The Big Hogwash

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SHEIKH ABID

WITH Director, School Education (DSEK) announcing winter vacations for primary schools up to Class VIII from November 28, and for classes up to XII from December 11 onwards, the demand for private coaching institutes in Kashmir has risen exponentially.

During the last few years, Kashmir has witnessed mushrooming of these private coaching centres at every nook and corner of the Valley. Previously restricted to the main city & towns, now we have a private tuition centre in every mohalla & gully of the Valley.

In Kashmir Valley, the Department of School Education, as per news agencies, states that there are at least 435 coaching institutes registered till May 2021. The numbers have risen exponentially. In 2017, the department had only 182 registered institutes, while in 2016, there were 116 institutes.

Well, the rising commercialisation of education is posing a serious challenge to the quality of education in the current socio-economic context. The rapid growth of coaching centres across the Valley has become a public concern. It’s high time the government and the civil society joined hands to check the fee structure these coaching centres are keeping as per their own will – which is a grave violation. The related regulations need to be checked in this context.

The government guidelines

Even with the government coming up with various guidelines and regulations to oversee the functioning of these centres, most of them are clearly violating the norms set by the administration.

One of the regulations in context of the ‘Establishment of Private Tuition Centres’ reads thus:

‘No educational agency shall establish/run a private tuition centre without the prior permission of the Government or a competent authority. The permission shall be based on the registration/renewal of registration against a fee notified by the Government. The renewal of registration shall be granted only on the basis of good performance of a private tuition centre in the preceding year to be certified by the Monitoring Committee. The permission shall be restricted for private tuition in two shifts only i.e.. one shift half an hour before the working hours of schools and other shift half an hour after the working hours of schools. The Government shall notify a list of registered Private Tuition Centres every year in the month of October in respect of winter zone and in the month of March in respect of the summer zone.’

However, if we look closely, there are hundreds of coaching centres across the Valley running without proper registration, in old rented accommodations without any facility in place.

“Most of the coaching institutes in towns and villages are operating unregistered without proper facilities for students. They want to maximise their profits at minimum cost. We have approached the administration many times with complaints but there has been cold response,” says Masroor Ahmad, a civil society member.

It is pertinent to mention that the Department Of Education, in collaboration with the respective district administration staff, had formed an inspection squad to check the availability of various facilities framed by the DSEK, along with the registration processes. But there is a need for stricter surveillance and regulation on the part of the State, more than ever before.

“We had our own flying squad in place last year and we made sure that every coaching institute operating in our jurisdiction was properly inspected. We are replicating the same idea this winter too,” assures an official working with the J&K government.

Infrastructure and facilities

The regulation says:

‘Every Private Tuition Centre seeking registration or renewal of registration shall be required to have adequate infrastructure facilities, including the following:

(a) Physical facilities: Every Private Tuition shall have to:

(i) be located in a noise free area;

(ii) provide a minimum covered area/ space of 9 sq per candidate in the tuition;

(iii) keep a separate waiting room, separate toilet and separate drinking water facilities for female candidates in the tuition;

(iv) provide electricity and comfortable seating arrangement to the candidates in tuition and

(v) keep adequate heating or cooling arrangements in every classroom and waiting room in the tuition according to weather conditions.’

Contrary to the above mentioned guidelines, a majority of the coaching institutes in the Valley don’t comply and have scarcity of adequate facilities for students, particularly during the harsh winters.

Talking about the commonly famous Kota of Kashmir -Parray Pora, Baghat – an area in uptown locality of Srinagar, has turned into a tuition hub where students from all over Kashmir come to study for various medical and engineering entrance exams with the announcement of winter vacations.

Thousands of students enroll in these tuition centres to achieve their dreams of becoming doctors and engineers. One often sees these students roaming around the streets, waiting outside these centres in jam-packed spaces, going for their early morning classes at 8 am in chilling cold and leaving post 5 pm when it’s dark & extremely cold again.

Even the scenes within the classrooms are not good. There are hundreds of students in tightly packed halls with the teacher metres away, delivering lectures on a sophisticated mike and audio system installed. Students sitting at the back hardly get to see their faces, leave aside getting their questions answered.

Besides, these institutes also lack basic minimum facilities for students laid out by the government – like separate multiple washrooms, heating arrangements, proper seating facilities, ventilation & emergency exits, CCTV installations, parking/hang-out spaces, canteens etc, – despite taking huge sums as fee from the students.

Similarly, the ordeal of teachers teaching in these tuitions is no different. Leaving some aside who are paid well due to their experience and name in the market, most of the new ones are paid less than what they deserve despite having higher qualifications and impressive teaching quality.

“Private coaching owners don’t give their teachers the salaries they really deserve. They take the biggest bite of the pie and give their teachers just a small slice,” says a teacher teaching in a private coaching institute.

Students, on the other hand, often feel duped by the massive billboards at major zones of cities and towns, promising the sky to them. Later these turn out to be a mere hogwash. Shares Fariq, a student enrolled in an NEET/JEE course who fell into one such trap of a proclaimed private coaching centre of Srinagar. “When I joined this reputed coaching institute, I was promised quality education along with timely completion of my syllabus. They demanded that I pay the entire fees in one-time payment. But after a little while, I started noticing laxity in both teaching as well as quality of study material along with a rush for completing the syllabus. All this requires a proper check by the administration”, Fariq laments.

Well, with the onset of winters & demand for these coaching centres, the authorities concerned must gear up & regulate their checking squad and inspect their functioning. It’s an established fact that the basic necessities and infrastructure in most of these coaching centres is missing. Now the onus is upon the government to check the mushrooming of these illegal and unregulated private coaching institutes and it is also its duty to reassess and re-ensure that students’ needs and requirements are provided for here and they are not duped in the name of education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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