A First-rate Educational Institute

My short working career has given me the opportunity of coming across various kinds of advertisements on my travels, but my recent visit to Malda (one of the seven districts of North Bengal) brought me face-to-face with a poster which after quite a long time triggered off my appetite to write something. I was out for work with my colleague when this advertisement suddenly caught my attention. Quite large in size, the prominence of it was such that despite me being popularly known as an absent-minded person, it registered on my extremely limited attention span!

This banner hung infront of a government-run high school at Malda Town presents in short the enormous influence of private tuition in our society. However one should not be mistaken to hold this as a unique phenomenon prevailing in the district of Malda. The practice has almost acquired the status of omnipresence in the entire state and as per local verbatim, has become as essential, as air is, for survival.

One might question as to what is particularly so interesting and so very attractive in this advertisement that made me write an entire article surrounding it? Numerous advertisements of varying styles assuring almost cent percent success to students are found at every nook and corner of the streets. Then what is particularly so special about this very advertisement? Why did I take all the pain in writing this article and why will anyone devote time to read this article?

My humble answer to all these queries begins right from the very placement of the advertisement. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that it (and I must say quite a prominent one!) has been placed right infront of Barlow Girl’s High School which is a school of substantial repute in Malda. The school has a good academic track record and the students are reportedly quite satisfied by the teachers. Then what is the reason behind not only the emergence but also the success of this tutorial centre? What driving force can be so strong behind the steady flow of students in this centre? I also presume that this tutorial centre has some criterion for its admission as it is clearly mentioned in the advertisement that students will be admitted only if they clear the admission test. This actually means that the coaching centre does not offer its services to the ones who are weak in academics but in reality to those who are already performing quite well at school; thereby putting in question the entire concept behind the existence of these tutorials. When I tried to view this very statement putting on the shoes of a student, I could imagine the enormous amount of pressure she has to surmount. Not only is the student expected to give consistently good and better performances in her school examinations, it is also desired that she fares off well even in the admission test of the coaching centres whose very reason for emergence is offering extra help and extra practice outside school!
Thus what comes across clearly from this advertisement is the existence of tremendous competition to stay ahead. The students not only have to compete for getting admission to good schools but they have to compete even to get enrolled in these tutorial centres which according to them holds the key to their successful career and future.

It should also be noticed (and I presume with utmost attention) that this particular tutorial centre offers residential facilities to its students. This implies that there must be a consistent demand for this facility. This once again highlights the popularity of coaching centres such as these to students residing outside Malda Town.
It has been observed that there is an increasing tendency of acquiring this extra help, of taking coaching classes all over the world. But what caught my attention is its excessive popularity at such early levels of schooling in our state. Why will a child of Class V require the help of a tutor? Why shouldn’t school be sufficient for them? Is it the teachers who are not delivering as per expectation or does the answer has its roots somewhere else? Today a private tutor has become indispensable and a bare necessity for a student. Be she in any grade, a tutor is as important as getting admitted to a school. Slowly this attraction for tutorials is increasing at a steady rate and this trend has been observed both in the urban as well as in the rural dwellings. Whatever might be the economic status of the family, they are equally eager to get hold of a private tutor for their child. Across place of residence, across socio-economic status and across religious identities parents have been found to be depending much more on private coaching classes for their ward’s education and success rather than on school teaching.

It is true that one can trace back the history of coaching centres to age-old times. But it had never been looked upon as an alternative to the mainstream education system. I personally know a few students, who prefer not to attend school but coaching classes. Why this tendency? It’s obviously a very well-known and well accepted fact that our education system does not offer education in the attractive and interesting method that it should actually provide in order to retain and enhance the interest of the children towards school. So if this need is not fulfilled by our mainstream education system, is it being met by the private tutors? When questioned, some students were of the opinion that they are friendlier with their private tutors compared to their teachers at school. They are not scared to ask questions to their private tutors but they do feel scared to ask anything to their school teachers in case of any difficulty. However, this again is not the case everywhere.

Whatever might be the reason, it is a blatant fact that from being just a place offering an extra help, private coaching centres have come a long way by becoming a parallel education system. Its boom has been tremendous and exhaustive. Today a private coaching centre is openly claiming itself to be an “educational institute of the first order” and students are queuing up there with the hope of being admitted! It’s high time that our policy-makers spare some thought for our poor children who already being overburdened with excessive load of curriculum, are now made to suffer the contradictions of varying teaching methods : at school and at coaching centres; finally producing nothing but a confused lot, unsure of everything and learning nothing. Do we desire to build our future generation in this manner? Do we really not even wish to give them an opportunity to blossom? At a time when compromise has become the very mantra of living, are we ready to compromise with our children’s education too? I leave these questions for you to answer.

First published on this site on 16/09/2011