Cut- throat competition has pushed students to new limits and with low standards of schooling in our country, the rise of private coaching institutes is inevitable
In a brief span of twenty years, the practice of sending kids to private tutors has become quite natural. Tutors and coaching centres are now ubiquitous, having mushroomed in every lane and by lane of the country. In the last four or five years, the practice has acquired new dimensions with children as young as six years being sent to private tutors for personalised coaching.
It is just as much a rural phenomenon as it is urban. It is not contained within the middle class or upper middle class bracket but has spilled over to the poor in the villages. Bharati Prayag, a driver in Delhi, gave up his rum and curry to send an additional Rs 800 back to his village in Bihar for his son’s private tuitions. Teacher absenteeism at school is the reason why his son now needs to opt for private tuition.
The meteoric rise in the demand for private tuitions is a direct fallout of and testament to the inefficient system of education in the country. The most sought after subjects for tuitions are physics, chemistry, mathematics and languages. Both the middle and lower class are of the opinion that the declining standards of teaching and instruction at schools, especially government schools, forces parents to opt for private tutors. Some even send their children to a coaching centre as well as to private tutors right before the board exams.
Why is this happening?
India is a labour intensive country with streamlined job options. Therefore, children from a very young age are but exposed to the severity of the competition. Success in school and competitive examinations, it is generally believed, is the stepping stone to a good life. Getting admission to a good university becomes a matter of life and death for most families. St. Stephen’s (New Delhi) gets 12,000 applications every year out of which only 450 are accepted. Indian Institute of Management, which has only 200 seats, receives around 70000 applications. Jawaharlal Nehru University receives 100,000 applications and accepts only 1500 students from the country.
Under such circumstances, teacher absenteeism, poor quality of education, vast syllabi, and corruption leave no choice but to opt for tuition. Thus children these days end up going to two schools instead of one.
- Childhood lost: Childhood has become a luxury for children these days. After six-seven hours of school, a fourteen year old today is rushed to the coaching centre for two hours followed by two hours of language coaching at home. By the time he/she is done with the homework, he is only awake enough to sleep. Dreaming, playing and all the activities that childhood is made of have extinguished.
- Poor quality: It seems that pedagogy has been reduced to a process of transferring information rather than imparting knowledge. The constant spoon feeding of answers and model test papers dulls any academic acumen the student may possess.
- Deeply discriminating: The trend that seems to be developing in this bazaar of private tutors of all kinds and shapes is that money is now the determinant of quality. If you have the money you can get your child “better” tuition. The right to education, therefore, turns into this empty promise where neither the state nor the private players are capable of providing adequate schooling.
Tuition: A Necessary Evil?
Unhealthy as it seems, tuitions cannot be dispensed with. If anything, the trend is only gaining momentum.
The Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) of 2007 stated that 1/4th of all pupils in elementary schools in rural India take the help of private tuitions to compensate for the substandard education provided by government schools. In rural West Bengal, 80% of middle school students rely on tuitions. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) reported that the urban middle class spends 1/3rd of its income on private tuitions!
What is needed is a complete reconstruction and modernisation of the education system, schools, curricula and teachers’ training programmes. A sound approach to the problem of demand and supply dimension of labour and job opportunities needs to be worked out in consonance with the new system. India is known to be the intellectual and skilled labour catchment. If this is not to be reduced to mere numbers and pay cheques, then the government should ensure a pedagogical order which encourages a more creative generation.