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EDITORIAL

Coaching Flourishes as Education Suffers

Coaching

Priyanka Deka

Coaching classes started as an industry not long ago, and by 2019, there are uncountable coaching centers across India for IIT-JEE, AIEEE, DCE, BITS, Medical entrance, Civil Services exams and so on. It has become a common choice for students nowadays to join a coaching institute as the teachers at their school/college/varsity  don’t make them prepare for competitive examinations like JEE, CEE, Banking, SSC,UPSC, APSC etc.

Students are also taking coaching classes for 11th and 12thstandards. This is due to minimum cut-offs at the high 90 percent and above range. Every student can’t get such marks, thus there is need for extra coaching in all subjects to run the race for a livelihood. Students believe they get better individual attention as compared to classroom teaching, so they opt for coaching.

However, the coaching centres are more about doing business than imparting genuine education. They create attractive advertisements with photographs of toppers, promising new students they will be able to crack the examination. But, it is not so easy. In Guwahati, lots of coaching institutions are available which has become a trend, as it’s an easy way to increase business further. Even parents encourage the students to join a coaching institute without investigating about it thoroughly. Coaching institutes are booming because of the blind faith of students as well as parents.

A recent study conducted by ASSOCHAM reveals that 70% of parents from the uppermost to the bottom stratums of social hierarchy are in favour of spending or donating a hefty sum to these coaching institutes in the name of education. They believe that coaching classes help their wards in preparing for competitive exams or the only gateway for securing admission in prestigious institutes like Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM). Sounds like a quick fix, isn’t it?

With such customer support, trust and willingness to spend among the parents, coaching institutes seem to be a recession-proof industry. IIT-JEE (IIT-Joint Entrance Examination) has only 5,500 seats, but every year more than 3,00,000 students appear for this gruelling examination. AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Examination) just have 9,000 seats but it is no surprise that more than 5,25,000 students take the test. More than 1,70,000 appear for the All India Pre Medical Test (AIPMT) for a mere 1,600 seats. Such are the sad ratios of the total number of students appearing to the total number of seats available. However, almost everyone is attending coaching classes hoping to be a winner.

Not just high school or college students, primary school children too are going for private tutoring in droves. Why is this happening? If teachers clear the basic concepts of a particular topic in class rather than giving them notes, or take some extra classes to help prepare them for entrance tests or competitive examinations, the coaching business would not become a craze. Private schools have always encouraged their children to go for coaching, but the menace has caught on in government schools as well. The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and the Navodaya Vidyalaya Sangathan, which have performed best as a chain of schools in the CBSE examinations, also arrange extra classes for ‘weaker’ as well as ‘gifted’ children.

It is now common knowledge that schools organise extra help during vacations for students to perform better. This has two aspects — one, that they are not teaching effectively enough in the regular classes; and two, that parents have a notion they have to spend extra for kids to perform well in the Board exams and get admission to a good college. Here, the second aspect needs to be highlighted — the ‘coaching’ phenomenon. During the 1970’s, students who took private coaching were looked down upon as ‘unintelligent’. But by the end of the 20th century, it became a status symbol of sorts to opt for private coaching.

As for the teachers, when they are earning a heavy amount from coaching compared to the low and stagnant salaries paid by the schools, why will they put their everything in the school? We need to understand the efforts of teachers for which they need to be paid at par with any other profession in the market. The employment problem is also solved as coaching institutes hire freshers or unemployed youths as teachers, receptionists and in different posts. But in the end, many such institutes also become unable to provide them salary because of financial issues.

The parents’ role too has changed. Earlier, they would sit with their children and help them out with the lessons. But these days, with both parents working hard to make ends meet, they are unable to devote time to help further their children’s studies.

According to Business Line, the report noted that in 2007-08. students living in rural India paid Rs 1,456 and their counterparts in urban areas paid 2,349 per month on average for private coaching. There is no particular scheme available for economically backward students, for which coaching becomes a burden for parents.

The buzz around coaching centres is exemplified by the Super 30 group, under the banner of Ramanujan School of Mathematics, Indian educational programme which was founded by Anand Kumar, a mathematics teacher and Abhy Anand, a former DGP of Bihar. The program selects 30 underprivileged students by conducting entrance test and shapes them for JEE. The coaching, food and lodging is provided free of cost. “In my view, it is an indicator of the failing education system, which is not able to cater to the needs of students. Naturally, they look for alternatives,” —  said Anand Kumar, in the course of an interview to Business Line.

There was a time when students would not be certified unless they completed their course and their knowledge was tested comprehensively. Nowadays, they can get their certificates without finishing the course, which is a drawback of the mushrooming coaching culture. There are also different types of NGOs and other educational programmes providing free education, which also includes awareness on different topics such as sanitation and hygiene, science and technology, self defence etc.

We just can’t blame the coaching institutes for this state of affairs, so it’s better that students become more aware while selecting an institute to help lead them towards their goal. But in the longer term, unless the education in schools and colleges improves, the coaching industry will only grow.