Tuition Times

Gone are the days when life used to be full of endless fun and frolic for most school and college going boys and girls. Out door life offered a wide spectrum of long walks, kite-flying, traditional games, modern sports, hikes in the mountains and what not.  All these are no more than tales of a bygone age for the young ones of today. Their lives, especially of those who are even remotely anxious about their careers, revolve around only one thing -- tuitions, and more tuitions!   Instead of the leisurely early morning and late evening walks, these youngsters are now seen riding their cycles, mopeds, scooters and even cars with grim, swollen and anxious faces to their favourite tuition haunts at these unearthly times.  Even during the holidays they are studying as much, if not more, as during the working days in the college.  The only good riddance for them are the dull and uninspiring college classes which, if at all, they are forced to attend for the sake of meeting the conditions of their lectures.

Just as with their studies, so with their examinations, what matters is not the marks obtained in the annual examinations but their performance at the competitive examinations. These are now conducted by almost all the universities and boards for selecting prospective candidates for professional colleges in the medical and non-medical streams or for that matter any professional course. The system exposes its glaring maladies, if one cares to think a bit more deeply. The primary education at the schools and colleges has indeed become redundant or at best is of very little significance, as are the marks attained in the annual examinations of the various courses. The competitive examinations and the marks obtained in the tests are of singular importance for all concerned. There can be no weightier comment on the farcical formal education, but who cares!

The young ones adapt to new situations very quickly and they have no other way but to accept the new realities of the tuition yug.  They have moulded their lives accordingly.  Says Vineet, a student of the DAV College, Chandigarh, "Tuitions have now become an essential part of education. Students become dependent upon tuitions from lower classes.  The need for tuitions is especially felt at the Plus Two level for science students.... These days, parents before admitting their child, to college admit him or her in the tuition class of the best teacher so that the seats there may not be over.  The rush for tuitions is so great that many teachers are now conducting tests for admission to their tuition classes."

A large number of students now attend tuition classes at all levels. Says Surekha, a student of Senior Model School, Chandigarh, "Today in this world, when the entire human race breathes in an air of competition; where every individual is trying to get the better of the other, tuitions have not unexpectedly acquired a great importance in the field of education." And her friend Monica adds, "Earlier tuitions were meant for weak students; now they are compulsory for the brilliant and the intelligent ones.... The weak students are, in fact, not admitted to tuition classes."

Tuitions have become a craze these days, especially in the large cosmopolitan cities. So much so that the students even miss their regular classes to attend their tuition classes. In many cases, those not taking tuitions consider themselves inferior. They are even considered foolish by their fellow students. The motivating factors are many - from getting an opportunity to make friends with the opposite sex to securing a seat in the professional colleges. Manoj, a student of Arya College, Ludhiana, explains the phenomenon, "Tuitions are considered a necessity by the students as competition is very hard and they have to get some extra knowledge to compete. Going to a tuition class means you are going to be taught above your level - more than what the students of your class are being taught."

There are many other contributing factors for the phenomenal growth of tuitions in the country. Many parents feel that tuitions make students regular and punctual and make them busy in their studies. Mrs. Santosh Sharma, an affluent parent, remarks, "Tuitions have become a stepping stone for success in the competitive examinations. Instead of spending time watching serials on the television, while attending tuition classes, students are at least spending their time well in studies." And after a little afterthought, she candidly twists the well-known adage to her favour, "These days, I must admit, all play and no work makes Jack a dull boy."

The teachers are also no longer shy in mentioning that they take tuitions. In fact, many think themselves as better teachers because they are able to attract a large number of students in their tuition classes at their homes. In one of the not too distant a Senate meeting of the Panjab University, where a heated discussion was on to ban tuitions, a Fellow, Prof. Satish Sharma of Arya College, Ludhiana, boldly stated, "Tuitions are a legitimate and moral right of the teachers. This phenomenon is the outcome of the changed social scenario. There is economic, social, moral and political pressure on the community to adjust with this." However,

he added that the tuition work should be taken with honesty, sincerity and modesty.

Professor Mangesh Teli of the UDCT, Bombay offers an insight into the tuition phenomenon, by saying, "In competitive courses tuitions are required because the people teaching in colleges and universities are not up to the mark. They are neither dedicated not properly oriented. The number of students in the classes is too large and it is practically impossible to pay individual attention. The admission to professional colleges depends on the marks the child scores in the competitive examinations and not on the abilities he or she has. Naturally, there is a great demand for tuitions."

Many students supplement these views and feel that tuitions enable them to finish their courses of study ahead of time even before they join college. They thus get a chance to revise the syllabus in their regular college classes. The students who are shy to ask questions in their regular classes can remove their doubts in the coaching classes and avoid failure in life.

