Students flock to Rajasthan’s Kota, the coaching hub of the country, hoping to crack professional entrance exams

Hoardings put up by coaching institutes displaying photographs of high-ranked students making it to the premier engineering and medical colleges and IITs greet one almost everywhere while entering the historic city of Kota in Rajasthan.

Once considered the industrial capital of the State, Kota today is renowned as the coaching hub of India. There are over two dozen major coaching institutes and more than a hundred smaller ones that have mushroomed here to prepare students aspiring to become doctors, engineers or technocrats. Between one to two lakh students from across India come here every year to take coaching and the number has been increasing with every passing year. Some of the institutes start coaching students from as early as Class VI and have nurture classes for students of Class X to Class XII in addition to preparing students for entrance exams of professional colleges.

Over 50,000 students had registered at a particular institute alone for admission to medical colleges a few days back. Among the thousands of parents who accompanied their wards was Mithilesh from a village in Haryana. She had come with her husband to get their daughter Chanchal enrolled in the institute. Her son, who took coaching from a Kota centre, got admission in a Kerala college last year and now she is hopeful that her daughter, too, would be able to make it to a good medical college.

Whether it is Mohammed Sabir from Bhagalpur or Devendra Prasad from Motihari in Bihar or Sharad Gupta from Khargone in Madhya Pradesh or parents from tribal villages of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to big and small cities, everyone dreams of having their children admitted to reputed professional institutes. They don’t mind shelling out a bomb on coaching that costs at least Rs. two lakh as fee and hostel or paying-guest charges.

While parents feel that admission to coaching institutes will help their children, it adds to the pressure on the students. Away from their homes in the midst of cut-throat competition, the stress sometimes can be too much for the students to bear and it takes a toll on their health, some even take the extreme step of committing suicide. As per the Kota police records, 11 students committed suicide last year and four this year so far.

According to the State’s Inspector General (Kota range), Praful Kumar, sometimes it is the unrealistic expectation of the parents, inability to cope with the pace of the studies apart from other emotional and psychological factors which lead to students taking their lives. To prevent students from going into depression, most of the big institutes have student welfare cells. Some of them provide 24X7-facility where students can open up and discuss their problems with counsellors, said a teacher at one such institute. Helplines have also been set up for students.

On a positive note, the coaching business has put Kota on the academic map of the country, boosting the city’s economy. Running students’ hostels or PG accommodations has become a lucrative business. Many houses have been converted into multi-storey guest houses. The owner of one such newly-constricted girls’ hostel, Ram Swarup Gupta, said contrary to expectations, all the rooms got occupied in the first year itself.

A large number of departmental stores catering to the needs of the students, too, have come up near the hostels and the institutes.

New avenues of earning have opened up for women like Kamlesh. Studied till Class XII, Kamlesh had never thought of working; but with a large number of hostels requiring caretakers, she was offered a job as warden ten years ago.

Kapil and his wife are among the many couples who have opened mess facilities and send tiffin to students who have taken rented accommodation. Another couple who recently took a place on lease to run a mess is hopeful that they will be able to earn enough to meet the expenses of education of their own children, one of whom is studying medicine.

With competition for entrance to professional colleges getting tougher by the day, there is no doubt that the coaching industry in Kota is expected to grow further in the coming years.