Published:  01:51 AM, 08 March 2019

Coaching centers: Disrupting the normal flow of education

In recent years, it has become a norm to attend coaching classes, especially from class nine. Most of the parents send their children to coaching centers for the 'betterment' of academic performances. The reasons of this situation are poor quality of mainstream education, desire to score good marks and last but not the least peer pressure. We asked three well-known voices of education to look beyond the problem.

Riffat Ahmed
Chairperson, Siddiqui's International School, Treasurer- Bangladesh English Medium Schools' Assistance Foundation (BEMSAF)

Schools provide a structured education and teach basic manners and help develop a child's social and emotional skills. But this established system is being utterly disrupted by the now fast-growing coaching business. This has crippled the education sector due to malpractice induced by a profit motive, and not taking into account the students' interests.

Children as young as six years old are being subject to multiple home tutors and even coaching centers. As students proceed towards higher standards, the culture of dropping out of school and going to coaching classes gathers momentum with multiple teachers per subject in order to obtain "better grades".

In the case of English medium institutions, after 10 years of extensive education, students appear for their Ordinary Level Examinations. This is where the coaching business has been actually flourishing for some time now and has made the students virtually crippled in the true sense.

It has been completely embedded in the minds of students that they cannot prosper or achieve "good grades" if they do not attend a certain teacher's classes or a particular coaching centre. This thinking has become regularity and is destroying scores of students' self-confidence, even morality. How did students pass with flying colors when coaching centers were all but non-existent is the question we should ask ourselves but never seem to.

The High Court of Bangladesh ruled that teachers from educational institutions, whether private or public, cannot run coaching centers. Individuals, who are not under the employment of any educational institution can, on the other hand, run coaching centers, stated the High Court verdict. Coaching business is creating a hostile situation in the education system.

Schools follow the traditional method of teaching, where through extensive research and studies, nurtured and cared for by qualified teachers, students learn their lessons. The same cannot be said about coaching centers where emphasis is not given on how to acquire knowledge but how to pass exams with maximum number of A's and A*'s or equivalent grades of other mediums.

Are our children actually learning anything useful or are they just learning how to get good grades? Not all students are the same and many fail to keep up with the rapid speed with which coaching centers advance. The question that immediately springs up after the verdict is: "If not coaching centers, then how will the students learn?"

Coaching centers, unlike schools, do not charge for their services collectively. Money is paid per subject. Students sitting for their Ordinary Level Examinations usually take a minimum of five subjects with a maximum of 11. The amount of money paid to coaching centers in fees per subject when added up plus school fees can be an exorbitantly high and can be a crushing burden for many families who do not have a large income.

Even then, in the hope for a better future and quality education for their children, parents pay this money. One might argue that they can keep the system healthy by attending school and coaching at the same time and not dropping out of school. Sadly, most coaching centers do not have a flexible routine which could make it possible for one to attend both school and coaching. Maximum classes are scheduled between mornings till evening making it impossible for one to attend school. When the time comes, school is always sacrificed as the opportunity cost.

There surely is some lacking in schools which fails to provide to students adequately which is why they go to coaching centers but these can be fixed with proper help from the Ministry of Education and a healthy education system. A budget increase could, in the education sector, help improve the ever increasing problems. Introducing special websites and online portals where students can login using their school allocated account to take help from live lessons, pre-recorded lectures and notes could be a good beginning. Arranging after-school online classes for the weaker student or anyone who has difficulty understanding could drastically decrease the necessity for coaching centers. Therefore, I request the authorities' in-charge to bring in a discipline required and introduce uniformity amongst schools.

Naheed Rouf
Ph.D. , Professor of Psychology, College of Du Page, US
I am going to join the caravan of the educators and some parents who are genuinely concerned and highlighting the catastrophically consequences of mass coaching system that exists in today's Bangladesh. It takes a long time and lot of resources to nurture these characteristics in a person.  Hence the childhood period is longer now than ever before.  It is still not long enough and hence in the developed countries and the "emerging adulthood" stage of development has emerged - between 18 and 25 - the adolescence period extended since the societies require more skills, knowledge, and global awareness among the contributing members of the adult society. 

The current trend of rote memorization, selective subject and content teaching, grade oriented teaching, no school beyond Class-7 totally squishes the true character building phase of development.  How can grade 8 students not go to school, sleep late, and only attend sessions after sessions on selected contents? Selective learning is not development! School brings discipline to one's life and provides opportunities to learn in an active and creative way, to meet socio-emotional needs through interacting with same-age children, to be aware of different beliefs, values, and ideologies. 

Research after research shows that social comparison is the key process that shapes children's self-concept and consequently influences their self-esteem.  Self-concept is multidimensional - physical self, academic self, social and emotional self and many other parts evolve as the child ages - spiritual, sexual, and political etc.  These components are not isolated dimensions they influence each other to a large extent.  For example, an emotionally securely attached (emotion) child explores the environment (physical) more at one year of age and eager more to learn (cognitive) about the various objects in a room. 

