Impact of coaching classes on a nation’s psyche
We all know how critical our parallel education system – the coaching class industry – is. It supports our over-loaded, creaking, education system. The industry is booming and estimated to be about Rs 5,000 crore (and growing annually at 20 percent)!
The problem is that there is no research available to know exactly the impact of coaching classes on the student’s academic performance, or the psychological, intellectual and physical repercussions. This is not counting the financial burden on families. But a lot of people have written about the physical and mental strain the classes put on the students and also how some classes dupe not just the students but also the institutions they prepare their students for – by getting their hands on question papers through dubious means. Often “insider information” gives a coaching class that extra edge.
I am not blaming the coaching classes for this because they are simply filling a desperate need. I am blaming the rote learning that is required by our examination system – that is what enables these classes to spoon-feed students and teach them ‘tricks’ to beat exams. These places don’t teach, they make you solve paper after exam paper and provide tips to score well. Forget about real knowledge or even developing any mental abilities (besides memory) – it’s the marks that count. As Rashmi Bansal says:
…the same folks who would have topped school leaving exams without coaching are now topping with the help of coaching. The extra slog has probably resulted in a few more marks, unnecessarily raising the bar that much higher.
High cost of education
Education in India may be subsidized and cheap as compared to that in developed countries…but if you add the cost of coaching it gets formidable for Indian pockets. Even though new coaching classes are springing up in every gully, they cost. A coaching class for the 10th grade in a slum near my house charges about Rs 250/- a month and that too for packing a hundred students in a cramped, airless class, and these fees are exorbitant for someone with an income of Rs 4000/- a month and four kids to educate. At least if the classes delivered the goods it wouldn’t be so bad…but mostly they don’t. The higher grade coaching classes which charge anything from Rs 50,000 onwards (AC classrooms, trained teachers) are not available to everyone. Often they do deliver the goods. But at what cost? Students who want to enter medical college have it really bad as the competition is cut-throat and in the two years running up to admission they have to sacrifice every extra-curricular activity.
But if our government is finding it tough monitoring our schools, what can we expect when it comes to monitoring the coaching class industry?
And if we see so many instances of corporal punishment in regular schools, one can imagine the plight of students in coaching classes. There was this incident where a teenager was so afraid of facing punishment for not finishing the homework given in her tuition class that she called her school to say a bomb had been planted on the premises so that the school would declare a holiday!
Some good news?
So that is why it was good to read that the Maharashtra Coaching Class Association (MCOA) is starting an 8-month training course for coaching class teachers, the intention to “bring everyone to a uniform level.” The course will be based on the B Ed course (a teachers training course). It’s amazing that unqualified people fill the ranks of many coaching classes! Not that this will help students to really learn better…but they will at least get what they pay for.
Some school systems do away with the need for coaching classes
International syllabi like the IB reduce or do away with the need for coaching classes. More and more schools in India are starting to teach this international syllabus, like the well-known Cathedral school, which is planning to drop the ICSC syllabus entirely. In fact international schools are fairly common now in metros – there are 37 IB schools and nearly 200 schools that offer the Cambridge qualifications in India today. Five years ago there were only a handful of such schools.
True, these schools only cater to the rich, but if the poor are not getting a good education it doesn’t mean that the rich shouldn’t. It is unrealistic to expect private industry to take responsibility for the needs of the poor, although they can help.
But the government plans to throttle International schools
What is shocking that in the name of ‘regulation’ the government is planning to throttle these schools! Everything from no-objection certificates, student quotas for Indians to a banning of foreign principals is in the offing!
A case of skewed priorities. The government should get it’s own act together first, whether it is overhauling the education system or regulating coaching classes, and leave these international schools alone!
Update 10th May 2008: There is some hope however as the government’s plans to strangulate the international IB curriculum has run into some problems. I found out that the reasons for wanting to regulate international schools is because the government wants the schools to imbibe ‘Indian culture’ !! Supposedly a “standing committee” in the ministry would give the stamp of approval and even existing schools would have to comply or shut down! But this is what I read today:
…the Prime Minister’s Office, or PMO, asking the ministry of human resource development, or HRD, to consult the Planning Commission before asking the cabinet to consider its proposal
From the same article I got additional information, about the growth of International schools. They have grown from”15 in 1998 to about 180 in 2006.” IB schools have grown from just 2 in 1998 to 33 in 2006. The Cambridge International Examination schools were known to be numbering 148 in 2006.
Well, if the government (which has been inept in providing quality education to its citizens) tries to imbibe these schools with “Indian culture” we know what will happen. They will force the schools to withdraw! Some poor quality schools which don’t care about the interference will stay on. I wonder why the government doesn’t spend its energy on building good schools instead of killing the ones that are already present!
(First photo is by me and the second one, of an international school at Bangalore, is from the wiki)