India's Education Sweatshops
The son of a friend recently went away all the way from Delhi to Kerala to prepare for the medical entrance tests. It seems that they have coaching centers there which have tracked the entrance tests of some medical colleges for years and have now got the requisite expertise to say that any one that enrolls with them has a much better chance of cracking the tests than the man on the road who can’t access these privileges.
Nearer home, my newspaper vendor puts in with the daily newspaper, pamphlets of institutes some well known and some not, that would put the neighborhood kids through their board exams, their medical entrance tests, their IIT entrance exams and all other kinds. That there is so much demand for them and that they are mushrooming by the day, makes me feel extremely uneasy. however in the rather bizarre imitation of keeping up with the Jones, and try and beat the competition which is getting stiffer by the day, most people I know will have to make use of one or the other of them. may be some will enroll in more than one such coach shop , leading to the piquant situation where a bright student – may be some one who has topped the IIT–JEE is claimed by more than one institution.
What started in a small way with Agrawal Classes and Brilliant Tutorials nearly 30 years ago has transformed into a big business today. In north India, Kota is a well known hub where the coaching school industry has grown and multiplied. In fact, it has even given rise to ancillary industries like those who rent out rooms and those who supply meals to the numerous people who turn up from the remotest parts of India who take up lodgings here and take rigorous tuitions so that they can crack the IIT entrance tests.
While coaching classes are certainly churning out would be scholars in an assembly line fashion and for small town India, where often there is wealth but lack of opportunity, this seems to be a god sent opportunity to pursue higher education. Very likely, given the state of the formal education system in India, these children would never be able to clear the entrance examinations without the coaching that these institutes would provide.
But what about aptitude? The entrance tests to IIT and elsewhere were conceived to evaluate aptitude as much as or even more than merits. By quantifying examination results, we have ensured that aptitude has been thrown in to a never never land of oblivion. Says Prof. M.S. Ananth, Director, IIT-M “by attending the IIT coaching classes, students were learning a wrong lesson that the ends justify the means.” They (students) think there is nothing wrong in missing school to attend coaching. But the student does not realize his real loss." he further says that the coaching institutes were enabling many among the less-than-best students to crack the test and keeping girls from qualifying.
Meanwhile industry body Assocham's estimate of size of the Coaching Class Industry is based on about 6 lakh students attending these classes every year at an average cost of Rs.1.7 lakhs per year and average cost of each student is 1.7 lakhs ,as given by a spokesman of the Industry body provided to TOI. According to Assocham, the staggering sum of Rs.10, 000 crore is being netted every year by private Academies that coach students for admission test,
Meanwhile the common man is caught between a rock and a hard place. There are heaps of private universities and even foreign universities, where admissions are relatively easier but the costs are unaffordable. Publicly funded institutions are relatively cheap (though they are getting expensive), but the road to their door leads through very expensive coaching institutions. and with the state steadily privatizing education in guise or the other, things presumably can only get worse for the present.
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