The setting is different but the interdependency of the dimensions remain throughout lifespan of development. The current trend of no school, memorization and learning of segmented topics in few subject areas is completely against the "development of the whole child" nurturance.  How can we undermine the value of performance art - paintings, theatre, instruments and music - things that nurture you emotional and cognitive mind! Do we not remember that our childhood left a notable impression in the formation of what we are now as an adult? Do some of us not blame our parents for not enforcing learning guitar or piano or harmonium? 

Do we not remember playing in the playground every day, at school and again in the evening, and learning how to be a follower and a leader, how to negotiate and resolve conflicts?  How can we allow the System to take away our precious aspects of what made us "us" from our children? 2010 Act has banned teachers of government schools to offer coaching. Only freelancers can offer coaching classes, but no more than 10 students at a time.  However, government has to take necessary steps and measures to ensure people and institutions are following the Acts. Teachers are the most respectable leaders of a society! 

Throughout the world every society is making sure a child's right to learn and gather information in a safe heaven is awarded. No matter what school a child is attending - private, public or home-schooled  -  same curriculum is followed at each grade level and instruction provided at school is sufficient enough for the child to learn what she/he needs to learn in that grade.  Every government ensures every child is attending school and no child is left behind.
I hope and immensely desire that the current leaders of Bangladesh will leave a mark and change the trajectory of the current educational system of Bangladesh and focus on our future members of the society!

Dr. Mahjabeen Haque
Professor and Chairperson, Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, Director, Student Counseling and Guidance Office, University of Dhaka.

The purpose of schooling is not just to gain knowledge. The education system is there in order to bring desirable change in the three psychological domains. Schooling helps in the gradual development of the cognitive domain.

The second domain is there because just being knowledgeable is not enough to be successful. This domain is called the psychomotor domain, which talks about the changes that we can bring in our skills. Physical activities like making children take part in different sports, performing various science experiments and learning the use of computers are some ways in which schools help shape this domain.

The third domain, the most important, yet neglected, is the effective domain. The effective domain is related to our emotions, values, ethics and beliefs. Altering this domain is tough because we have to learn how to make use of what we learn in our society. It is necessary for people to know which sector of the society requires which skill or knowledge and we must apply them accordingly.

Development of this domain is crucial because it enhances the application of human qualities to build a better society for humankind. These three domains in short can be called the three H's, where cognitive is the head, psychomotor is the hand and effective is the heart.

The sole purpose of schooling is to bring change upon these three domains. School provides children with the opportunity to explore their minds and find out what they are good at. Not everyone has the caliber for writing and drawing; while some people excel in the arts sector, others may have a knack for science or even business. Schools allow students to choose subjects according to their fields of interest, which contributes to maintain a healthy mental state. Psychological wellbeing leads to positive growth in people's lives, it makes a student more resilient.

They are able to withstand failures in life and move forward with a stronger mindset without falling apart or giving up. The resilience is created because in schools, teachers are always there to encourage students to do things even when they are not confident enough. When a student is aware of what is going on in his or her country, that student feels more confident living in that society. In schools, students observe the national holidays and understand the importance of each and every one of them. Their patriotism emerges because they know about their history and the citizens' hardships.

A school does not just teach a student how to get good grades, it also provides them with basic social skills that are required to cope with our society and surroundings. Most students these days quit going to schools even before they are done with their O levels. One reason for this is the emerging "coaching center" culture. Students as well as their parents tend to believe that going to fancy coaching centers or hiring expensive tutors is the best possible way to receive education.

They think that just going to schools is not enough to do well in exams. Another reason is that they assume teachers in schools do not provide them with sufficient information or guidelines about their examinations. The teachers' efforts are usually overlooked because of the belief that they do not know the education system of English medium schools well enough. Thus they seek help from outside and prefer spending more there instead of schools.

Learning in schools can be considered superior to other substitutes because schools do not entirely focus on grades rather give students an environment where a perfect harmony is maintained between academic and creative sectors. It is not possible for an adolescent to study all day; a lot of pressure builds up after a certain time of studying. Extra-curricular activity classes like music, arts and crafts, cooking and baking and PE(physical education) are some of the few sources of stress relief for students. Unlike coaching, schools do not keep students on a run after good results.

Coaching follows the same repetitive routine of maintaining two to three classes a week for about 2 hours per class, without breaks. Each student has to go from one place to another to attend separate classes for different subjects. Living in a country like Bangladesh, where streets are not as safe, constantly being on the run can come off as a worrying issue for parents who cannot always keep an eye on their children. Schools are able to offer classes for all subjects under one roof. This single institute acts as a safe haven for students as students are always supervised and parents can keep track of their children's whereabouts too.

Since parents are not well aware of the comparisons between coaching centers and schools, it would be of great help if seminars and other events are held to raise awareness. Coaching centers have now become an easy way to earn money for teachers. Thus more and more people opt to be a coaching center teacher rather than a reputed school teacher. If parents understand the importance of schooling properly, especially of the English medium curriculum, our society will prosper remarkably.

The writer works at The Asian Age

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