The ubiquity of India's 'coaching culture', in charts

The fervour surrounding competitive exams fuels the demand for coaching institutes, especially for sought-after fields like engineering and medicine. (File Photo: Mint)
The fervour surrounding competitive exams fuels the demand for coaching institutes, especially for sought-after fields like engineering and medicine. (File Photo: Mint)

Summary

  • The wide gap between the number of students registering for competitive exams and the number of undergraduate seats available to them is one of the major factors behind the demand for private coaching

In an effort to reduce teenagers' reliance on coaching centres, the Centre introduced significant guidelines in January. The education ministry's directives mandate, among other things, that coaching centres can only register students who are at least 16 years old or have completed 10th grade. Furthermore, these institutions are required to maintain reasonable fees, refrain from making misleading promises, and prioritize mental and physical well-being of their students.

Annually, thousands of students prepare for some of India’s most challenging competitive exams, often seeking assistance from coaching institutes due to the perceived inadequacies of the school system in providing sufficient preparation. An alarming trend has seen students beginning their coaching journey as early as sixth grade to gain a competitive advantage. However, this intense pressure has led to tragic outcomes, including suicides.

Mint explains the numbers behind what the National Education Policy calls ‘coaching culture’.

Studying overtime

The number of students taking private coaching for competitive exams isn’t clear, but the Pratham Education Foundation’s Annual Status of Education Report gives a hint. The nationwide survey of rural students found a growing number opting to take private lessons after school, particularly for those in ninth grade and above. The stark disparity between the number of students registering for coveted competitive exams and the limited number of seats indicates the competitiveness that’s contributing to this—particularly since the ones who do not qualify have to make do with lower-tier colleges.

Burning pockets

The fervour surrounding competitive exams fuels the demand for coaching institutes, especially for sought-after fields like engineering and medicine. Millions enrol in undergraduate engineering and medicine courses every year. A slow pace of growth in the number of seats means coaching institutes help fill the gaps of school education by offering courses focused on entrance exams. This comes with a hefty price tag. At premier coaching centre chains in cities, courses can cost over 1 lakh a year after ninth grade. Beyond the elite institutes and competitive exams, even regular private coaching has been found making up nearly 40% of total education expenses for students.

Regulating concerns

Aside from the exorbitant fees, one of the primary arguments for regulating coaching centres is the rising number of student suicides, indicating that children are under a lot of pressure. The National Crime Records Bureau data shows that 13,044 students died by suicide in 2022 (while they must not be necessarily attributed to studies or tuition centres, the rising number serves as an indication), and ‘failure in examination’ was cited as the cause behind over 2,000 suicides. Kota, the coaching hub of India, alone had 26 student suicides in 2023, as per police reports.

Education boom

The newly introduced guidelines aim to alleviate the educational strain on students and improve the learning experience. Nonetheless, coaching institutes are seeking to negotiate the age restriction for enrolment. The education sector has experienced rapid growth, outpacing overall private consumption expenditure, and the ‘coaching culture’ has strongly benefited from this. The education component has had one of the highest growth rates over the past decade.

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