Come the season of exam results and your newspaper starts to resemble a strange photo album: intelligent-looking kids staring at you from every page. Tagged to them are marks, ranks… it’s the annual coaching class parade. “XYZ Tutorials has done it again! Another batch of toppers!” And something else that isn’t mentioned: “XYZ Tutorials has done it again! Another fee increase!”
Coaching classes have come a long way from the friendly neighbourhood aunty, who took up tutoring as a source of supplementary income. Today they are mammoth institutions with tens of branches across the country, very professionally organized and, of course, huge revenues. The ‘personal attention’ benefit is gone, with compulsory slogging taking its place.
School is ol’ school. School exists only for legitimacy. Most Indian teenagers can’t do without coaching classes. But can private coaching classes replace schools? They are certainly on the way of rendering schools redundant after eighth grade. However, there are some issues that coaching classes face today:
Sky-high fees: There is virtually no limit to the amount of fees a coaching class can charge, directly as well as indirectly. One of the indirect, very popular methods, is the levying of fines for every conceivable offence—from missing a lecture or being late for one, to not topping a test. These arbitrary charges cannot even be challenged, usually because the fees for a course are paid in full and in adavnce, and refunds are not an option.
The ‘buying’ and ‘stealing’ of toppers: Every year there are complaints from students who top competitive exams that some classes take undue credit for their achievements. More often than not, when these classes say ‘our student’, they mean they’d e-mailed her notes once. It is also not uncommon for toppers to be offered money to write a testimonial for some class. All these results increase the prestige of a class and consequently give them more reason to increase fees.
Harassment: Although not rampant, this is not unheard of. A tutor from Mumbai has been to jail for quite a few times for allegedly molesting students. The continuing popularity of this person’s classes could point towards either clout or, ahem, great teaching. In another class, weak students were told to drop out in a bid to maintain impeccable results and also, shockingly, a member of the management of the same class told the students who didn’t make it to IIT to “go drown.”
Seeing that coaching classes have become a parallel education industry that is flourishing despite injustices, a regulatory body seems unavoidable. Simultaneously, recognition and grants could be made available to the deserving classes, and schools could be better equipped to prepare students for competitive exams. Or better still, our competitive exams could see a few reforms.
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