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This article was first published 8 years ago  » Getahead » Are private tuitions the bane of Indian education?

Are private tuitions the bane of Indian education?

By Anjuli Bhargava
May 12, 2015 12:00 IST
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The increasing demand to perform better has pushed students to take up private coaching which is slowly but gradually deteriorating the traditional school education system.

If remedial action is not taken, the day won't be far when private coaching institutions will replace schools.

Are private tuitions the bane of Indian education?If human resources minister Smriti Irani is serious about reforms in education, she needs to come up with ideas to end the parallel education system in the country -- tuitions.

I can quite safely make this statement.

There almost isn't a single child (in the Indian school system) I know at present who is not taking tuitions or extra classes in one or more subjects.

In senior classes (Class VIII and above), many students -- and this is true not just for rich, well-to-do students -- are taking tuitions in four or five subjects.

A strange aspect of tuition is that almost all students take them; bright ones to do even better or maximise their marks and weak students to get through or help them buck up.

There is a private school with branches in Delhi and Gurgaon where the situation has become a classic chicken and egg dilemma.

Students pay little regard to lessons in school relying on the fact that they can always make up with the tutor on any concept they don't follow.

Teachers often don't give their best or throw up their hands and assume that the student will figure it out with his tutor anyway. In the process, the entire school system is being made a mockery of.

A nephew who spent 12 years at this school explained the situation to me.

By the time he was in class X, he had four tutors to accommodate in his school schedule.

A friend of his -- whose mother was one of the English department teachers for the higher classes -- had an English tutor since the teacher was aware that the level of study being offered was below par.

Almost every classmate of his had two to three tutors if not more.

Most parents, usually mothers, spent a better part of their day driving children around to tuitions, many of which were held in groups.

What's worse is that parents are often paying more in a month to tutors than in school fees.

Since the industry (and I think in terms of size it qualifies as one) is largely disorganised, there is no way for parents to assess whether what they are being charged is fair or worth it or indeed even genuine.

Just out of curiosity I called one of these high-flying tutors (the ones who reject students, are hard pressed for time and are mini brands in their own right) -- although I don't quite need math tuition at this stage -- and asked about his availability and charges.

Well, was I in for a shock when he informed me that he could accommodate me only in a group class (five to six students per group) thrice a week and that would cost me Rs 1,500 per class for a one-hour session.

Individual lessons would cost more but he simply did not have the time.

This is despite the fact that he holds sessions even on Saturday and Sunday.

He, of course, may not be the norm (Rs 1,500 per hour is high by any yardstick) but parents routinely pay Rs 800 to 1,200 per hour for tuitions.

Rates vary according to the neighbourhood you live in and even the subject. Hindi tutors, for instance, will typically be paid less than math ones.

Why is the tutoring industry at the school level growing, thriving and almost essential for students?

I spoke to a few senior academicians and a couple of principals of schools and here's what I gathered.

One, teaching is a poorly paid profession and often attracts those who find no other option and, in the case of women, those who are looking for avenues to keep busy for a few hours.

It no longer attracts the best talent. So many competing and higher paid alternatives are available that the most talented are lured away.

Two, with the approach of how private schools deal with children changing so radically (the days of spare the rod and spoil the child are long over and teachers are often pulled up even for reprimanding students), instilling any kind of discipline among the more unruly students can be quite a task.

A friend of mine who taught for 12 years before resigning last year says that she gave up because she felt she simply couldn't manage them any more.

More than once, she left the classroom -- after failing to make herself heard -- in anger and frustration, but if she punished the students, as it happened in our time, there would be hell to pay.

She argues that this new "mollycoddling" approach is doing more harm than good.

And last but not the least, parents are busier (and more harried) than ever.

They are usually unable to spare the time or patience to explain even a simple concept to a struggling child.

It's easier to pay someone else to do it. Unlike earlier, affordability is not in question. So tuitions are starting earlier and earlier.

By the time a child approaches teenage-hood, the tutor is as much of a norm as school.

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Anjuli Bhargava
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