A RECENT TREND
in Tamil Nadu has seen better performance from the southern districts. This bucks the trend: students of Chennai considered to be the creamy layer, who have wider access to better coaching, while their counterparts in the towns lack such infrastructure. But surprisingly a new cult of schools has evolved in the southern districts, in particular Namakkal that put students under rigorous training for two years.
An eroding educational model
It was after scoring 90 per cent in Class X, Mala’s parents dreamt for her to get a medical college seat or an engineering seat in a top government college. Mala was enrolled in one of the most sought after schools in the Namakkal district. Famous for broiler chicken, today Namakkal district has carved itself an identity of producing a fine breed of students. These schools assure state rank for one’s child, if not admission in medical or an engineering college in government institutions.
All these schools are established by retired school teachers. These schools charge about Rs 1 lakh compared to government stipulated fee of Rs 10,000 per year and parents are ready to set apart the sum to reap future benefits.
After studying in a tension-free, serene atmosphere in Chennai, Mala found it difficult to adapt to the rigours of the town. All students, even if residents of the city are to stay in the hostel. Even the teachers are provided accommodation within the campus for uninterrupted coaching. With restrained access to family and outside world, every student is closely monitored for their performance.
The coaching for 12th grade starts from the middle of 11th grade by 31st October. By then all 11th grade portions are ended or left half way. So one and a half year before the common exam of 12th grade, the coaching begins in these schools and goes uninterrupted without holidays.
The school employs three categories of teachers. Subject paper teachers are paid Rs 20,000 per month. Test paper correction teachers are paid Rs 8000 per month. They don’t handle classes but only correct the students’ answer sheets and comment on their performance line by line. Hostel study supervision teachers are paid Rs 6000 per month who monitor whether a student studies throughout the stay in hostel.
365 days of schooling...
Through these two years, the student is cut access to the outside world. Many do fairly well in exams and enter into prestigious institutions, yet another half either leave half way unable to bear the pressure or end up their lives unable to cope up the shock of low marks in examinations. Yet another disturbing trend is the spread of a similar culture in colleges. These institutions have succumbed to the parental and societal pressures and thus have made students similar to the broiler chicken of those areas.
This trend of educational institutions becoming mark-churning factories is to be controlled at the beginning; else boasting of having the largest youth population will become meaningless.
Other side of the coin...
Defenders of the system point to the end, justifying the means. They sight the success of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar in winning large share of seats in the IIT-JEE and civil services examinations respectively. Chandrababu Naidu as Chief Minister encouraged such coaching. It is common to come across long stretches of towns in Hyderabad with mushrooms of coaching institutions. In quick time these became highly famous for the success rate of their students in the entrance examination of IIT. At IIT-M, the lingua franca has changed to Telugu. Likewise Patna witnessed such coaching centres that prepared for civil services exam. Of course, they succeeded in taking Bihar to the top even as the state of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi performed poorly in development. The pass outs of these institutions work across Delhi and other states as administrators.
As Jerome K Jerome put it: the methods may be crude but they are effective.