An Accepted Symbiosis

By Jyots Bhattacharjee

The issue of private tuition has often popped up like a bad penny at intervals since the last few years. The controversy regarding private tuition is nothing new. This social malady has rocked the educatiol scerio like an earthquake now and then. Many people condemn the practice of private tuition—yet the irony is that they send their own children to these classes. It does show that hypocrisy is our middle me and there is no consistency between what we say and what we do. Many states have banned private tuition. But does this stop us from seeking tutors for our children, even at the primary level? It has been abundantly clear that private tuition cannot be disposed of so easily, since it has become almost a tradition with the students and their parents to accept it as a matter of course. The situation is such that a student cannot dream of passing an examition without a private tutor guiding him throughout the session. The way the tutorial homes have sprouted in every nook and corner of the city have made it abundantly clear that private tuition has become an integral part of our educatiol system.

Historically speaking, education, necessary for the holistic development for every individual and the country, remained the property of the elite class for a long time. To make it free from their clutches and universalize it, many initiatives have been taken in India over the years. However, it took more than 50 years to make it a fundamental right for every child in the constitution of India. Primary education has been made free, although in practical terms this implies only the waiving of the school tuition fees, to bring the socially, culturally and economically discrimited class of society within the folds of universal education. Universalization of education specially emphasizes the end of educatiol discrimition. But the question remains; Can it really do it?

Over time, there has been a simultaneous development of private tuition or the shadow education market. Private tuition is like a commodity you buy in the market, provided you can afford it. Shadow education grows silently in the shadow of main stream education. Most tutors prefer to remain unnoticed to enjoy untaxed income.

Poor parents may not be able to buy the services of a private tutor and hence their children have to depend on class-room teaching. Only those parents, who have the ability to pay for it, can afford to engage a private tutor for their children. But everyone has this conviction that only with private tuition, a student can really do well in the examition, and therefore even those who find it difficult to have two square meals a day, beg, borrow or mortgage their land for acquiring the money to pay for education and for private tuition and thereby many fall into a “debt trap”. But they have no regrets, since for them it is a kind of investment, which will ensure a bright future of the children. So it does seem that it exists in every corner of the country and is a huge industry.

Parents want private tuition even for little kids at the primary level. They think that a private tutor is essential for the toddler, learning alphabets and numbers. For the school going children two or three tutors are needed to teach various subjects. In case of success in the examition the credit does not go to the diligent student; it goes to the private tutor.

After crossing the bar of HSLC examition, the successful candidates turally feel elated, especially those, securing star marks, which unequivocally prove their brilliance. After the rounds of parties are over, parents try to get their children admitted to the most reputed and respected college in the state or in the country—and the nightmare starts. After knocking at several doors of diverse educatiol institutions, they come to the sad conclusion that getting their wards admitted to the best college or at least the second best is not so easy. Apparently their child’s best is not good enough for these institutions. Star marks are not that good and one has to secure more that 80% marks for entry into the hallowed precincts of the most prestigious institution. Hence parents think that proper care must be taken from the time the child gets into a school, and proper care implies private tuition.

The strange thing is that even those brilliant students with more than 80% marks in HSLC examition have to go for private tuition in order to shine in the Higher Secondary examition. Private tuition has become indispensable for securing excellent marks in the examitions. Higher Secondary examition happens to be the most important test in a student’s life. This examition is the gateway to various technical, medical and some other stream, which a student is desirous of joining. For the affluent families the problem is less—as the parents are prepared to pay lakhs and lakhs of rupees as capitation fees for admission into the technical or medical courses in those institutions, where the system is prevalent. But the less fortute ones cannot avail the opportunity. Hence for securing brilliant marks in the HS examition, even poor parents try their utmost to engage private tutors for their wards, regardless of the cost.

If we go some years back, we may find that private tuition was not regarded as an integral part of the education scerio. May be, the reason was that parents did not think private tuition to be at all necessary, as the children learnt whatever was needed in their class room. Moreover, the supply of private tutors was not abundant in that age. The students mostly depended on class room teaching in their respective institutions. They used their own intelligence to solve arithmetical problems or to understand difficult lessons. But now private tutors do the job for them, and relieve the anxiety of the parents.

It is only tural that the anxious parents try to do the best for their children—and hence the desire to engage private tutors for the welfare of the children. In recent years the ability to pay has improved considerably and as a result the ritual of private tuition has grown steadily. Sensing such a demand, enterprising people have started private coaching centres and from the rush of students for admission into these centres, it can easily be deduced that these people are earning a mind-boggling amount of money. The students of the present era want to achieve brilliant results without the least labour. Some of them do not even go through the text books and are totally dependent on private tuition. Hence private tuition has turned into a flourishing business. If some students of a particular teacher do well in the examition, the credit invariably goes to the private tutor and his reputation as a miracle-maker spreads far and wide. He is chased around by the students and their parents. Apparently nobody remembers that without the active cooperation and hard labour of the student concerned, no private tutor would have been able to help him to secure brilliant marks. The lop-sided attitude of the parents not only makes the teacher choosy and commercial, but it also undermines the self-confidence of the student, which is disastrous for his future.

