“Kids are slaves of coaching centers,” said Prakash Javadekar, the Minister for Human Resources Development. Speaking at the launch of the Smart India Hackathon 2018 in Pune he further stated: “It is a cause of worry….from Class VIII, students become slaves of these coaching institutes. They are being taught only to face competitive exams. The coaching institutes are promoting rote learning and not imparting actual knowledge…..The decline in teaching standards in schools and colleges is due to increasing reliance on such centres.”
What the Minister said is a known fact. He needs to be appreciated for his outburst in public. But is such public criticism enough?
According to an Assocham survey, close to 87% of primary and up to 95% higher secondary school students attend private coaching classes.
The private coaching industry in India is one of the fastest growing businesses in the service sector. It caters to Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and other engineering entrances, medical entrances, Combined Admission Test (CAT) and other management entrances, CLAT etc. The average growth rate of the coaching industry for the last six years is a whopping 35%. The current size of the private coaching industry in India is about 29 billion and is likely to touch $45 billion.
The size of the entrance exam sector is even bigger than the school exam sector. As soon as the class 10 exams get over, students flock the coaching centers to start preparing for competitive examinations. Around 10 lakh students take up these exams every year. Even though coaching institutes are spread throughout India, Kota in Rajasthan is renowned as the coaching hub of India. There are over two dozen major coaching institutes and more than a hundred smaller ones for the 1.10 lakh students preparing for competitive exams which is 10% of the total number of students in India attending these exams. The annual coaching industry ‘turnover’ in Kota is estimated to be over Rs. 1500 crore.
Unlike Schools, Universities and Technical institutes, these coaching centres need not have any licence or affiliation from any Board. With the growing competition, the examination boards have no other option but to raise the bar with respect to the difficulty level of the test to ensure that the top students are selected for enrolment to the premier institutions of the country.
In order to face the cut throat competition in the job market most of the academically bright and hardworking students are either compelled by their parents or students themselves decide to go for private coaching outside the school. Some go straight away from school on alternative days and some on weekends. Consequently, there is very feeble attendance in schools on Saturdays. So, most of the Schools have stopped keeping senior secondary classes on Saturdays.
Schools which do not give dummy admissions are the losers. They lose their bright students to the clever schools which allow these students to come to school only for their main written and practical exams. Such students are charged double fees for keeping them on their rolls adjusting their attendance. Those schools need only money and results. Such students do produce good results as they have been prepared well by other good schools. The fruits of the hard toil of 12 years of a group of good schools and teachers are reaped by such ‘business centers’.
Some ‘so called branded schools’, in order to prevent the exodus of their bright and hard-working students, have tied up with popular coaching centres and started coaching centres in their own campus. The same coaching is provided by the staff of coaching centres, during the school hours, to selected group of students, charging lakhs of rupees besides the school fee. The regular teachers of those schools, who have been teaching the same students till 10, are conveniently sidelined by the school management, students and parents. The poor teachers feel belittled and humiliated. The credit of their hard work for 12 years is claimed by the part time faculty of the coaching centres.
Not only the regular faculty of those schools but also the bright students from financially poor background too, who are taught in separate classrooms the regular curriculum and treated unequally by the schools, are shown injustice. They are equally capable, given the same coaching, to produce good results but deprived, as their parents cannot afford the hefty fee. The students who have been studying together till class X are segregated from Class XI since they cannot pay.
Such schools boast of not only their 100% Board results but also the ranks of their coaching students in IIT/JEE/NEET and entries to various premier institutions of the country. Newspapers rate such schools, in their survey, as top schools of the city, district, state and country.
The other minority groups of schools which follow the affiliation bylaws of the board, laws of State government, State Education Department, in letter and spirit, but do not subscribe the student edition of the newspapers in bulk for their students, never get their names into the rank list of the survey conducted by newspapers. They remain mute spectators, providing good and affordable education to the marginalized, lower middle class and middle class, without being noticed or appreciated by the Boards and authorities.
These illegal practices have been going on for decades and are on the rise, with the knowledge and silent consent of all concerned. Though the Supreme Court had in February said that private coaching centres in the country need to be regulated, it has been flourishing leaps and bounds under the nose of the same court, HRD Ministry and CBSE.
It is high time for all concerned to introspect the reasons behind the unmonitored growth of such coaching centres in and out of the schools. First of all, there should be a proper coordination among the School Examination bodies, the Competitive examination bodies and the Syllabus framers.
Since the school educations system does not emphasize on concept application and problem solving, all students irrespective of their performance in school, fail to crack the entrance tests and therefore, they take up coaching. Either the NCERT should prepare the content of the books emphasizing the concept application and problem solving and the CBSE frame questions of Board exams completely following the same pattern, or a selected group of teachers from every school should be specially trained to give such coaching within all schools to bright and promising students without charging anything besides regular school fees. The special coaching can be given on Saturdays or daily one hour can be earmarked for the same.
The order of the Supreme Court to ‘regulate’ coaching Institutes should be implemented strictly by the government. Schools should be held accountable and punished for giving dummy admissions. Running centres of coaching institutes inside the schools should be strictly banned by the affiliation Boards. Such Coaching Institutes and schools should not be allowed to exploit students and parents of their hard earned money.
(Published on 06th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 45)