With the bars set high, students and their parents are taking no chances. They get going by the dictates of the tuition world which promises structured classes even as students reel under the agony of getting rated on the basis of scores.

Long gone are the days when the word ‘tuition centre' evoked images of a dilapidated room with a thatched roof, tottering benches and desks, and ‘tuition master' brought to mind a moth-eaten figure smeared with chalk powder drilling concepts into dim wits. Tuitions, these days, are not for the dummies. They are a powerful tool to make the best even better.

Tuition teachers are today masters of a parallel academic world where sustained success is the only goal and where means — however draconian they may look — are but mere justifications.

In Thiruvananthapuram, as is the case elsewhere, the ‘day' starts real early at the homes of these tuition masters. Drive by Bakery junction or by, say, a lane near Kowdiar at 5.30 a.m. and you can spot knots of silent parents settling down for a two-hour wait as their wards furiously solve problems in Mathematics, Physics, or Chemistry at the tuition centre. After a frenetic morning of Algebra or Organic Chemistry, it is again a mad dash either to the school bus stop or the school itself.

The ‘tuition story' actually begins even ‘earlier.' Right after the class X examinations are over, parents rush to the homes of these tuition teachers — the ‘most popular' of whom are known by two-letter combinations — to register their ward's name. This registration is of no use if their ward does not score above the cut-off percentage mandated by these tuition masters.

And classes begin in earnest soon after the publication of the results.

Cost factor

There is also no ambiguity about the fee; leading tuition teachers in Thiruvananthapuram charge anywhere between Rs.5,000 and Rs.7,000 (for one subject) per student, per year. For most students tuitions are a must for Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. At one such leading tuition centre there would be about 120 students in a batch. In at least two leading tuition centres in the capital city the classrooms are air-conditioned.

And woe on a parent/child who chooses to give tuitions the go-by and then decides that he wants coaching for the second year of the plus two programme.

He has to write an entrance examination to gain admission to one of the many batches. Last year, at one coaching centre there were 11vacancies for which 200 students reportedly wrote the entrance examination.

But what is that is irresistible about these two-letter titans of the tuition world? “Ultra-strict discipline, extremely well-structured classes, a knack to explain lucidly the most difficult of problems, but most of all, the repetitive, compulsory, administering of tests which drills a concept into the brain like nothing else,” a parent who has to literally fly from one tuition centre to another — a sleepy ward in tow — put it succinctly. Mothers and fathers randomly polled by The Hindu on this issue, agreed. “In schools there do not seem to be that many good teachers now.

Intensive training

Even if teachers are good, they are not able to match the intensity of training given by the tuition centre. Here, if my daughter does not attend two classes, I get a call home. Four or five misses and she is out,” the mother of an aspiring engineer pointed out. In response to the growing demand from parents, one multi-subject coaching centre today even offers a bus service to select locations in the city.

That is not all. One centre has reportedly even effected a ‘twinning programme' of sorts with a couple of regular schools in the city.

Students who enrol at the said schools would receive coaching at the tuition centre both for regular academic programmes and for prestigious entrance examinations.

Talk of reducing the ‘tuition load.' Lost, perhaps, in all this clamour are those tuition teachers who are still willing to look beyond grade points and for whom a ‘big' batch is four students around a dining table. They sure do not have two-letter pet names.