As I meandered past the narrow lobby, I tried to recall whatever was fed the previous day. The formulae, definitions, and exceptions seemed to wreak havoc in the crevices of my brain. The place was an assortment of aspirants; the super serious ones, the “know it alls” and of course the ones who were forced: let’s say “the silent ones”. Mechanically, I gulped down hours of lectures with the occasional gaze at the clock. At dispersal, the exit point seemed like a vending machine, popping out stressed teens by the minute. Yes, a typical description of a coaching nay, career-building institute most of us have found ourselves in and at some point, probably, questioned our choice.
Coaching institutes have become a significant cogwheel in the educational sector, almost entirely becoming an alternate industry in itself. Parents and their children alike find it unimaginable to not enroll in one of these classes for ‘cracking’ the coveted entrance exams. Add to that, the harping that only their course can enable the student to achieve their true potential. Sure, we could take persuasive communication lessons from them, but the scenario is in stark contrast to what is presented.
Apart from using strict methods that focus on rote learning, what once started as a beneficial resource to complement school teaching has undergone a paradigm shift. These centers are used to enable the students to deduce the specifics of a competitive exam by frequent practice sessions and supplement conventional school learning, much like the polishing of a raw diamond. Except now, the ‘trend’ of joining a coaching institute at the very start of middle school has made ‘perform or perish’ a commonplace philosophy, replacing the simple joys of learning new concepts.
The student goes through a harrowing routine of classes and unending tests all in the hope of making the cut. It is drilled, that only hard work can ensure the seat you aspire for. With fervor, the aspirant burns the midnight oil for days together only to realize that a hundred more people had been doing the same and it’s no big deal, initiating cycles of self-doubt. Major institutes also practice something known as ‘academic classism’ in which students are segregated into batches as per their academic performance. The ones at the bottom are at a constant struggle to the top, while insecurity looms large for the ones at the top.
Unfortunately, cutthroat competition does more harm than good for most people. It is in this phase that adolescents are most susceptible to episodes of depression and anxiety. There is a constant demand for performance especially when expectations skyrocket. Moreover, this system has created a unique socio-economic divide, as only the affluent sections can afford premium coaching to access quality higher education.
When a few success stories get highlighted, thousands of children are cajoled into the same race. Untold are the stories of the lakhs, who don’t make it; the thousands who excel at unorthodox fields. The youngsters are cut off from the world, left in an atmosphere where they are always compared, and the single goal that gets hammered: a good score.
Granted, mushrooming of coaching centers is the sign of a bigger malaise: the broken education system. Much needs to be done in that aspect. But I ask only one question: Is the grind worth it?
Is it worth entering a ‘prestigious’ college after having forgotten how to laugh? Is it worth running the ‘rank’ race after sacrificing all social interaction? Because I believe that a certain number cannot be the ultimate determinant for posterity. The journey of life is ridden with exams at every new threshold, and evidently, there are no coaching centers to ace them all. Destiny doesn’t follow a rank list.
Written by Oishik Roy for MTTN
Edited by Asma Abidin for MTTN
Featured Image by Saumya Nigam
Artwork by Grape Frogg