Monday, January 25, 2010

Coaching syndrome

What was once considered a stigma, that is, attending private coaching or tuition classes, is turning into an essential activity for students. A multi-hundred crore business has arisen across the country that includes, besides the coaching institution, boarding, lodging, publishing and advertising business. Many coaching centres for the entrance-tests to engineering/medical colleges help their students get admissions in the formal schools alongside, in which attendance is a mere formality. Thus the schools provide them +2 certificates and the coaching centre imparts learning.
Crass commercialismThe growing attraction for coaching classes reflects the dissatisfaction of parents with the educational outcome of schools. Marks in examinations have become the sole criterion to judge a person’s abilities. While a regular school’s goal is to prepare students for examinations and the life beyond, for coaching centres, examinations are the sole goal.
For the rising middle class, success at the entrance tests of engineering/medical colleges is a gateway to prosperity and a higher social status. This attraction has grown to the extent that a callous attitude towards the formal school system is being bred. Students even attend coaching classes in their school uniforms and follow the lessons being taught in these classes rather than in their schools.
The coaching centres are a huge financial burden to parents. Students in rural areas, small towns and those who cannot afford coaching, are at a disadvantage. The poor kids have no time for outdoor games or extra-curricular activities, and a spoon-fed generation of “fragile learning” is being raised.
Teachers in these centres can be of two kinds — untrained teachers, who might know their subject and problem-solving tricks but have no knowledge of child/adolescent psychology; and trained teachers, who though formally employed in some school, teach at these centres at the cost of their duties in school. Both are jeapordising the students’ future.
With the coaching institutes acquiring the status of a parallel schooling system, the formal school system might get subverted. Various measures are required to counter this decline.
As the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) 2005 recommended, education should be for nurturing multiple intelligence in order to fructify the full potential of each child. This has to be supported by a constructivist approach to learning and a flexible, scientifically designed student assessment system.
Performance should be portrayed in a portfolio revealing his/her total being. This can include domains such as life skills, academic/non-academic and vocational subjects, personal qualities, etc. Schools should conduct target-based teaching after identifying the aptitudes of students.
Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have put in place regulations for the coaching business, yet they need to be strengthened and complemented with pedagogic and examination reforms. Of these reforms, the foremost should be the one prescribed in the National Policy of Education 1986: “The first task is to make it [educational system] work. All teachers should teach and all students study.”

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