However, there is much more to tuitions than what meets the eye. Whatever might have been the compelling factors for the widespread need for the tuitions, the scenario today has undergone a sea change. The first victim of mass scale tuitions has been the classroom teaching both with respect to its quality and quantity. Many students complain that most teachers no longer teach sincerely in the regular classes partly because they are tired after having devoted many hours to tuitions at home and partly because they have become highly business-minded.. Many teachers remain absent at will leaving students unattended. Some set up very difficult question papers in the home examinations to frighten the students. There are others, who, prompted by profit motif, encourage their students to take tuitions from them by promises of help in the practical examinations and/or making up their lectures at the end of the academic session. Some even go to the extent of helping their tuition students in the written examinations conducted by the university concerned. Surprisingly, the administration largely remains indifferent towards any and all of these malpractices whatever may be the reasons for their silence.

Apart from these alarming maladies which have further vitiated the already depilated education system in the country, there are many other serious repercussion. The first sufferers are the poor students who remain behind in studies mainly because their parents cannot afford the sky-high prices for the extra coaching classes. There are reports of teachers charging thousands of rupees per subject for teaching only one subject for a period of two to three months. True indeed, these teachers earn in two to three months more than what they earn in their jobs in a year. In other words, the tuition classes have now become more of a hard sell business rather than a coaching class.

Further, these classes are now only marginally better than the college classes because of the huge rush and most teachers now teach in groups of 35 to 40 even at home. Even there are entrance tests for the tuition classes and the really weak students desirous of taking extra coaching hardly get a chance. On the other hand, the tuition classes make the students over-dependent on the teacher and they lose the habit of hard work.

Students also waste a lot of time in rushing from one tutor to another and in most cases their creativity is completely stifled at a very young age. Being tired and bored from having to study so hard, the students who consider tuition classes their gate way to success do not take much interest in the college classes and consider them a wastage of their precious time. They come to college mainly to complete the formality of the required number of lectures and, in fact, more often than not, prove a nuisance for the other more serious students.

When a large number of students in the class are taking tuitions, the class room teaching becomes tuition-oriented and those who are bereft of this facility suffer a further set back. As Avinash, a student of Delhi University, puts it, "Even in the regular classes, teachers care for those students who get extra coaching from them. So the students are attracted towards tuitions for the simple reason that they will get every kind of help from their teachers. The teachers instill the idea in the students' brain that they will succeed only if they take tuitions from them at their homes."

In both, among the students and the teachers, there are many critics of the wide spread tuition menace. Sanjay Malhotra, a student of a premier educational institution in Chandigarh is totally disillusioned with the system and exclaims, " Parents send their wards to well-established institutions little realizing that teachers have fully commercialized studies.... If a teacher teaches students well in the class and is always ready to help them with their difficulties and problems, the students won't need tuitions." Dinesh Darshan, his class fellow, supplements, "Tuitions have resulted in deterioration of our educational system and snapping of the vital link between the teacher and the taught. Since tuitions provide easy money, teachers have opened their own academies where students are trapped in the vicious circle of tuitions."

Principal P. S. Bajaj of LMR College, Jagraon comments, " Teaching shops are a blot on the fair name of the teachers. No doubt, tuitions are a vicious circle in which every one - parents, students and teachers have willy nilly got involved either for better marks or more money." According to Mr. Ram Sevak Yadav, a teacher of the Narayan Inter College, Malhousi (UP), "the origin of tuitions lies in bad classroom teaching." He concludes that "tuitions are a wrong business and a means of earning money the wrong way." Prof Ajit Singh of the SGGS College, Chandigarh has similar views and says, " Many teachers feel proud if they are approached for tuitions. To me, it is a reflection on the class room teaching. If a student feels the need for private tuition, it means the teacher has not been able to do justice in the class." He concludes, "Sadly, these days mass scale tuitions have hampered class room teaching in schools and colleges."

To counter the ill effects of the tuition system and curb its growth, many suggest remedial classes for the weak students and merit classes for the brilliant ones. However, Dr Pritpal Singh, a University teacher, believes harsher measures are needed. He says, " The government should impose a ban on tuitions. Only then can this illness be removed from the society and children be spared." Yet some others feel that banning tuitions would deprive really weak students of this facility. Prof. P. S. Sangha, a Senator of the Panjab University, adds, "Tuitions cannot be banned by passing an act. It is largely a matter of education and large scale seminars and discussions should be held with teachers and students to bring in a positive change in the prevailing attitudes."

Tuitions may or may not be banned, but certainly they are a simmering wound reminding us of a deadly disease pervading our educational system. Effective steps such as examination reform, teacher education, alternate means of coaching for the extraordinarily weak and brilliant students, equal respect for all useful trades, arts, crafts and vocations, new educational alternatives and new courses are called for if we have to prevent our temples of learning degrading into mere temples of earning.

-- Anil Sarwal.