A deadly fire in a coaching center in Surat snuffed out of 22 young lives. The rate of suicides in Kota, where students converge to prepare for entrance exams, remains high. And yet, the coaching industry is rapidly growing.
Data from the NSSO’s 71st round reveal that more than a quarter of Indian students (a stupendous 7.1 crore) take private coaching. Around 12% of a family’s expense goes towards private coaching, across rich and poor families alike.
What purpose do coaching institutions serve in society?
Various coaching center can be attributed to enhancing human capital. They serve the same purpose where schools and colleges lag. But if they don’t then they are imposing a huge emotional cost to society and nation.
They crush the creativity of the students. In most cases, they only help the student to secure good marks in some entrance exams, which is widely understood to be a sign of merit. This is a questionable connection.
Confining students in classrooms, unregulated spaces and making them study subjects they often hate destroys their natural inbuilt talent. Hence, the social cost and value of these institutions outweigh their benefit by far. The industry needs a re-look.
The coaching giants draw an entire generation of young minds and systematically erode their imagination. They ignite psychological disorders in the students by pressurizing them, impede mainstream education, impose huge opportunity costs to students, charge an inordinate fee which is often not taxed and yet remain unaccountable.
Several court cases on breach of promise of a refund of money are still underway. Society is bearing the burden only for the sake of finding out who is marginally better than the other in cramming for some exam.
Coaching institutions are selling valued but costly ideas, barring a few exceptions. Only those enterprises which have less value, themselves play with the law.
To blame the systematic faults and flaws in the implementation of safety laws and to blame corruption in the government is to normalize the lack of integrity in the entrepreneur who decided to violate the law.
Coaching institutions are of course, not necessarily ethical entities. Most of them do not add to the value of the education system.
While the reason for the growth of coaching institutions is the entrance exam culture of India, what is urgently required is a policy on regulating and implementing them. Some states have already passed the laws to regulate the coaching industry – centres have to register with the government and meet some basic criteria.
However, existing state laws do not evince a consistent rationale that could aid in framing national regulations. There is also the Private Coaching Centers Bill 2016, in the discussion.
While the discourse being pointed out is a welcome step, it is now important to ensure regulations that emerge are agile, forward-looking and empowering.