Best years of student life stolen by the grind of coaching centres

The stress is not so much the coaching centre as the parents who put the weight of their expectations on the shoulders of their ward.

 |  5-minute read |   21-01-2020
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Many years ago, I had come across the peculiar plight of a school-going son of a close family friend. This was at that point in the child’s life when he had just entered the 10th grade in a well-known public school. The boy suddenly found himself in a somewhat strange and disturbing situation.

Starting young

His close classmates along with almost the entire 10th grade had suddenly withdrawn from the general freewheeling bonhomie that they used to indulge in during and after school hours. This was due to the fact that they had enrolled for special coaching classes after school hours. These classes, run by various professionally run coaching centres across Delhi, were designed to help those schoolchildren planning to sit for the IIT entrance examinations.

main_coaching-centre_012120114246.jpgA whole industry of coaching centres — with a turnover of thousands of crores of rupees — has spawned around the competitive entrance examinations. (Representational photo: PTI)

The tragedy was that this had left these 14-year-olds almost no time for any other activity. My friend’s son was probably the only student in his class who was not interested in gaining admission into an IIT and, consequently, he ended up with a great deal of time after school hours. He put it to good use by indulging in several creative and fulfilling activities. The irony was that all his classmates had sacrificed the fun and joy of some of the best years of their lives for some promised pot of gold in the distant future.

Here is how this story ended. My friend’s son seemed to have a comparatively easy time in school. Eventually, as I write this, the boy, after having made his way through a mathematics degree at a well-regarded college, managed to secure a PhD from a well-known university abroad. He is now working as a data scientist at a prominent cancer research institute where he is putting his mathematics to productive use by manipulating genes in search of a cure for cancer.

Meanwhile, many of his former school friends have seemingly fallen by the wayside with degrees in those disciplines of engineering for which they have no aptitude. Of course, some of them have also ended up with lucrative jobs, but at a huge cost in terms of mental stress and the jobs are not really of great interest to them. Most of us are dimly aware of the heavy burden that middle-class parents place on their wards by pushing them to prepare for the notorious IIT entrance examination.

The matter has assumed ludicrous proportions. A whole industry — with a turnover worth thousands of crores of rupees — has spawned around these entrance examinations. The rush for these coaching centres is so great that many of them conduct their own entrance examinations. Students enrol at such coaching centres as early as at age 12. This madness is destroying school education. I hold parents — especially middle-class parents — largely responsible for this situation that is eating away at the vitals of the system of school education.

Burden of dreams

As an illustration in the extreme of what has been said above, we cite the example of the city of Kota in Rajasthan. Once well known for the stone quarries that dot the surroundings of Kota, it has now acquired a halo emanating from its booming coaching industry. 

My guess is that the economic impact of the IIT entrance examination-centred coaching industry at Kota may well rival the might of the quarrying business. If quarrying carries with it the stain of damaging the environment, then perhaps the coaching industry may have to bear the burden of carrying the stain of harming school education. However, let me add that in many ways, from what I gather, the quality of the teaching that takes place at Kota is perhaps much better than what most schools are able to provide. Hence, we may not fault them on that count.

Blinkered minds

The real damage takes place via the enormous stress that is imposed on impressionable young students. And the cause of this stress is not so much the coaching centre as the parents who put the weight of their expectations on the shoulders of their ward. Equally important is the issue of whether learning at a coaching centre can be termed as education in the true sense of the word. Once again, it is not the coaching centre that is to blame. They are merely fulfilling a need, which has been engendered by the manner and format of the IIT entrance examination which is subsuming the student’s creative energies and capacity for original thinking by the manner in which it compels the student to prepare for it.

Preparing for these examinations is tantamount to becoming a robot. Actually, the IITs do not fare much better than coaching centres when it comes to imparting education. I have yet to meet an IIT student who is educated in the true sense because of his formal studies. In fact, for many IIT students, life becomes drudgery as they find that a fair amount of time is spent on preparing in a mechanical fashion for the numerous tests and examinations they are bombarded with.

So, it will not be out of place to advise parents to explore the numerous other possibilities of education that exist for the well being of their wards outside of the IIT system.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Dilemma of deciding a life-long career at the school level


Dinesh Singh Dinesh Singh @dineshsinghedu

The writer is former Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University and currently Adjunct Professor of Mathematics, University of Houston, USA

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