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Updated: July 14, 2012 22:08 IST

Coaching classes — boon or bane?

Dr. Umanath Nayak
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The last few months have been a period of turmoil in the family. My son has reached that phase where he has to take one the most important decisions of his life. No, I am not talking about selecting a life partner; or even deciding upon the right job or career. The question is: Should he or should he not enrol in one of those guaranteed-for-success institutes for IIT-JEE coaching like all his friends have done?

He having decided that he was not going to follow in my footsteps and become a doctor, engineering was the only other obvious choice. In his teenager lingo, doctors have such a “sad life,” meaning “too much hard work.” I did not argue with him; he did have a point! I am a prime example!

The boy just having completed Standard X and not being experienced in taking such life-changing decisions, it was left to my wife and me to give him the direction.

I started my research on the subject — the primary source being my equally ‘sad’ colleagues in the hospital. One disgruntled chap recounted how the entire family got into ‘war mode’ in preparation for his elder son’s grand entry into the hallowed portals of the IIT. They all woke up well before dawn, the father to drop him at a popular coaching centre at the other end of the city which boasted of a sure-fire formula for success, the mother to cajole her child into eating something to nourish those grey cells while he mugged up all those theorems in algebra and trigonometry and the younger son, curious about what he would get into if his parents chose the same third degree for him too later on.

In a show of solidarity with the boy, for those two years, TV and all other forms of entertainment were strictly banned. The family had an early dinner and went to bed by 9 p.m. So it was indeed heartbreaking when despite all this, the boy missed a seat in the IIT and with that an opportunity of being among those chosen few. The family went into mourning for a full month.

The boy subsequently got into another equally reputed engineering institute and is none the worse for wear (though apparently even now he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and starts dressing up — muttering something about having to attend his coaching class). My colleague now swears against this type of coaching and is dead against his younger son repeating the same mistake.

On the other hand, two of his colleagues from the same department swear by this method of regimented training. “This is the only way of getting into IIT” – they say knowledgeably. The son of one of them obtained the top rank in the State following the same modus operandi. Sacrificing two years in the prime of his life for the sake of a guaranteed future they say is quite acceptable and they have no reservations about recommending this system of education to others.

But something bothered me.

If students are going to spend two years focussing only on the methodology of cracking the IIT-JEE, what about knowledge and intellectual growth they are supposed to imbibe in these crucial years of their development? Does getting into an IIT indeed guarantee a great future for all and sundry? Do students from other colleges not excel in engineering?

I am still mulling over some of these questions. In the meantime, my son plays basketball in the evening and watches television at night.

And I continue to wake up after sunrise!

(The writer is a consultant Head and Neck Oncologist, Apollo Health Centre, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. Email: drumanathnayak@ gmail.com)

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I don't fully agree with this article. There are two sides of a coin, and if there is a
negative side, there is also a positive side.

I go to one of these coaching centres myself, and really, it is not like all my
entertainment is cut off, and me waking up late into the night studying like anything.
I also enjoy life as a student in 11th and 12th should, and I don't think I'm doing
badly at all...infact, I'm doing pretty well, even competing with the bookworms.

It all depends on how the student organizes his time...if done correctly, the student
has enough free time to get recharged and refreshed.

I would say that coaching centres are doing a much better job of teaching science to
students than even the most reputed schools. Our teachers explain everything fully
and properly, and are always there for us when we have doubts. Frankly, they seem
to know much more than the teachers at our school.

from:  Harshit J.
Posted on: Jul 17, 2012 at 19:46 IST

Dear Dr. Nayak,

As a faculty member at IIT Bombay, I cannot begin to tell you how much the IITs have now come to detest (and also fear) these coaching institutes. The 'techniques' they inculcate into a youngster as part of the mantra to success in turn has generally destroyed most students' ability to keep working on something when their initial methods don't bear fruit. This makes sense from a coaching perspective since one would lose time and perhaps not gain as many points. But when it comes to research, it is precisely this quality that one needs in full measure, if one were to make any kind of breakthrough. I have noticed students giving up on a problem that is slightly unfamiliar because they have been trained to do that.
In the big scheme of things, we all lose in this process.

from:  Dr. Niranjan Balachandran
Posted on: Jul 17, 2012 at 09:57 IST

As Dr. Umanath Nayak rightly points out, education has to foster and
reinforce knowledge and intellectual growth during the crucial years of
the student’s life. Obviously, there is an escalating growth of coaching
institutions that train students to secure good scores rather than to
imbibe meaningful knowledge and education that is holistic in real
terms. These coaching centres offer tips to students and force them to
adopt methods that ultimately rob them of their inherent creativity.

from:  Suryaprakash Rao Mothiki
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 21:46 IST

