Coaching distorting Indian School Education?

Coaching industry flourishes in India at the cost of students’ learning opportunities and loss to nation of innovative minds essential for India to progress fast. Key issue is popular perception of very few “quality”seats being chased by large number of good quality students.

Recently IISc Bangalore Professor Arindam Ghosh highlighted the importance of school education and how the recent structure is destroying the minds of the students. He said that students leave schooling to prepare for IITs ‘Destroys Fabric of Education’.

I basically agree with this statement about students spending 4-5 years in coaching to prepare for one exam is distorting the learning process. They do very targeted learning during this period focused on “cracking” an exam. We do lose a very important part of students’ life where creativity and exploration would have been important. Being able to ask questions is more important learning than trying to learn what is the “correct answer”. We make the students “convergent thinkers” rather than “Divergent thinkers” needed for an innovative mind.

Many justify students effectively dropping out of school to be part of coaching by saying IIT pass-outs get Crores of package. First of all most of these “Crores” are foreign jobs and conversion to rupees does not give a good basis for comparison. Average packages in IITs typically vary between Rs 8-20 Lakhs per annum(maybe a few older IITs get slightly higher than this). The coaching industry also spends 100s of Crores of Rupees to promote the “IIT myth” among millions of youth for their “business interest”. Similar “IIM myths” are propagated. There is a popular perception that IIT-IIM tag is best for successful life to the extent that IIT-IIM tag is used for matrimonial sites e.g.

A famous author and a good friend of mine, Rashmi Bansal, was commissioned by IIM Ahmedabad to write a book focusing on 25 successful entrepreneurs from IIMA. Her book “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish” was a roaring success. After that, she received a lot of requests to write a similar book covering similar stories of those successful entrepreneurs, who did not have MBAs. This came out in the form of the book “Connect the Dots”. So the jury is out on whether an MBA is needed for a successful entrepreneur or not!

We had access to a study during the early phase of DA-IICT. Gandhinagar that showed that the coaching industry was flourishing due to the fact that while the quality of students dropped very slowly (say among the top 50,000 students in a entry year), the “perceived quality” of seats dropped very fast. So too many good-quality students try to chase too few of these seats. Add to this, the continuous advertisements by the coaching industry and Govt itself promoting IITs and other Govt institutions. Parents are made to feel that if their child does not get into IITs, his or her life is doomed.

Why coaching industry flourishes at cost of Indian education

“Perceived” quality here means here popular belief among the general population based on advertisements, govt promotions etc. Not on basis of any formal quality check. Unfortunately even most serious efforts in ranking of institutions fail since focus of institutions is on “cracking” the ranking system.
When one of the new IITs was formed, it was running out of a temporary campus, and probably the first two batches did not have much opportunity to do labs. Many faculty from a nearby good quality private University used to go and teach there. So while in reality, the private university was of much better quality in terms of teaching, resources, etc but most would assume that the new IIT was better based on the “IIT” brand.
When I was in DA-IICT, Gandhinagar and had to handle PG programs, I used to share our faculty and infrastructure information on various websites frequented by prospective students. I used to compare them with some of the top NITs. I used to be abused frequently on such forums by accusing me of spreading lies! In one case the forum admin banned me too. However it still led to doubling of applications and admission of good quality students.
Even recently an IIT Director(from the top 7) visited my University (DYPIU) and said that he could not procure similar facilities compared to what I had due to Govt purchase processes etc.

I believe that if Govt of India gives a level playing field to Private Univ, it would help all by making sure that the “perceived” quality of seats becomes much larger and students do not feel the need to focus on one exam for 4-5 years. Having served and been educated in a variety of institutions, I have had the opportunity to watch closely a variety of situations.
One of the key issues in providing a level playing field to Private institutions if the Govt audit system. It is built into the system that if a Govt organization is provided fund and they do not do a good job of it, they are overlooked. However if the same is done by a Private institutions, even the funding agency is taken to task. In my personal experience as head of TIFAC, I always found the funds being utilized efficiently by Private institutions and delivery was much better. Even currently as Chairman of National Steering Committee of AICTE IDEA Lab, we have had an uphill task to get Govt institutions to apply for it. We have gone to extra length to ensure this in the second round of application process and have been successful to some extent in getting State Technical Univ to apply. We hope they meet the expectations we have from the by spreading the thought behind the scheme among 100s of affiliated colleges.

