Coaching centers harm our society -The Asian Age

growth of coaching centers is mushrooming in our country. The Government of Bangladesh has taken several steps to restrict coaching centers for Bangla Medium education. Teachers and educationists of English medium schools also want same action should follow for English medium school oriented coaching centers. Here principals and chairperson of three schools share their thoughts about this burning issue.

Morshedul Islam

Principal & Managing Director of European Standard School,
President, Bangladesh English Medium Schools' Assistance Foundation

Everywhere around the globe, with no exception, school is treated as a place for childhood learning. The idea and practice of universal, compulsory public education developed gradually in Europe, from the early 16th century and over the years, schooling system has been accepted as the only means of formal education in all parts of the world. A school is not only a place for academic development rather it is a centre for that holistic learning where student is also groomed culturally, psychologically and socially. Sports and different physical activities are integral part of school education. This is the place where student learns about discipline and we all know the role of discipline for success.

Coaching centre, on the other hand, emerged initially as supplementary and informal place of education, especially for slow learners. At times it is also necessary to provide extra and individual care to student to mould and shape him/her to proper form. Because everyone is not born with same kind of ability to learn. So some students may require additional academic support in terms of coaching classes. But in recent time, with great worry we find, coaching centre has became parallel to school and gradually becoming  more dominant especially in English medium education.

Once coaching classes used to be held after the school hours usually in the afternoon or in the week-ends. But nowadays, coaching classes are also held during the first half of the day conflicting with school timing. With no surprise, school student prefers to enjoy more freedom and is inclined towards coaching centre where virtually no bar or restriction. A student can convince his/her parents easily about coaching centre and hence can neglect the school. So as a result, student gets the freedom to move from one coaching centre to another or even to somewhere else during the whole day.

Many parents do not even think that this could be the turning point to lead their children into astray. We often see such kind of stories in daily news. It is also necessary to mention that it is the teacher who deviated first and compelled students to join his/her coaching centre forgetting all norms of a teacher. Instead of discouraging this unfair and unethical attitude of a teacher, we all have helped this practice to grow more.

And this unhealthy practice has increased to an extent causing indiscipline in the whole society. Student starts leaving school at pre-ordinary level and joins the coaching centre. Unfortunately in Bangladesh British Council has kept the option open for student to register for O/A level as a private candidate or through a coaching centre. As a result student does not feel any necessity of attending school and surprisingly he/she is getting full support from his/her parent in this regard. We know in some cases, school is also not beyond criticism.

It is an open secret that teacher in school directly/indirectly invites student to his/her coaching centre. We have to refocus and stop anomaly in school. All kind of effort must be given to make the school as the main centre of education. We have to find the solution hitting the root cause. School has to take the responsibility to nourish the child. In no way coaching centre can be a solution to this.

But making coaching centre an alternative to school is not only dangerous but also self-harming. Derailments of young generation, fanaticism, intolerance, indiscipline etc are the main effects of this process. In recent past, we have seen few incidents which should be eye-opener for us. Exponential growth of coaching centre will create huge social problem in our country. This is real high time we bring our children back to school and make school as the main centre of education.

Riffat Ahmed

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

The topic of question papers getting compromised by schools and coaching centers is being discussed frequently nowadays, with articles of new incidents being published daily. This highlights one of the most prominent flaws in our education system- a significantly large focus on obtaining good grades and certificates rather than actually learning. Due to these rampant question paper leaks, people have realized how necessary a change in our school education system is.

There is an extensive amount of competition among students to excel in studies and this makes parents more inclined towards getting their children to attend coaching classes. Thus, in recent years, there has been a massive mash rooming of coaching centers in Bangladesh.

Schools, initially being the predominant source of education for pupils, have been put to the side and overtaken by these coaching centers and home tutors. These centers solely focus on teaching a single subject with no additional activities or information provided to the student. Schools, on the other hand, are a well-rounded source of education. Along with providing basic general knowledge, they also enrich a child's creativity, enhancing their social and communication skills.

Nowadays, a lot of students have varying degrees of Antisocial Personality Disorder, or a general disregard for empathy. Some may not be socially inept, thus having difficulties facing the harsh realities of the outside world and a lot of these problems stem from only attending these straight cut coaching centers. Whereas in schools, a pupil participates in various different activities and sports and their interactions with others helps build their mental, as well as physical, strength.

If these coaching centers continue to be prioritized over schools, students will ultimately not have any memories of a school or college life, which are also vital to a person's mental health.  This misbalanced reception in education is not only limited to Bengali medium schools, contrary to popular belief. English medium schools are affected just the same.

