Millions of Indian students enroll in coaching centers every year to prepare for admission in élite institutions such as IITs and IIMs. Coaching centers are necessary in our education system to fill the gap between school level education and college entrance examination syllabus. While necessary, over time, coaching centers have turned into exploitative businesses and the poor face the worst of this.
Coaching centers target poor families by marketing themselves as an escape from poverty for the family. They would tell parents that their children will get Rs. 50 LPA after going to IIT and assure them that they will get the children into the college. The deal, as it is, seems enticing even to the rich. I’m not denying that in certain cases the coaching centers succeed, we all love reading stories of impoverished children defying all odds to make it to the top colleges but as per my calculations the overall success rate of these institutions is less than 1% and for the poor who don’t have access to the same technology and resources available to the rich, the success rate can be even lower (no statistics available).
Why I focus on poor people is because the cost of coaching which as of 2017 is a modest Rs 5 Lakh for a two-year program (including hostel accommodation). In a lot of cases this means their entire life’s savings which could yield very high results but more often than not, doesn’t (<1% success rate). This leaves a lot of parents without both the money and the future they hoped for.
Further exacerbating this problem is parents unilaterally taking the decision to put their children through engineering. One doesn’t need to conduct scientific studies to find that out. The children however in order to please their parents take up the responsibility by attending these classes where they are exposed to a toxic competitive environment. Most coaching centers use a system in which those who do well are rewarded and those who don’t are put down, bunched up together in batches where they are taught by teachers inferior to the ones teaching better batches. Such negative reinforcement can have adverse effects on a child’s mental well-being.
In my time studying at a coaching center I was told that going to any place other than an IIT is an utter and complete disappointment and that I would have let my entire family down. I remember the feeling of worthlessness after failing to perform well in tests and that feeling of inferiority I felt in front of “toppers” as well as the crippling pressure of doing well. These feelings resonate among many who enter these institutions. I left the system because I couldn’t take it anymore but for most that option doesn’t exist, many end up taking their life to escape it. 57 students commit suicide in Kota between 2013 and 2017, the statistic is both shocking and horrifying.
Despite all the negativity surrounding the institutions, coaching centers as a business continue to grow. This is mainly because they are required to clear competitive examinations. Coaching centers are cementing their place as a necessary evil in our society.