Attending coaching classes, widely known as ‘tuitions’, have become one of the most sought after activities for Mumbai adolescents. It stands a close second to raving to EDM music in high-end bars. Enlisting one’s child for coaching classes or ‘rigorous, academic boot camps’, as I like to call them, have become the greatest obsession of many Indian parents. The desire to see one’s child achieve in life and reach the pinnacle exists for most parents. Having such desires is completely normal, but what is delusional are the assumptions that most people have regarding the path to achieving this most desired ‘success’. From parents sending their toddlers to a gazillion classes to high school students besieged with academic woes and university students swamped with endless assignments and exams – increasingly people consider coaching classes to be an essential and integral way to the road for the perfect life.
My social surroundings and years of personal experience have led me to form a highly negative opinion about such classes. The frenzy behind attending excessively long hours of tuitions is not only infamous in engineering but almost everything including basic elementary school subjects; professional courses such as CA, CS, CFA, medicine, MBA, law entrances and practically every plausible academic subject which is capable of being graded. The following highlights different perspectives regarding the nature and features of such classes:
We have always been told that maths is a tough subject which leads almost all of us to join maths classes from a very young age without making an attempt to give it a shot ourselves. Coaching classes run on such pre-conceived notions which make us believe that particular subjects cannot be understood without tutors. This can prove to be highly detrimental in the long run.
A regular coaching class usually has a minimum of 100 students per batch, and if one wishes to be enrolled in a smaller batch, one has to be willing to spend large amounts of money. Hence, people are compelled to pick the larger batch. Anjana Parthasarathy, a student of chartered accountancy remarks, “Every batch has a large number of students and a single teacher is not equipped to deal with every student’s academic aptitude. Since various kinds of students are all put together in one huge batch, the pace is simply not suitable. Additionally, owing to this factor and a dearth of space in Mumbai, all the students are crammed into a tiny classroom which turns out to be extremely uncomfortable, strenuous and claustrophobic, especially when you’re expected to sit for over seven hours.”
Coaching classes are usually all about memorising formulae, tricks, shortcuts and not understanding a concept but acing the exam. This erodes the whole idea of learning. These classes tend to limit the scope of learning due to their narrow objectives and ulterior motives. Their primary objective is to have as many students set a precedent, so the tutor gets an opportunity to brag about these results over large hoardings. These classes are often criticised to be cramming factories because of the way they are being modelled.
Diptanshu Sharma, an engineering student having been a part of such intensive classes opines, “They are cram schools. Their objective is not genuinely teaching students novel concepts but solely preparing them for that one holy exam. They exist to make you able to crack that exam. They give you short cuts to solve questions. So if you really love chemistry, and you want to study chemistry in a really good institution, you’re conditioned to believe that the only way to get there is by going to a cram school because everyone seems to be doing it. They don’t care about teaching you the subject well.”
Incidents of student suicides are a well-known reality in India. Since these exams are highly competitive, students are being saddled with unrealistic expectations and enormous amounts of pressure in an atmosphere perpetuated by these coaching institutes. Moreover, spending a significant amount of time in such classes hinders interpersonal skill development of individuals. A student is expected to sit for long hours in dull classes and sacrifice on almost all social activities, often leading to depression amongst various people. It also deters them from pursuing that profession altogether.
Yash Kochar, a former student of a medical coaching institute, says, “They brag about being top quality schools, but they confine all their teaching to the syllabus and never bother entertaining doubts which are beyond the designated syllabus. From being a very social and affable person in elementary and high school, I became lonely and desolate because the students never interacted with each other for anything beyond grades and tests and universities. It didn’t work too well with me. If a student didn’t attend a particular class or take a certain test, his parents were harassed and badgered about his whereabouts and told how his future would be in jeopardy, all because of bunking a single class. All this ultimately led to my decision to abandon pursuing medicine.”
Even though their negative aspect has been the popular opinion, there are certain deviations from the general status quo of coaching classes. Udai Chauhan, a finance student who recently appeared for the Common Aptitude Test (CAT) says, “I’m supportive of coaching classes for the reason that they give you direction. A person can be good at maths, English and Logic, but if there’s no guidance as to what must be studied and what topics must be given importance to, then studying becomes chaotic. Students who are disciplined enough to stick to a timetable and follow it religiously can manage by themselves, but for most of us between 18-25, it’s difficult due to constraints related to college academics, work and other social obligations. These classes ensure that whatever needs to be studied is covered within a stipulated time frame.”
In India, a paradigm culture shift from engaging one’s child for tuitions to engaging one’s child in gymnastics or art class or anything which is not related to academics is the dire need of the day. It’s high time for coaching classes to overhaul their ways of teaching and attitude towards various factors if the country is to produce intelligent, creative individuals who don’t lose hope on life or become clinically depressed at a very young age.