5th March 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure shot
Question – Childhood lost in coaching centres. Comment.
Context – Children rushing to coaching centres from an early age for competitive exam preparation.
- Childhood is the time for children to be in school and at play, to grow strong and confident with the love and encouragement of their family and an extended community of caring adults. It is a precious time in which children should live free from fear, safe from violence and protected from abuse and exploitation. As such, childhood means much more than just the space between birth and the attainment of adulthood. It refers to the state and condition of a child’s life, to the quality of those years.
The present scenario:
- From school to reality shows, children are being forced to perform.
- It’s not only in schools that children face pressure today. At home, parents demand performance not only in academics but also in extra-curricular activities. The situation is turning so alarming that children in the age group of 5-10 years are suffering from anxiety and depression.
- As much as there is pressure to get good grades in school, parents are increasingly seeing their child a tool to win fame.
- As a result childhoods are getting lost in competition and there is significant rise in cases of depression and anxiety among children.
The role of schools and coaching institutes:
- Ignoring the children’s learning stages, the schools have distorted the curriculum. A principal of a corporate school revealed that coaching for the IIT examination began as early as Class VI.
- The school focused on physics, math and chemistry, while the mother tongue and social sciences were sidelined.
- Further, as the school had to ‘complete’ the syllabus prescribed by the State government along with IIT coaching, the syllabi for Classes XI and XII was taught from Class VI onwards too, with 10% of the syllabus being ‘covered’ each year. During interviews, government officials and teachers said that students in such schools did little or no physical or extracurricular activities, and got little rest.
- The pressure on students was enormous. As per the principal, students were divided into three ‘levels’ according to ability, and taught separately. There were fortnightly exams and cumulative exams every month, and students were re-allotted to different levels after the latter.
- The atmosphere was very competitive. The school hours stretched up to nine hours or more, and there were few holidays. There were several cases of student suicides each year, usually following a demotion in the ‘level’. As per the principal, around 20% students were placed at the top level, and of them 15-20% were likely to get admission to the IITs. In other words, after a high level of stress and sacrificing a well-rounded education, 3-4% of the total students got into IITs. How many would have got admission to the IITs with a proper education too, is a matter of conjecture.
- All the students in such schools lost the chance to be children, explore and grow, develop their special talents, and form their unique identity. But for those who did not get admission to engineering colleges, the loss was manifold. They got little support in the school, as the best teachers were deployed to teach the top-level students.
- Reportedly, the students in the bottom layer were pejoratively called ‘patrons’ by the management, as their parents paid high fees, while their chances of getting into an engineering college were negligible.
- Behind this story of lost childhoods, and for many students, lost career opportunities too, lay corporate greed and state failure. Corporate greed was visible in aggressive campaigns to enrol students.
- Teachers at a government school said private school representatives came to the school in January, made lists of good students, contacted parents, and encouraged students to join.
- An individual who once worked in a corporate school reported that teachers were given targets to enrol students and collect fees, and their salary was withheld if they did not meet them. Norms regarding minimum infrastructure, such as space, sanitation, play-grounds, fire safety etc. were flouted. The maximum fees a school was allowed to charge was ₹4,000 per year, but corporate schools charged extra as coaching fees and for facilities, adjusting the fees to the paying capacity of the area.
What are corporate schools?
- Corporate schools are like private schools or coaching centres or institutions. They are managed by a team of professionals who claim to provide the best teaching to the students for getting into various streams that they want. They mostly charge heavy fees.
The changed meaning of education now a days:
- Education should be an equalizer. We should have a similar offering for everybody and education should be inexpensive so that every child has equal access and opportunity. Unfortunately, that is not a reality. So we have government schools and corporate schools and the richer kids go to the latter. Ideally, schooling should mean that every child becomes a responsible citizen, a complete person who has good values, somebody who can make independent decisions, know right from wrong, to understand morality, love, respect.
- For every category [however], the goal has become – our child should be able to speak English like the upper-class and should get a good job; our child should do better than us. When people say ‘better than us’ they don’t mean it in terms of having a better quality of thinking or being more progressive as compared to them but in terms of a bigger house, better cars. And that’s what reflects in education.
The ground picture:
- Government officials, teacher educators, and even panchayat representatives interviewed were aware that the educational practices of corporate schools were questionable, and that they fooled and exploited students and parents.
- However, regulating such schools was beyond the capacity of the government system. One, at inter-college, or the Classes XI and XII stage, where corporate schools first began, the number of government educational institutions was inadequate.
- Two, the manpower available for regulation was deficient. At the district level, the senior-most principal of government inter colleges was designated the Regional Inspection Officer (RIO), and was responsible for regulating private schools, in addition to his existing duties. Moreover, because of a lack of manpower, some RIOs had charge of more than one inter-college. For Classes IX and X, education officials remained busy with government schools, and had little time to inspect private schools.
- Three, the corporate school management exercised considerable influence at the very top levels of government. They were reported to contribute funds during elections, and some had begun political careers themselves. Officials described several instances of political pressure to prevent action against corporate schools. So much so that representatives of small private schools complained that the government favoured corporate schools and discriminated against them. Not surprisingly, little effort had been made to inform people about the problems with corporate schools.
- It is very important to restore childhood back in children if we want to produce healthy citizens for the future.
- The meaning of education needs to be realised and children should not be used as a tool to fame by their guardians. After all there is no use of a good tag and hefty money is the child is stressed and depressed or in some cases decides to take his or her life. Kota is an eye opening example.
Note – The article on Assam and NRC has already been covered in the articles of June,2019