Mushrooming of dummy schools  

The Education Ministry’s new rules prohibiting the enrolment of students less than 16 years old by coaching centres are laudable and a timely intervention to prevent the proliferation of dummy schools in the name of coaching classes.
Mushrooming of dummy schools  

The Education Ministry’s new rules prohibiting the enrolment of students less than 16 years old by coaching centres are laudable and a timely intervention to prevent the proliferation of dummy schools in the name of coaching classes. Strict enforcement of the rules will be critical to shielding young minds from being put under undue pressure in the name of qualifying for competitive examinations. Improving the quality of teaching in every school will be crucial to ensuring that no student is disadvantaged while preparing for the competitive examination or pursuing their career goal. The new rules came in the backdrop of rising cases of suicide among students enrolled in coaching centres. The Rajasthan city of Kota, dubbed the coaching capital of India, recorded 26 suicides by coaching centre students, the highest since 2015, which pressed the alarm bells for the central government. The “Guidelines for Registration and Regulation of Coaching Centres 2024” issued by the Ministry point out that the number of unregulated private coaching centres in the country continues to grow in the absence of any laid-down policy or regulation. Instances of such centres charging exorbitant fees from students, undue stress on students resulting in students committing suicides, loss of precious lives due to fire and other accidents, and many other malpractices being adopted by these centres are widely reported in the media, it notes. The new code mandates that the coaching centre shall not enrol students under the age of 16 or that student enrolment should be only after a secondary school examination. It also stipulates that coaching classes for those students who are also studying in institutions or schools shall not be conducted during their institutions or schools’ hours, so that their regular attendance in such institutions or schools remains unaffected and also to avoid dummy schools. This will stop the current practice of students from Class VI to Class X attending only coaching centres and missing their classes in schools where they are enrolled for regular examinations and board examinations. For students above the age of 16 enrolled in the registered coaching centres, the guidelines make it mandatory that coaching centres conduct coaching classes in a way that is not excessive for a student, and it should not be more than five hours in a day, and the coaching hours should neither be too early in the morning nor too late in the evening. Coaching centres have increased or mushroomed because of the demand from parents. The parents have sought quality coaching so that their children can compete and qualify for professional courses, as the market has spread dreams of a secured, comfortable, and luxurious life through campus recruitment once they can get enrolled in the top educational institution running professional courses. A mismatch between the standards of competitive examinations of standards of teaching in most public as well as most private schools allowed the space for coaching centres to flourish and sell the dreams of career goals. As the coaching centres charge a high fee, many parents who manage the amount by taking loans are under pressure to repay the equated monthly installments, which in turn puts pressure on their children to take the coaching classes seriously and crack the competitive examinations. The guideline asks the coaching centres to take steps for the mental wellbeing of the students and to conduct classes without putting undue pressure on their students due to high competition and academic pressure. It also envisages coaching centres establishing the mechanism for immediate intervention to provide targeted and sustained assistance to students in distress and stressful situations. Counselling parents not to put undue pressure on their children enrolled in coaching centres and preparing for competitive examinations is also equally important. The coaching centres suitably spacing out the curriculum and class timetable to allow the students to relax and recuperate and thus not build additional pressure on them as advised in the guidelines will help reduce pressure on students. Regular training of teachers in schools is essential to improving the quality of teaching. This also puts the spotlight on the recruitment of teachers and revisiting the standards of teachers’ eligibility tests to ensure that they are capable of providing the best education to every student and helping them build their foundational education and prepare for career goals. If parents have lost trust in regular schools and are dependent on dummy schools run by private coaching centres to clear the board examinations, then the fault definitely lies in the school education system itself. If this problem is left unaddressed, then preventing the mushrooming of private coaching centres will be a herculean task. Unfortunately, often the students are not given choices and are not asked what career goals they want to pursue. The ultimate objective of education is to develop quality human resources for faster socio-economic development and an improved standard of living.

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Sentinel Assam