Students of English medium schools, nowadays, rarely stay in school after the 8th grade, instead, opting to drop out, they register for their O'Level and A'Level examinations directly under the British Council. Thus they are not under the authority of any established educational institute and can get away with only attending coaching classes for four or more years.

This way of education may seem efficient and convenient initially but as years go on, the consequences of a lack of school based education shows through a student's actions.

Students may be sent to coaching centers at a very early age (as low as 2nd grade), even when they might not need the extra assistance. Parents are competitive themselves and this creates anxiety and immense pressure in the students to meet their parents' expectations, thus hindering their natural talents and sometimes stripping them off the potential they initially had.

School books need to be upgraded to a standard where students of any grade can understand the contents by reading the books without needing external help. This will encourage students to learn by themselves and eliminate any need for help from parents or tutors.

Having more than 25-30 students in each class creates a pressure on the teachers and deters them from providing quality teaching. Every child has their own pace of learning and to have so many students will make teachers unable to give the proper attention to a child that might need it more than others. This causes even good teachers to adapt a flawed way of teaching. Syllabuses do not get finished on time and the standard of the education provided lowered, prompting students to be sent to coaching centers.

Creative questions were introduced to students of the secondary level by the government to evaluate their creative understanding. But according to a government survey done later, 34.5% students cannot even comprehend these creative questions.

This leads to students thinking they're not capable or are inferior to their peers, leading to low ambition. When in actuality, every student has their own pace at which they absorb information and does not have to be the greatest in every field. These creative questions should not be used to judge a student's intelligence at such an early stage of their development and should be eliminated from the education system.

Most families are now nuclear families with working parents. So there isn't anyone present at home to assist the student in their studies, making them lean towards coaching centers and home tutors.

Despite the education business being worth an estimate of Tk. 32,000 crore, teachers, especially of the private sectors, get underpaid and have low social status. This causes many people to avoid this career path and not see it as a lucrative option. Thus, many potential teachers opt out of this profession.

Some dishonest teachers take advantage of these prevailing issues for their own monetary gains. Often, a teacher offers a student "after-school feedback" and if rejected, the student's grades start falling in class. This forces parents to pay for the supplementary classes, even if nothing of importance is taught there, just to keep their children's grades fair at school. Due to these mental pressures on students, a guardian forum filed a lawsuit against the coaching centers.

The court passed the judgment that no teacher can advertise their coaching centers to attract any students using banners, festoons or provide private tuition to more than 10 students. In 2012, the education ministry had finalized this Education Act draft, banning private tuition, coaching, and all kinds of note-guides, practice and supportive books. But, along the years, this law has been shoved under the rug. The authorities should reinforce this law and strictly abide by it.

Ultimately, the ones getting affected by these issues are the children and their future, regardless of who is actually causing the problems.

Syed Parvez Ahsan

Principal- PenField School, Vice-President- Bangladesh English Medium Schools' Assistance Foundation (BEMSAF)

English Medium education sector now a days is experiencing an alarming trend among the students of the senior sections, i.e. to leave school from Class- VIII and join the coaching centers. But why is this mad rush to the coaching centers. It is nothing other than the liberty, flexible timing and stress free life. All these aspects are verily available in the coaching centers.

So the students and parents falls a prey to the lucrative offers of the coaching centers. Most of the cases the false hope and guarantee by the authority lures the students to join them. The prime time of a student's life thus gets shattered by the weird timing of the coaching centers.

They remain in bed much longer than expected and join coaching classes at a time when they were destined to rest after the regular school hours. Instead the attraction, fun and the freedom of the coaching centers drags them to a dream world which offers unimaginable facilities like common rooms fitted with Wi-Fi connection and TV sets.

The gaps betweenclasses often lure students to go out and waste their valuable times even at times they mix with bad company and acquire bad habits. The parties in different restaurants at simple pretext make the students more vulnerable. The students stay outside the house for most of the times and parents feel complacent that their children are getting proper guidance and care in the coaching centers.

Sometimes parents feel their children will complete O' & A' Level exams much earlier than expected times but the reality shows the volte-face when students take exams with a tottering base of knowledge and suffers immensely in their future life. It is true that students need extra assistance to prepare for the exams but it should not be much earlier them exam times.

Along with that qualification of the tutor is an important matter. The mushroom growth of the coaching center with less qualified teachers is a severe threat to the life of a student. It is the duty of all the parents not to believe in the flowery promises of those teachers rather to scan the qualification and reliability of the coaching centers.

They should understand that they are investing their hard earned money for the future of their wards not for the future of the unethical business houses which with surely ruin the prospect of their children's future. So it is time for the parents to keep their children school till their O' and A' Level Exams and ensures a disciplined and prosperous life.

-Moli Islam

The writer is a freelancer