Why India's runaway coaching centres need regulating

Coaching institutes fight back (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
Coaching institutes fight back (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Summary

  • After government's directive, coaching institutes are fighting back. Will it change education as we know it?

Government guidelines on regulating the coaching industry will impact thousands of tutoring centres that have mushroomed across the country. What’s wrong with the system and why were these guidelines needed in the first place? Mint explains:

What is the coaching fracas about?

Last week, the government published guidelines for coaching centres scrapping enrolment of students below 16 years of age—enrolment should only be after secondary school (standard 10) examination. This rule caused worry since India’s coaching industry has become an alternative education channel. Students are enrolled as early as 10-12 years and prepared for engineering, medical and civil service exams. In these exams, the ratio of success is very low. Hundreds of thousands attempt to crack these tests every year. Coaching centres are most popular in Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Why does the industry need regulating?

The rise in students dying by suicide (26 as per news reports in Kota alone in 2023) points to the pressures that school children face. The Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Education last week said the rules were “in the context of rising student suicides cases, fire incidents, lack of facilities as well as methodologies of teaching (that) have been engaging the attention of the government from time to time". Mushrooming ‘dummy schools’—they have links with coaching centres and do not require students to attend physical classes—have raised hackles. Parents from smaller towns often take loans to relocate their families to these coaching hubs.

Who else will get impacted by regulation?

In coaching hubs like Kota, there is an ecosystem that supports the institutes, the students, and their families—middlemen, hostels, hotels etc. They all stand to lose out. When students are very young (10-14 years), their families also shift base to these hubs, leading to real estate income for the local population. In addition, dummy schools will be forced to shut shop.

What do the coaching centres say?

The Coaching Federation of India (CFI), an industry body that has over 25,000 coaching institutes under its wing, may legally appeal to get the minimum age reduced from 16 years to 12 years. The large institutes say the regulation may add to competitive stress among students since they would now have less time to prepare. The larger institutes are also worried that it will not help in the regulation of smaller private coaching centres—the mom and pop ones—who can stay under the government’s radar.

What does it say about the state of education?

The dependency on coaching institutes is palpable. Institutes coaching a student for competitive exams is only one part of the system. Students often need additional hours of study outside school to cope with the syllabus. The guidelines note that institutes make misleading promises or guarantee good marks to parents/students for enrolling them. It highlights how ranks and marks are turning out to be the only merit system—extra-curricular activities and overall-development of the student are ignored.

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