It would be good for the country and for the students too. if the Govt systems changed to provide level playing field to all institutions based on merit This would hopefully lead to my desired goal of broadening of number of “quality” seats commensurate with the quality of students and less focus on”cracking” exams. It would lead to a more innovative mind and hopefully move India towards an innovation and manufacturing hub of the world.

Author: Prabhat Ranjan

Prof. Prabhat Ranjan is Vice Chancellor, D Y Patil International University, Akurdi, Pune. He was heading India's Technology Think Tank, TIFAC( as its Executive Director since April 2013 to April 2018. Earlier he was Professor at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute for Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar (DA-IICT) since 2002. He was educated in Netarhat School(near Ranchi), IIT Kharagpur and Delhi University. He received his Ph D from University of California, Berkeley where he carried our research on “Nuclear Fusion” at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory during 1983-86. He immediately returned to India after this and carried out research in Nuclear Fusion area at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Calcutta and Institute for Plasma Research(IPR), Gandhinagar. He played a major role in India’s Nuclear Fusion program and was Project Leader of the largest operational Indian Fusion Reactor, ADITYA, at Institute for Plasma Research from 1996-2002. His current interests include applications of Wireless Sensor Network to Wildlife, Planetary Exploration (Chandrayaan mission), Nuclear Fusion, Healthcare, Agriculture etc. He has received National Science Talent Search Award, IBM Faculty Innovation Grant and HP Innovate 2009 award, NPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Award 2012, Bihar Gaurav Samman 2012 etc. In March 2022, he was also honored with EduStar India’s Most Impactful Vice Chancellor Award for 2021-22. He has been recognized by outlook among few visionaries, who can lead India towards 5 Trillion Dollar Economy. He has been also honoured with Maharashtra Ratna Gaurav Puraskar by Shalini Foundation in 2024. He is also recognized among the top “100 Great IITians : Dedicated to the Service of the Nation”.

4 thoughts on “Coaching distorting Indian School Education?”

  1. Dear Prabhat! You continue to amaze me with the originality and honest audacity of your thoughts. You have touched upon one of the most relevant issue of ailing higher education system in the country pushing the school education itself to the brittle point. The arguments put in by you against the coaching are facts based and calls for wake up and cleaning of both the systems and perceptions. Lastly I would like to say that in a society where success is measured by the outcomes and not the value (in the lives) they bring, it is bound to happen.

  2. Always, anywhere in the academic World, when I start my semester, first sentence to the students is:”I would like you to prove me that I am wrong.” And, that is where our joint jurney starts. Cannot agree more with your blog, because question asking is the first step towards not just development of the knowledge, but also towards establishment of the communication culture that makes possible existence of open minded, free thinkers within the society tomorrow. Regardless if on power are “left” and/or “right” populists. Prof. Sabahudin Hadžialić

  3. Coaching is a hidden industry and it only raises aspirations of students – that if they will get admission at IIT, they will become an engineer and if they will get admission in MBA, they will become a manager. In 2012, I decided to pursue my PhD from Banasthali Vidyapith not bcos I wanted to spend lesser number of years than IITs but bcos I could not understand the fake ego of IIT Professors. I spent 8 years in PhD but I am glad I did my work thoroughly. Not to miss that I quit my job at IIT Delhi in 2002 bcos the Prof incharge did not have time for us prior to 6:30 pm. Every time I have told myself – that this is not the right fit for me while making such decisions. Being in and out of Higher Education, I have realized that quality of education does not depend merely on its tag but also on the difference it makes to its students. Glad that you are doing exemplary work Sir!

  4. “Dummy school” has become a very popular phrase even in educated elite community (I live in Ahmedabad /Gandhinagar and work in a premier research Institute). In fact when one says that his/her kid is going to real school, he/she is being labelled as “villager” now-a-days. Even in the self financed school, the teachers are in shock to hear that a particular ward of their school is not in any coaching class.

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