The coaching phenomenon

| | in Oped
The coaching phenomenon

Do we really need coaching institutes or should we focus more on improving the quality of teaching in our own classrooms?

Since the senior secondary results of the CBSE were declared, the debate on schooling has taken the centre-stage. One angle of analysis of Board results has been that children who were provided extra coaching, performed better than those who did not attend extra classes, beyond school hours. These classes are known as ‘coaching classes’, ‘home tuition’ and so on. 

Private schools have always encouraged their children to go for coaching classes but the menace has caught on to Government schools as well. The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and the Navodaya Vidyalaya Sangathan which performed best as a chain of schools, in the CBSE examinations, have arranged for extra classes for either the ‘weaker’ children or the ‘gifted’ children.

It is now  common knowledge that schools organise extra help during vacations for students to perform better. This has two aspects — one, that we are not teaching well enough in our classrooms; and two, that parents have a notion that they have to spend extra for kids to perform well in the Board exams and get admission to a good college. Here I wish to highlight the second aspect — the ‘coaching’ phenomenon.

During the 1970’s, students who took private coaching were looked down upon as ‘unintelligent’. But by the end of the last century it became a status symbol to opt for private coaching.

Peer pressure on those who did not go for coaching classes slowly grew. Parents also preferred to send their children to these classes and also mention in private gatherings that their child goes to a coaching. The pinnacle of coaching can be seen in the rise of Kota (in Rajasthan) as the coaching city of India. Parents got their children admitted to these coaching centres and children from all parts of the country flocked to Kota to attend these centres.

They paid more fees here than they paid in schools. As a result, peripheral industries like accommodation, tiffin supply etc grew.

Kota which had been an industrial town of Rajasthan was witnessing a slump during the late 1990’s because of the failure of industries and had a large number of technical staff including engineers who were laid off. They started visiting homes to provide personal tuition initially for a small fee but later some of them started charging as much as four to five thousands an hour for home visits. Some of the less successful ones became evaluators for the industrialised coaching institutes. Today, it is told, a few of the teachers are paid as high as Rs 1,00,000 a day because students want to attend their class and learn from them.

Kota was replicated in a number of other towns like Hyderabad, Bengaluru and of late in Chennai, Jaipur and others.

One positive feedback is that there is an equal number, if not more, of girls participating in these coaching classes. Their success at the competitive exams has also improved, may be perhaps because of the coaching they received.

Coaching is primarily a middle class phenomenon. The middle class is ready to spend a fortune on their child’s education as this is the only way for them to succeed. As the size of the middle class swells, the coaching industry also expands. This industry has grown at a much faster rate than most other industries.

Another major reason, according to research, for learners joining coaching, is that teachers in schools are involved in arranging co-curricular activities and are not able to pay full attention to academics. There seems to be a function every week and as a result, teachers are often busy organising these events.

More ambitious children and parents fail to understand the relevance of such events in schools and the growth of the learners, so they put their children into coaching classes. There needs to be a thorough examination as to the number of teaching days in schools.

With the increased availability of advanced video conferencing, online coaching is also witnessing a rapid growth.  Indian teachers and housemakers now provide online coaching to learners not only to the Indian diaspora but also to foreign nationals.

A large number of housemakers provide personalised coaching and are at times earning as much, or more than their partners. Time will prove whether this form of education will die or will schools finally surrender to private education. The coaching phenomenon needs to be paid attention to for a number of reasons. If a teacher needs be trained as per the National Council For Teacher Education (NCTE) norms, why are the untrained teachers in these institutes more successful and why is the Government permitting students to attend these classes even if it decreases their chance of success in various examinations?

Why are Government schools arranging coaching for some and not all of their students during holidays? Vacations have a scientific relevance in the growth of a child and also re-energising teachers for the next session. Due to this, more and more teachers are getting burned out. Should this not be stopped? Or, is the coaching mafia so strong that they can manipulate the Government’s decisions, thereby leaving it helpless? This needs serious thought and legislation because it involves the lives of all our children.

(The writer is Professor of Education at Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal)

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