An IIT-JEE study plan has been prominently visible in R. Chandrasekharan’s living room for almost seven years now. It has a wealth of details, including hours to be spent on ‘solved examples’ in the textbook, the number of mock tests one should take and calculations on the time required for every numerical.

 “My elder son started preparing for JEE (Joint Entrance Exam ) very late. So he could not clear the test. I did not want to repeat the mistake with my second son,” says the banker, who has now enrolled his younger son, Abhinav, in a reputed JEE coaching class in the city.  

Abhinav, a class X student, has been spending precisely 16 hours every weekend in the coaching centre.  “He is rather weak now but I am sure he will pick up,” his father says.

Mr. Chandrasekharan has already spent Rs. 3 lakh on JEE tuitions, and he will have to dole out another Rs. 2 lakh in the next few years.

“I spent Rs. 8 lakh to enrol my elder son in a deemed university. I could not manage a loan then. Banks are very doubtful about deemed universities and they don’t loan money for coaching,” he adds.

Parents these days, set aside at least Rs. 6 lakh for their children’s engineering education, in case their child does not make it through merit into a good college via counselling. This is standard practice, and the constantly-increasing amounts of money to be spent for admission are frequently lamented.

What does not make it to this discussion however, is the expense incurred on coaching classes.

Coaching classes for JEE are widely popular, and practically every household ends up spending at least Rs. 75,000 a year if the child starts coaching from class VIII, which, teachers say is the right time.

The tragedy is, many children leave these classes midway in class XI, when they just aren’t able to take the stress anymore. By this point, more than Rs. 2 lakh goes down the drain, says Kanchana Jayaraman, another parent.

Besides the over Rs. 4 lakh that a family spends on JEE coaching, there are additional costs involved too. “Mock tests at other coaching centres, crash courses, downloading JEE apps — many such costs spring up. Last year, my son asked for separate subject tuitions in March, because he was not confident about doing well in his boards exams. We had to spend Rs. 25,000 on that too,” said R. Sudha, whose son now studies electrical engineering at IIT-Roorkee.

And sometimes, coaching even entails dislocation. K. Balajee, a class VII student from Erode, joined an integrated course at Maharshi Vidya Mandir last year. “My father still works in Erode, but my mother and I have taken a room here,” says the boy.

In Chennai, schools such as Maharishi Vidya Mandir, Devi Academy and Chettinad Vidyashram have integrated JEE training into their regular curriculum, by tying up with coaching institutes.

Well-known coaching institute FIITJEE runs a hostel in Egmore, and partners with a firm to provide accommodation to students. Around 50 students from different parts of Tamil Nadu, the northeast and even the Gulf stay in these hostels.

For R. Rajathi Balasubramanian whose family relocated to India only so that her daughter, now in class X, could undergo JEE coaching, the recent changes in the pattern of the test have been a source of worry. “The students follow an integrated programme which means that they don’t have to look for extra coaching outside of school,” she said.

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