Only a few days ago, I was having a conversation with my domestic help about her son’s education. I asked her about which school he went to. She proudly replied, “School ke baad teen ghante tuition karta hai (He attends three-hours tuition after school).”
I was a little taken aback. I had asked her about his school, not the extra help which her son took. Now I may sound old-fashioned (I’m still in my 20s), but when I was growing up, tuitions were only taken by those appearing for competitive exams (JEE, PMT, etc) in class 12. The people who took tuitions before class 12 or for board exams were looked down upon. After all, they were unable to understand the concepts in one go and needed special attention.
But fast-forward eight years later, and my maid proudly talks about her six-year-old son attending a tuition of three hours. Yes, you read it right – a six-year-old. Now, it’s not like I live in a cocoon. I realise that these days, a lot of children seek outside help and some do it for very legitimate reasons. But I never expected my maid – who barely earns enough to feed her family – to be spending thousands every month on tuitions. In fact, she pays more for the tuitions than for his school!
When I asked her about the cost she said, “School mein theek se nahi padhate (They don’t teach properly in schools).”
Her son goes to a very prestigious private school under the EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) quota. This is when it hit me that perhaps students all over the country have a very different understanding of school compared to what I grew up with. They treat school as a source of exam papers and a seat for the board exams. The real ‘studying’ happened in the tuition centres. They just needed school to test the knowledge they had acquired through tuitions.
While I was by no means a person who listened to and took note of everything the teacher said, my attitude towards school was very different. To me, the teachers were the limited sources of information I had apart from my textbooks. And yes, even though I may not have fully stuck to it, I was surely trying to do my best to learn in school.
Apart from the sheer number of students from every strata of society enrolled in these tuitions, another thing which took me by surprise is the prevalence of this practice. This was no longer a phenomenon of the urban elite but had trickled down to the common person. In a country where a teacher’s salary is pitiful, it is no surprise why so many prefer minting money via their own tuition centres.
In fact, I suspect that we are one of the few countries where tuition centres are so rapidly taking over the education market. Yes, perhaps there are ultra-competitive children somewhere in Korea or China doing the same, but it’s surely not as widespread as in India.
This is a very serious issue in my opinion as it completely challenges the way education has been perceived in this world. The role of schools as a hub for education is fast giving way to treating schools as a hub for gaining an admission ticket for the exams. Are schools really so redundant that our children need to head to tuition centres to score well? So, next time you enrol your child for any tuition, think twice. What kind of opinion about schools do you want them to have?