Here he was being interviewed. Not any over-enthusiastic attention seeker but Padma Shri – Prof HC Verma. The ‘pedagogical guru’ for NEET/JEE aspirants, he authors the bible for understanding physics. Immensely popular, he is merit personified. What could have made him say ‘’Coaching industry is a social issue, not an academic one.’’ This line pushed me into a devouring whirlpool of hypothesis. I started pondering.
In our milieu, a 7 minute drive from the airport takes you to the Kota of Kashmir. Coaching foetus thrives in a womb named Parraypora. It is an uptown locality; a meretricious market for medical/engineering entrances.
The making of Parraypora as Kashmir’s coaching hub rolls back to early 1990s when a veteran biology teacher shifted his base from congested downtown to sparsely populated civil lines. It was a true service then; unfurled into a conspiring clan with years. In less than three decades, the place has unsurprisingly turned to become the city’s best paymaster.
Every year, students across the valley swell up on the roads of Parraypora. From Kanelwan to Kaloosa, Dadsara to Drugmulla, Khag to Khadniyar, teens throng this Mecca for NEET/JEE. When parents are hard-sold the idea of sending their children to coaching classes from an early age to get a leg-up on entrance exams, children succumb to pressure and follow the crowd. Interest and aptitude of kids is often overpassed. Tragic but true. Hence, coaching centres become the indisputable beneficiaries of this overwhelming migration.
Take a walk down the streets of Parraypora; massive commercialization has clawed its way into this residential habitat. Crowd thins from the main road and floods the coaching campuses from dawn to dusk. Classrooms are a hotchpotch where teachers putting up collar mics address 200 plus students. Is this the normal student teacher ratio approved by our sarkar?
What is the LG government doing about this violation? It is an obnoxious practice but crucial to make big money.
Giant hoardings and glamorous posters fixed at sidewalks compete for attention. Selected candidates are to Parraypora’s spaces what Jayalalitha was to Chennai (staring from banners and cutouts). The triumphant advertisements claiming the names of the same selected students is highly unprofessional; misguiding newcomers in all seriousness.
With multiple batches bearing a swarm of students, the success ratio remains awful. Coaching centres make a lot of noise about helping a labourer’s son crack NEET/JEE; they don’t claim the other 99% students? Whose babies are they? Aren’t those candidates a baggage on them? Why not talk about this scary side; the silent victims of this bluff game.
Three decades back, these factories were non-existent. Didn’t we produce marvellous doctors or brainy engineers? Our social scientists/civil society in general are not the products of these factories. They are self- made entities. This deceit feeds upon bogus fears; continues cunningly.
Batches after batches streaming out on roads resemble cattle without drovers. There is an unnoticed rebellion blooming on the garish streets. Dread of running a ruthless race. Frustration stemming from unexpressed dissent. Very few seem determined to compete.
Apparently this is the bruise; the cancer is deep. Is coaching seed growing into a doddering tree or a blooming bush. Let us discover.
Dummy school culture
Remember Pablo Escobar- the notorious narcoterrorist. His way of handling problems – ‘’Plata o Plomo’’ meant bullets or bribe. In our context, the bullet chapter consists of the deficiencies in the school system which are forcing students to look for “external’’ options; school curriculum failing to equip them for facing a ferocious competition. The bribe chapter consists of the coaching engagement at the expense of that ‘’failing’’ schooling system.
But can coaching be a replacement to school? Never. These, by their essential character aren’t aimed to do that. Coaching is mere information transmission; schools construct intellectuals. Student grooming is not in any coaching mandate. Personality development is the cardinal function of educational institutions. Danger lies in students skipping their formative school years to attend these “outside’’ classes. Dummy school culture is a consequence of unbridled growth of coaching centres or vice versa. By any calling, students are facing the decay. Should these “pseudo’’ schools be held accountable in all seriousness or the internal dynamics of schools be constructed in a more engrossing and absorbing manner; I leave that to administrators, regulators and governance.
An unchecked scam?
Coaching institutes lure students with a falsity. Their entire machinery is misleading. Reality is an unholy pursuit of an ambition that breaks backs and annihilates savings. Everything is “marketed’’ as resourceful. Tactical methods of brand building is downright ridiculous. Stealing-cum-shuffling popular teachers with a fan following or collaborating with recent pass outs is insanely irrelevant in the context of learning. Successful students become the USPs; the “other’’ students just classroom filling entities. Scholarships to the deserving is fair but the massive inflow of currency from that ‘’other’’ is not any accidental affair. Are their any ‘’added inputs’’ on the students outside the segment of meritorious?
Instances of parents selling off land or dissolving savings to pay a hefty admission fee (#non- refundable) can’t be overlooked. Isn’t this called fleecing students? Exchanging attractive packages for instant admissions is a deal. A proper business is operating in Parraypora; remember education is no trade. If by some good deeds, government officials introspect, then inspections are faced with a careful planning. No one knows why and how these heists are conducted.
NEET/JEE pace is getting frenetic and frantic each year. The mammoth tuition republic is thriving here out of an indifferent rote learning based schooling. GoI is banking on NEP to improve the gruelling education system but legislation seems doing nothing or little to cut dependency on coaching or stem the growing reach of this parallel industry. Parraypora is one of the big faces; this trend is rampant across many townships of JK. Are lives of young students some unending classrooms where the bell just doesn’t go off?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.