'Coaching Classes:' Gateway to a Bright Career
Avadhani, Ramesh, The World and I
One aspect of education in India that's becoming more and more conspicuous is the plethora of 'coaching classes.' Be it Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai or even a smaller town like Lucknow, you can't fail to see them--either advertised on a billboard or in the local newspaper. I assumed that such classes were almost always conducted by retired school or college teachers but I was in for a big surprise when I went to meet a couple of them.
Take the case of Sanjay Kumar Singh who runs the rather grandiosely named Albert Einstein Classes in Lucknow. Soon after post graduation in physics, Sanjay appeared for the reputed Indian Administrative Services entrance examination but failed to score the required marks. Undeterred, he wrote the exams again the following year--and failed. Realizing he hadn't obtained appropriate guidance for the examination, he decided to help students succeed in such competitive examinations. "That's how my coaching institute was born. My failure led me to success."
He and his colleague, the rather stern-looking DK Singh who teaches computer science, have coached over a thousand boys and girls in these last ten years. The success rate is well over 70% in students appearing for entrance tests to nationally renowned medical and engineering colleges. "We also prepare students for the 12th standard school-leaving examinations," added Sanjay. More than 90% of such students have scored distinction. He plans to open another center next year.
Sanjay has 150 students drawn from top schools like St Francis Intermediate, City Montessori School, Jaipuria, Delhi Public School, Lucknow Public School, Loreto Convent, and even the renowned La Martiniere. "Quite a few are from the middle class. Some are from poor families. We don't charge them any fee." Furthermore, Sanjay and Singh maintain touch with their old students who are doing well in different professions. They inform him of changes taking place in the corporate and industrial world, likely scenarios in the future, and immediate requirements in terms of management skills. "Such regular inputs update the information we already have," said Sanjay. "We are then able to advise our present students about what they may encounter in the world outside."
He impresses upon his students two maxims: One, if the present is reasonably good, the future can be made better. Second, anyone can achieve almost anything by concentrating on the objective; other things automatically fall into place.
An upbeat opinion which fits in with India's growing economic clout, but a major societal factor continues to rattle Sanjay: Over-ambitious parents who pressurize their children to study subjects in which they have little interest.
"The student should be allowed to study what she likes. Only then will she experience an enormous enjoyment in learning. Only then will she successfully compete with others. Otherwise education becomes a daily torture. I have seen far too many doctor or engineer parents ordering their children to take up medicine or engineering when that is farthermost from the child's mind. It's tragic."
He pointed out that the Indian social structure still revolves around elders. They use money and status to make children obey their every dictate. Whenever the opportunity arises, Sanjay tries to advise such parents to loosen up, to let their children discover for themselves what they like best. "But very few listen. It's a mental block. They feel that as doctors, engineers, or chartered accountants, they have achieved a lot, so why listen to outsiders like me? They forget that education of the mind and the forming of a well-rounded personality is a continuous process. They mistake qualification for education. I see this more in people from northern India, this obstinacy and closed- mindedness. They refuse to imbibe the right attitudes to become what they should really be: the best support system for their children. …