Interesting observations. Yes, getting into IIT should not be the be-
all and end-all of life. My own son wasted one year in the physics
honours course preparing alongside for IIT entrance exam. He got
through in the first attempt ( only postal tutions from Agarwal
Classes, Bombay) but his rank being low had to settle for the textile
stream in which he had no interest at all. He prepared afresh for the
JEE second time, getting better rank this time and took up chemical
engineering. In the eighties unless one went abroad for M Tech there
was no chance of landing a plum job here. He worked for an year then
cleared GATE did M Tech at IIT Delhi and thereafter it took a good ten
years for him to settle down with a good job. Far better to just
graduate and try to crack CAT. Or do CA or CS or even law for that
matter.Far better prospects there. But the boys these days have a
fascination for IIT and their mecca seems to be Kota with all its
record breaking coaching joints.

from:  Vasanth Pai
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 21:29 IST

The purpose of education is to get very good employment.As the competition is very stiff,there is no harm in attending coaching classes ,to get top marks.Bane or boon depends the mind that sees the situation

from:  K.Rajendiran
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 20:58 IST

I am an engineer working in a MNC but I am not using any knowledge that I gained in those 2 years(11th nd 12th).

The benefit of studying enormous topics of maths,chemistry and physics was just a seat in a college.

Our education system needs a change.

from:  Dishant Verma
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 15:01 IST


Open page article by DR Umanath Nayak on coaching classes--
boonor bane?is matter for those aspiring students and parents to
think. The writer is right in pointing out the time lose of students
after tenth and the chance to learn and develope as they like.Between
1953 and 2012, the education system in India and abroad have undergone
a sea change and the system of examination devised thirty or years ago
needs a new look and it is possible some items in syllabi may need
change.In the globalised world and atmosphere we need to change to fit
in with changed time. According to writer IITs are below two hundred
in the top ranking of world universities and those want to go abroad
has to change with the new syllabi.This will relieve the students ans
parents from the daily trauma. Accepting change is the need of the
hour

from:  E.Sivasankaran
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 12:34 IST

Fine article Dr Nayak. Our entire education system seems to have gone to
the dogs. We have put the cart before the horse. As a nation we have
shot ourselves in the foot by propagating a heavily skewed notion of
education. One hopes against hope that a change will take place someday.
Till then one could only hope for balanced parents as yourself.

from:  Arup Lal Chkaraborty
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 11:49 IST

As one who graduated from one of the hallowed portals that the author mentions (almost 17 years back), i agree with him that precious years of youth were swallowed up in preparation for the same. Although the brand name of IIT evokes magical response from the listener, my experience has been that children who could become writers, artists, historians, yoga experts, etc. wind up with a prosperous but materialistic lifestyle not actualizing their childhood talents in many cases. But the fact that it opens up doors to a cushy life cannot be doubted (although the magic wears off when one (such as myself) moves to a simpler lifestyle:-)
children, youth need proper well-rounded education that makes them solid ,humane human beings more.

from:  kbharathkumar
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 02:13 IST

Dear Dr.Umanath Nayak,
Have a great day!!! Yes this is not only in your home or in your colleagues, but in most households be it upper or lower middle class family.
But Why? At your age was it so difficult to study and enter into professional colleges, No the scenario was much different, today most schools are running as Business entity loosing out the passion and nobleness of Education Industry. Stiff competition amongst schools and Coaching classes as they claim themselves to have found a place for earning in the Recession free industry and the victims are students, Parents and of course teachers.
Learning never happens in schools but at tuition centres or coaching classes or in a few cases at home, Sad to note students studying from dawn till burning the midnight oil.
We educated should all come forward to the bell the cat... Best wishes for your son.

from:  Venkatesan
Posted on: Jul 16, 2012 at 00:59 IST

There is a misconception about coaching classes. Firstly they cannot "make" anyone pass. Those who can pass will do so anyway and those who cannot will nor pass despite the best efforts of coaching classes. The Coaching classes just provide more practice as well as explain concepts more elaborately then schools especially if the students attend boards that cover less syllabus than CBSE and ISC. Secondly lots of students go for coaching and also participate in debates, sports etc. Since life is anyway competitive, only those students who can do this and handle stress must opt for it. Parents should not force everyone to try for the IITs and then blame the system like sour grapes.

from:  Govardhan
Posted on: Jul 15, 2012 at 10:30 IST

I believe its an individuals own choice and style of grasping
knowledge that should decide whether he should attend a coaching
institute or work on his own at cracking iit. Last year, I was in XI
and I did attend those classes. It was alright. I did top my class and
stuff but deep down i knew it wasn't working for me and I was tiring
myself to a point, where it was starting to affect my productivity. In
short, I was going crazy because of the hectic schedule. And this
year, bravely as it may be, I have given coaching a miss. Its been a
far smoother way of life for me and my productivity has definitely
increased. I cant say whether i'll crack iit or not but i really feel
like i am learning something, without killing myself with infinite
fatigue. Whatever, i can definitely guarantee one thing, COACHINGS DO
NOT PROVIDE YOU WITH A MAGIC SPELL TO CRACK IIT. Its a bit of luck and
lots of time spent with books that can help you get to iit.

And besides its not the end of the world...!!

from:  Yusuf
Posted on: Jul 15, 2012 at 00:33 IST
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