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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Students = customers: Reasons for stress on students aplenty - Hindustan Times

  • Aneesha Bedi, Hindustan Times, ChandigarhUpdated: May 16, 2016 13:04 IST
Students are being taught in batches with strength of 150 to 200 at various coaching institutes in Chandigarh. The child rights panel has taken a strict note of this practice of treating students as customers. (Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)

After the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) inspected four coaching centres in the city and expressed strong displeasure at the way they were functioning, HT took stock of the situation by visiting a number of institutes and talking to various stakeholders.
The NCPCR team had visited the city last Friday in the wake of 42 cases of students’ suicide reported in Kota, Rajasthan, in the past three years. Like Kota, Chandigarh, too, is an important hub of private coaching for competitive exams.

The Delhi team had raised a multitude of issues leading to stress among students: special batches for toppers, lack of counsellors, overcrowded classes, admission tests, and high fee among others. HT throws light on all these issues.

Separate batches for toppers
It has been observed that most coaching centres in the city have special batches for toppers: A+, A star, etc. When HT visited a few coaching centres in Sector 34 and Sector 36, it was found that many of these institutes had stopped this practice temporarily post the inspections, but some had a different explanation to offer.

Vijay Makin, administrative head, Allen Institute, Sector 34, said: “There are kids who wish to appear for international Olympiads and their aim is to get admitted to institutes abroad. They require a different kind of preparation, and hence are put in a separate batch.”

Another faculty member of the institute said requests from bureaucrats to pay special attention to their kids forced the centres to put their wards in separate batches.
Madhu, a parent whose child is an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) aspirant, called the separate batches “a clear case of discrimination”.
However, Arvind Goyal, a local trainer for medical entrance exams and spokesperson of the Chandigarh Educationists’ Association, said: “At times, parents themselves ask for such batches.”

Overcrowded classes
A visit to coaching institutes in Sectors 22, 24, 34 and 36 revealed how 150 to 200 students are being made to sit in one room, depriving them of individual attention. Calling this practice a form of “treating students as their customers”, the child rights panel has taken a strict note of it.
Institutes, however, feel having smaller batches is not financially viable. “A lot of expenditure is involved –newspaper ads, administrative costs, 15% service tax on commercial education, rental, staff salaries. Hence small batches aren’t financially viable,” said Arvind Goyal.

Lack of qualified counsellors
The lack of counsellors in these coaching centres is also a worrying trend. Anil Verma, who coaches aspirants for the Joint Entrance Examinations for the Indian Institutes of Technology in Sector 34, said: “Coaching is important to beat stress. I, myself, counsel each student in my institute. What we can do having the understanding of kids’ needs cannot be done by another counsellor.”
Arvind Goyal said his wife (who is the dean, academics, at their institute in Sector 37) works overtime only to ensure she can guide overburdened students.

Admission tests
Adding to the stress at the very beginning, most institutes hold written tests to enrol students. Criticising the practice, Arvind Goyal said: “Admissions should be held on the first-cum-first-serve basis, as what’s the point to test the children before preparing them for competitive exams.”
Savin Sandhu, another IIT-JEE trainer and physics expert, said: “While we hold such tests at the beginning of the session to provide scholarships to the top 10 students, bigger institutes do it all year round.”
A faculty member of Akash Institute, requesting anonymity, said: “How else do we select students coming for admissions since the number is so huge? It is the only practical way.”

Morning batches, ‘dummy’ schools
Former deputy commissioner Mohammad Shayin had imposed Section 144 (prohibition on assembly of more than five people) of the criminal procedure code (CrPC) around coaching institutes during school hours, i.e. till 2pm, in February last year.
The order was later relaxed on the condition that “from the next session, no coaching centre will be allowed to admit students (in morning batches) who are enrolled in schools. They will have to maintain a proper record, which will be checked by the administration. Dummy admissions will invite action. Schools will be asked to submit records of attendance of students in Classes 11 and 12”.

A year on, things have not changed much, with no regulatory mechanism to check the practice. Institutes holding morning batches claim these are “crash courses” for “droppers” and that they have been obeying the orders.

Dummy schools operating in the city, which enrol students and mark attendance without students physically being present in these schools, have triggered the trend. Director, school education, Rubinderjit Singh Brar said, “We are exploring all the options to see how this practice can be stopped.”