Srinagar, Nov 28: Over the years, Kashmir has witnessed a rampant growth in private coaching centres, particularly in the Srinagar city with the influx of franchises from reputed coaching centers across the country.
However, concerns have been raised over the lack of a proper mechanism to regulate fee structure of these private coaching centres and ensure basic facilities for the students as well.
In the last few years, the Valley has become home to approximately 630 private coaching centers, catering not only to students from classes 9th to 12th but also to around 15,000 aspirants preparing for national-level competitive exams such as NEET and JEE.
The movement towards private coaching has resulted in a paradigm shift, with many students relying on these centres over traditional formal schooling.
Despite initiatives by the Jammu and Kashmir government to regulate these coaching centers, the fee structure remains a contentious issue. “Currently, there is no effective mechanism in place to monitor and control the fees charged by these institutes. This is leading to exorbitant amounts being levied on students,” an official said.
The official said, normally the fees for three-month crash courses range from Rs 50,000 to well beyond Rs one lakh.
“The absence of fee regulation not only allows coaching centers to charge fees arbitrarily but also creates an uneven playing field,” the official said.
The parents also raised questions over the department for not regulating the fee structure of private coaching centres saying that fixing a fee structure would foster fair competition among coaching centers and provide students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds with the opportunity to enroll in quality institutes.
“But with no check from the government, the parents have been left at the receiving end,” said Shahzad Ahmad, a parent from Baramulla.
A noted educationist said while private schools often make headlines for fee hikes and structure changes, the unregulated business of private coaching centers has largely gone unnoticed.
“The approximately Rs 200 crore annual business conducted by these coaching centers has raised concerns about their ethical practices, especially in marketing strategies that highlight success stories while omitting failure rates and fee details,” a noted academician said who wished not to be named.
Over the years, it has been observed that prior to each academic session, coaching centers flood the city with banners, hoardings, and advertisements, showcasing success stories to attract new admissions.
“However, these marketing materials seldom disclose the fees charged for various coaching programs, creating an environment of uncertainty for prospective students and their families,” said Muhammad Ishtiyaq, a parent from Srinagar.
One alarming observation is the enrollment of students without fresh registration from competent authorities. This has raised questions about the legitimacy of some coaching institutes and the need for a more stringent regulatory framework.
Earlier this year, the Director of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) Tasaduq Hussain Mir said that the department has not given registration to any coaching centre particularly in Srinagar.
“We have not also fixed any fee structure for these institutes as well. I do not know how they charge it (fees) and how they got registered here,” the DSEK had said.
His statement indicates a lack of oversight, with coaching centers operating without proper registration and no fixed fee structure.
Advisor to J&K Lieutenant Governor (LG) Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar said he was not aware about the legal process of regulating these private coaching centres by the School Education Department (SED).
“I will see and examine what are the powers of the department to regulate these centres. I believe we should first regulate our schools so that no one goes to these private coaching centres,” advisor Bhatnagar told Greater Kashmir.