Rightly or wrongly, the parents think that in this age of cut-throat competition, private tuition is absolutely necessary for the children’s success. Most of the students grumble that nothing much is taught in the class rooms in the schools and colleges—so the students must have private tutors to ensure good results. Besides that, outdoing others is the only strategy for survival, and hence the students should be properly equipped. And private tuition is regarded as a means to tame unruly children and to keep them away from TV or too many undesirable friends.

School or college education and private education are two different, yet related things. For the growth of private tuition the fault lies margilly on the teachers. To a certain extent they fulfill the expectation of the parents. Hence they have started a parallel education system along with the regular one. When a teacher realizes that his services are demanded by the guardians, he converts his sitting room to a class room, furnishing it with some low-cost desks and benches—and he never has to look back. Hundreds of students enroll themselves in his coaching class—but how many of them obtain positions or show wonderful results? Do the parents ever think of that?

In schools and colleges the teachers are supposed to follow the whole syllabus and teach accordingly. But the private tutors can reduce the syllabus. The students do not have any urge for learning—they go to their respective schools and colleges because of pressure from their parents. They want to learn only that much, which is needed for passing the examition. Hence the private tutors reduce the syllabus and teach only those portions which they consider to be important for the examitions. The questions are usually repetitive and it is not difficult to select the probable questions and the private tutor can easily do that. turally the student does not learn much and his knowledge remains half-baked and sub-standard.

A teacher engaged in private tuition is socially recognized, because guardians from all walks of life come to hire his services for their children. They fall over themselves to be in his good book, as they consider him to be a genius in his field. But a teacher not engaged in private tuition is often ignored and parents do not interact with such teachers. turally the teachers who do not go for private tuition are fincially weak and they remain in the fringe of society.

In recent times there has been a mushroom growth of tutorial homes all over the state. The students’ and parents’ craze for medical or engineering courses have prompted the teachers of reputed government and non-government institutions to join hands in giving short-term crash courses to prepare the eager youngsters for passing the entrance test held for admissions into the Medical and Engineering courses all over the country. These classes are organized for a very short period and in exchange the concerned teachers earn a staggering amount.

Of course private coaching cannot be condemned summarily—nor can it be suddenly abolished. We have to admit that the students of present era do need private tuition and are benefitted by it. But if it affects the regular working hours and efficiency of a teacher, it has to be condemned. Moreover, private tuition creates a parallel education system and it hurts the formal education system. After attending various shifts in mornings and evenings, it is only tural that teachers become exhausted and they can hardly give their best in their normal duty hours in their respective institutions where they work and earn a monthly salary. That is unfair to the students and also to the concerned authority. Private tuition has turned into a lucrative business and this kind of commercialization of education cannot be justified.

Every human being is born with a certain amount of intelligence; but the students of the present era rarely apply their own intelligence and power of comprehension which the good God has given them. Too much spoon-feeding is not good for health and that is what is happening in the private education system. The mece of private tuition has acquired an image larger than life. The situation is such that even for 3-year old toddlers who can barely lisp a few words, private tutors are engaged by the parents to teach alphabets and numbers.

The value and dignity of education have degraded enough to be treated like commodity of transaction in a market of private tuition. Education is seen today only as a means of employment. There is an interaction between main stream education and shadow education. In India they share a parasitic relationship, forming part of a viscous circle. Because of the dissatisfaction of the students with their teachers in the classrooms, the majority of them go to private tutors. In these circumstances the integrity of teachers employed in the formal school system also comes under doubt—particularly when the teacher also functions as a private tutor. There is always the question whether the teacher is not being as diligent in the class room as he or she ought to be, to create a demand for private tuition.

This is not to say that all teachers are unscrupulous or that all private tutors are teachers in some school. Then again, even honest teachers often do not have the infrastructural support to function properly. Is it the poor school quality that creates the market for private tuition or is it the presence of private tuition centres which worsens the quality of school? It is difficult to answer the question as it is like a chicken and egg problem; which comes first? Perhaps without going into a controversy we may say that it is the socio-political-economic circumstances that determine private tuition.

Some people say that the practice of private tuition has vitiated the education scerio. It is time the teachers realized that they should be above reproach and their good mes must not be tarnished by mud-slinging. If they are sincere and dedicated in the class rooms, the students would not need any private coaching. Then they would be compelled to apply their own intelligence to solve any problem and consequently would develop their self-confidence, which would go a long way in making them better human beings. Then only the teachers would regain their respect and lost glory. They need not be obliged to give up private tuition—but may abandon the money-grabbing instinct. In that way they may be losers fincially, but gainers morally. Only then the academic situation will considerably improve and the teacher-student bond will be stronger.

(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)

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