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Johnson Nayak is an Assistant Programme Coordinator with Restless Development India and looks after the implementation of programmes such as the recently launched programme on Functional Literacy. For International Youth Day, Restless Development India is looking at changing the narrow understanding of education in India as a tool for job-preparedness to a more robust, personal growth-oriented model. 

Private tuition culture is eminent in India. India is a developing nation and education plays a key role in the development of the country. Attending tuition centres or coaching classes after school is almost a “rite of passage” for Indian students. 

There is intense competition in Indian society and nobody wants to be left behind on the ladder of success. Over the past two decades, families have been opting for private tuitions if they want their children to excel academically, regardless of their economic background. In urban places, most parents prefer to send their children to expensive tuition and coaching centres rather than risk low grades as it is hard to get into prestigious higher education institutions without very high marks. Each year, the cut-off marks for enrolment in reputed institutions get higher than those of the previous year, making it harder for children to meet the bars set.  

The situation is slightly different in rural India. In many places in India, student attendance is significantly low and there is a shortage of teachers in a large number of schools. There are many instances of schools in rural areas being managed by only one or two staff members. Due to a lack of resources and accessibility, parents are forced to send their children to private tutors so that they can complete their curriculum without the support of schools. 

Johnson with youth leaders

The trend of increasing private tuition-enrolment in India can also be attributed to the stories of people such as Anand Kumar, a mathematician from Bihar who started a coaching programme to enable less privileged children to gain admission to the country’s premier engineering institutions. Such stories have gained traction by being celebrated in mainstream media, and possibly encourage even more parents to send their children to coaching centres.     

According to the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), about 7.1 crore (71 million) Indian students were attending private coaching and tuition outside and parallel to the mainstream schooling system. The report estimates that about 11-12% of family income goes to private coaching and tuition centres. This is an immense financial burden on families. 

The extreme routinisation of taking coaching classes after school hours has several implications for students’ lives as well. Since families devote such a large chunk of their resources to these coaching classes, there is significant pressure on young people to perform well academically. In fact, students’ performance in school and entrance examinations has a huge impact on personal and family reputation. These trends are a major cause for the deteriorating mental health of school-going children and the increase in the number of student suicides in the country. 

On the flip side of the story, the availability of tuition centres has allowed children of uneducated parents to access the assistance they lack at home, especially in places where there is a shortage of teachers. 

Current school curricula are extremely theoretical and have little relevance for students’ higher education. Moreover, current assessment procedures focus more on ‘bookish’ knowledge and less on practical application. In recent years, a lot of NGOs and CSOs have started filling this gap by implementing programmes on life-skills, functional literacy, digital skills and so forth. Evaluation of these programmes confirms their utility for helping students identify their career aspirations and acquire practical knowledge. There is an undeniable need to include such life-skills and practical courses in the existing school curriculum in order to offer holistic learning to students. 

To keep up with the changing world, there is a need for schools to change the learning environment so that the students are able to find a joyful and safe environment.   

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