February 2, 2024


Are the new guidelines on coaching institutions the right approach?

(Image credit: Shankar IAS Academy’s Facebook post)

Many students have been in this situation – come exam time, whether it’s school or competitive, the stress levels are at an all-time high. Board examinations in schools are arguably the most stressful time for students. Then there are the several competitive exams that one needs to write to further their education thereafter.

Here’s where coaching institutes come into the picture. They’ve now become something of an industry all to themselves. There’s a lot of competition among schools and students. Parents feel the need to ensure their kid is in front of the line. It’s understandable. However, increasingly, a darker side of coaching institutes has emerged. Undue stress and additional work have led to a steady decline in students’ mental health. Some go to the extreme and take their own lives. The Education Ministry has taken notice and introduced guidelines. The question is, are they enough? Are they the right guidelines?


Education is big business. A CARE Ratings report from a few years ago showed that Indian households spent more on education, health, and clothing as a percentage of total consumption expenditure from FY12 to FY19. The reasons given were shifts in income and increased urbanisation that prompted households to expand their budgets over and above essentials.

Take getting into an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), for example. In the 1980s, only a relatively small portion prepared for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) through a coaching class. In the early 1990s, things changed with the emergence of Kota. As aspirations soared, so did the demand for coaching. These academies fed that demand, and they’ve only grown exponentially since.

For the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams, coaching institutes go on an ad spree after the results are announced. “200 of our candidates made the cut”, or something of the like, become common lures for aspirants. Sometimes, they even include the names of the toppers.

Some estimates state the coaching industry is worth at least ₹3,000 crore in India. How do these centres work? It’s a well-thought-out system. The structure of some examinations has helped coaching institutes develop a robust business model. For the civil service exams, it’s a three-tier process. So, institutes can cater to only one part or the entire process. Some of these centres charge anywhere between ₹1.5-2 lakh. Teachers are often paid more than their regular salaries.

As coaching institutes make bank, the darker side of this system has slowly come to the fore in recent years. There’s a growing concern about whether they’ve contributed to the decline in the quality of education provided by schools and colleges. Some argue the results-obsessed system has put holistic development by the wayside. Then there’s the pressure faced by students. They become overwhelmed by the expectations that take a toll on their mental health.

Kota is one institute in particular that has come under the scanner for a spate of student suicides. The Education Ministry took notice and has released guidelines. All centres and institutes will now have to register themselves per the guidelines. Some of the key points include minimum qualification of tutors, regulating misleading advertisements to attract students, and students below 16 not being allowed. Will this change anything? Are these the right rules?

VIEW: Much-needed regulations

The guidelines are also a wake-up call for centres that don’t maintain a certain standard, particularly on infrastructure and education quality. Things were getting out of hand and received national attention. In 2023 alone, 26 aspirants from Kota took the extreme step.

With the introduction of a counselling system at coaching centres and the 16-year minimum age limit, coaching centres will be restricted from preparing students from a very young age for competitive exams. By mandating centres to be registered, the government can keep tabs on them, observe how they’re performing, and see their details like fee structure and faculty credentials.

Clearly, something had to be done by the government, and it was only a matter of time, given the regularity of news concerning student suicides. Also, in the absence of any rules, the number of unregulated private coaching centres mushroomed. Even with some of these regulations, there’s an opportunity to set some benchmarks for quality education and safeguard students’ interests and mental health.

COUNTERVIEW: Doesn’t address the underlying issues

For some, coaching centres have become the scapegoat. The Supreme Court even thought so. In hearing a plea demanding regulation of private coaching institutes, the court said coaching institutes in Kota can’t be blamed. Instead, the court blamed the parents for putting undue stress on their kids. The bench said students are unable to meet their parent’s expectations.

There are a couple of different ways to look at the guidelines. On the one hand, they may not be enough. Take the 16-year age limit. While the reasoning is understandable, it could deprive students of support systems. Will the guidelines prevent student suicides? That’s hard to say. It all depends on the broader systems in place, like mental health resources, parental involvement, etc.

Are the guidelines even addressing the root problems of India’s education system? They can be seen as merely treating the symptoms. There’s plenty of demand for limited seats in premier institutions. So, why not increase seats through extension campuses in various cities and international collaborations? There are also opportunities for online tutoring and investment in teacher training. Unless there’s a holistic approach to the education system, the guidelines won’t be that effective.

Reference Links:

  • The coaching game – India Today
  • IIT-JEE coaching centres became big only in mid-90s – Times of India
  • How Coaching Institutes In India Are Minting Money? – Education Next
  • Inside India’s giant IAS coaching factories: Hope, hype and big money – The Print
  • Key reasons why centre wants to regulate the coaching industry in India – Hindustan Times
  • How the new Education Ministry guidelines will affect the coaching institutes – Hindustan Times
  • Coaching centre crackdown a good start, but students need much more – India Today
  • New norms for coaching institutes: Are we missing the larger point? – Times of India

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Creating guidelines for coaching institutes is the right approach.

b) Creating guidelines for coaching institutes won’t solve the underlying issues.


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