Asia leads the world market in the sector of private coaching for students. Wide-scale, after-school, private tuitions in India is now as much a desi thing as chai is.
In India, people spend over 12% of the annual household income on private tuitions. Tuition costs anywhere between ₹3000-6000 per subject per head. The numbers differ from state to state and from urban to rural areas. Moreover, online coaching institutions like Byju’s and Unacademy charge more than physical tuitions. Coaching classes for NEET and JEE costs between ₹50,000 to ₹1,50,000 per year. It is no surprise that Byju’s has crossed a valuation of over 12 billion USD. This is an app with global investors like General Atlantic and Mark Zuckerburg. Byju’s had also acquired Aakash, an entrance coaching service provider earlier this year for nearly a billion dollars.
One thing is clear from all this data.
More and more people are opting for that extra bit of academic to get marks worth six-figure salaries. The stress to score higher, the skyrocketing cut-off marks for universities and the overall increase in the number of people who do the same exact thing provide parents with the impetus to push children harder to excel, to get ahead in the race. Never mind the stress issues and identity crisis the students themselves may face later. We can always blame that on ‘overuse of mobiles’. Children are induced into a system that focuses more on marks and competition. Yet, there are several reasons why private tuition is a necessity in our country.
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Nearly one in every four children in India attend private tuition. So there must be something the tuition industry is doing right. 30 students in each class is the ideal number for a good academic experience in India. However, when classroom sizes often exceed 60 per class, most parents view private tuition as the only way to get a good education.
That is exactly what private tuition provides – focused, tailored-to-purpose education for every child. The need for better education has only increased with the pandemic restrictions. A huge amount of students in India have missed nearly two academic years. Sure, one can say that Zoom classes or Victor channel are all doing what they can to augment the gap. But the fact is that students may not respond as well to online education as they do to normal classes.
Of course, children can opt for online tuition such as Byju’s. These apps claim to provide custom made classes that can be accessed at any time of the day. But this is where the problem starts. How many families can afford pricey online classes? Are students able to cope without tuitions or have they become too dependent on such help to fare well?
Every day, day after day, children rush home from school to have a quick snack and then immediately go off to some tuition centre. Some of them go to tuitions as early as five in the morning. (The pandemic may or may not have changed these stats, but that’s a topic for another time). With all these tuitions occupying most of the students’ time, where do they get time to be children?
Creativity, imagination and art all take a back seat as PCB (physics, chemistry, biology) or PCMB (M for Maths) dominate every waking hour of every day. All this in hopes of churning out yet another engineer or banker or doctor with high flung salaries and swanky houses. Sure, we do need doctors and engineers but what we don’t need is pressurising entire generations of kids to waste years of their childhood to become something they don’t even relate to. This is another problem created by our education system and reinforced by the private coaching industry. They all want to give the message that only marks matter.
This discussion isn’t something new, it comes up every now and then. Parents agree with it, teens agree with it, educational reforms are called for. Then another entrance season starts and it is back to PCB and PCMB because it’s one thing to call for reforms and another to actively risk yours or your child’s ‘bhavi’ to start reforms. We end up reinforcing the vicious circle of factory schools where students are programmed to become products that fit in a corporate-driven society. Corporate managed educational centres, money-centric health institutions and infrastructure that ignores the existence of poverty are all symptoms of this decay in our education system. Private tuitions leave kids with little time to think or dream about anything other than marks or making money is perhaps one of the biggest enforcers of this blind education that we all receive.
Of course, we can’t condemn the practice of private tuitions completely as there are many of us who would have needed that extra assistance we couldn’t really get at school. But is it really fair to ask people to pay for extra tuition in addition to school fees? After all, schools are responsible for the wholesome development of children. But what’s happening in most schools is casual info-dumping, not teaching.
Many teachers don’t bother to check how much of what they teach actually ends up benefiting students. God bless those teachers who do care, but it is sad that the standards have shifted so much that good teachers or rather, teachers who actually do their jobs come by rarely. The ‘venamenkil padichal mathi‘ attitude that many educators and parents today condone is completely wrong. This incompetence is why students still seek out private tuitions despite 8 AM-4 PM classes, extra classes and revisions.
This brings us back to problem number one. If the tuition industry is becoming a necessity and is actively taking over a significant part of our students’ academic infrastructure, what will happen to those children who cannot afford it? If they can’t get quality education at schools and can’t afford tuitions, they’ll fall back in the race. The poor would become poorer and the rich would become richer. Education would cease to become a tool for economic development and would instead become the machine that segregates society.
Have you ever taken a moment from your busy schedules to wonder if you are actually learning something that you can use creatively or if you are just learning (cramming) for marks? For students going to tuitions, it has to be the latter.
Our education system, especially the private tuition industry has reduced our academic experience to mere hacks. What they give us is often ways to cheat the system: “practice enough question papers, so you can answer similar questions” and “study this part, it is always asked”. What happened to actual logical reasoning and problem-solving abilities, never mind marks? I don’t mean the namesake logical reasoning questions that we all know don’t really matter in order to get a rank. Are we truly learning things that matter to us, or are we doing it for the marks? And are we okay with leaving the future of the country in the hands of people who found themselves in high ranking positions with the help of these hacks coaching centres teach? If you never asked that to yourself as a student, it is high time you start asking that before you become a parent.