After education minister Vinod Tawde’s statement on coaching classes in the legislature, the Association of Coaching Institutes (ACI) sent a strong rebuttal. Its aggressive stance was not only against Tawde’s statements but also for being ignored during the bill’s drafting process.
Tawde has now promised to meet ACI members before the bill is tabled and they hope that it is changed drastically to ensure ‘brain drain’ does not happen from Maharashtra.
To understand the association’s views, TOI spoke to Sarang Upganlawar (president), Sameer Phale (treasurer) and Panini Telang. Excerpts from the interview…
Q. Integrated coaching is a reality but yet everyone denies it.
Phale: The last of such integrated coaching set-ups closed down at least three years ago and this phenomena does not exist in Nagpur at all. Integrated coaching means the coaching classes use the junior college’s campus to take classes. This happens to some extent in Mumbai and other cities but we can guarantee you that in Nagpur it’s non-existent.
Q. So the new practice is that students bunk regular class en masse and sit in coaching classes. The college looks the other way and even your members do not object.
Upganlawar: Timings of coaching classes are at 6am and then in the evening. The student is completely free after 11.30am till at least 5pm. Nobody is forcing the students to stay back at the classes at the cost of regular classes. You go to any coaching class and ask the students and they will tell you that they want to spend time at the coaching centre of the college. It’s their free will and we have no role to play.
Q. Once the Maharashtra State Open School (MSOS) starts, this modified version of integrated coaching will die a natural death.
Telang: We will be extremely happy once MSOS starts. I think it will be the biggest gift the education minister can give to students who are preparing for competitive exams. With no regular classes and issues of attendance, the students will be able to focus 100% on the task at hand.
Phale: But the state government has to ensure that MSOS students will be eligible to appear for competitive exams. There should be no surprises at the end for students.
Q. Principals and even college owners’ association feel that coaching classes have undermined colleges as students want to spend time only at coaching classes.
Phale: How are coaching classes to be blamed for that? That’s a decision a student and his/her parent makes of their own free will. Is coaching mandatory? No. Do we go and force students to take admissions? No. It is time for colleges to introspect and see what they are doing wrong due to which students are not staying back.
Upganlawar: We are operating in a consumer-controlled market and are governed completely demand-supply economics. If students prefer spending time at coaching classes rather than colleges, what does it say about the teaching there?
Telang: In colleges if a student asks questions repeatedly, the teacher will tell him to shut up. Any question that’s beyond the curriculum is completely discouraged. In coaching classes, the teacher will spend hours with a student till their doubts are clear. We go beyond the curriculum to ensure that the concepts are clear.
Q. You are accused of emotionally blackmailing parents.
Phale: On the contrary we are more emotionally attached to the kids. They confide in us. From the problems between parents, divorce, fights etc they discuss everything and we counsel them. We try to make sure that they stay on track without coming under stress.
Upganlawar: Parents are never shown impossible dreams. If the child is not cut out for IIT we tell the parents straight away and ensure that they don’t get disappointed at the end. Do teachers at a regular college do all that?
Q. The minister says coaching classes are indulging in commercialization of education and fees charged are exorbitant.
Phale: In Nagpur, the fees of coaching classes are cheaper than those of top CBSE schools. A big brand CBSE school, with multiple branches, charges just over Rs2 lakh for Std XI and XII (cumulative). Every home grown coaching class in Nagpur is below that figure for entire two years of coaching.
Telang: And schools are getting free land and subsidized electricity. Are they paying all taxes? We are being charged commercial rate for land, electricity, water and we pay all taxes as fee is taken in cheque. If the government is ready to provide us subsidized land and utilities, then we can work with them to regulate fees as well.
Upganlawar: We are providing 100% free waiver to so many students. We do not go and advertise about this hence many people are not aware. But every member of our association is providing this facility to poor and deserving students. If our aim was to make only money then this would not have happened.
Q. If that is the comparison, then one can argue that you don’t have the overhead expenses of a school which has thousands of students on roll.
Upganlawar: We have heavy overhead expenses because when parents come to take admission the first thing they look at is the infrastructure. Does any parent first see the classroom when taking admission in school? Here every parent wants an air-conditioned classroom, neat and clean environment which has to be maintained properly. Teachers get paid more than in any government college and they are accountable for every singe student, unlike colleges where pass or fail the teacher’s job is safe.
Q. Parking is a big issue as most of classes are in residential areas.
Phale: We are working steadfastly to resolve this and from this year parents have been told not to send children by their own vehicles as we don’t have enough parking space. I have already implemented this rule from this new batch. We have told parents about the situation and given them options of vans and autos.
Telang: Many have started leasing land for parking if possible. So every step possible has been taken but from now on we all are of the opinion to tell parents that students cannot drive in to our premises with their own vehicle. It’s better that parents drop them or hire services of an auto/van.
Q. So you are totally against the bill.
Upganlawar: Parts of it. Because if this bill is introduced in this format, it will lead to brain drain. Coaching classes will move to neighbouring states and trust me students will also follow. Over a lakh people are employed by coaching directly and many more indirectly in the state through this. All of this will be gone. We want to be regulated so that unscrupulous entities are gone.
Phale: Vinod Tawde has also promised to meet us to discuss the bill in detail and I am sure that our inputs will be taken. The bill needs to be drafted keeping students in mind rather than it being government vs coaching classes. If all stakeholders work together, this bill can be a strong one with students gaining the most.
(A detailed version of this interview is available on www.timesofindia.com)