, many supposed-to-excel students get their grades and their lives ruined.

Vital statistics
Can you believe a 2006 study by Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base estimated that every day 2,500 teens chose to abuse some type of pain reliever for the first time? In US, nearly 30% of teens are offered drugs in high school and 3.1 million smoke. What's shocking is that India has never carried out any extensive study on this burning issue.

The exigency of the hour is to establish counseling centers within each school and college to mentor the students struggling with grades and peer pressure. It is vital to create a positive learning environment in the educational institutions. Parents need to limit their expectations to a reasonable limit, spend quality time with their wards and look out for signs of negative peer pressure. It is an issue that calls for a collective effort by all stakeholders involved and is not something that can be left to students alone.

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