The tyranny of coaching centers


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There are times when a feeling of despair haunts me; I tend to think that it would no longer be possible for me to speak and celebrate the idea of ​​a life affirming education – the kind of education that opens our eyes, makes us aware, inspires us to cultivate sensitivity aesthetics, critical thinking and passion for creative work, and above all, brings joy and wonder to the field of learning. In fact, we have lost our dreams; and we threw in the trash all the noble principles of education. Instead, our kids these days are only preparing for all kinds of exams – weekly and monthly tests, mock tests, jury exams and all kinds of entrance tests; their anxious parents find it extremely difficult to imagine their children’s future outside of the market-driven notion of “success” and “good career” options; and yes, the world is full of coaching centers, state-of-the-art “academies” (a gift of the online age) and all kinds of success mantras.

The irony is that our academic bureaucrats and policy makers refuse to see anything beyond centralized / standardized testing; the agency of teachers and creative pedagogues is no longer necessary; it looks like anything can be done by the soulless bureaucratic machine called the National Testing Agency. In the age of multiple choice questions, the machine is continually fabricating questions and reducing everything, whether physics or literature, to a set of exam puzzles and “objective facts.” It seems that there is only one meaning to education: to master all kinds of “techniques” and “strategies” to pass these tests and exams. In such a scenario, a coaching center “guru” is more valuable than, say, Rabindranath Tagore or Jiddu Krishnamurti; and physics or mathematics remain limited to special “packages” through which Aakash, Brilliant and Fitjeee – the fancy factories that promise instant “success” – attract young minds and their puzzled parents. When there are “smart” and “presentable” tutors available on You Tube or in high-profile BIJU’s or other fancy businesses, who care for the slightest curiosity to learn from the knowledge and wisdom of a great scientist, a poet, a philosopher, a historian or a social activist?

We have normalized this rot. However, many of us like to call it “practical” and “desirable”; we believe that there is no truth higher than the market; we seem to be comfortable with the idea that our children are essentially “resources” to be modulated, trained and refined so that they can integrate well into the structure of techno-capitalism; they must serve the machine with their techno-managerial skills, work endlessly and in silence, consider everything else as secondary or irrelevant, earn money, buy and consume, and project themselves as “happy” and “successful” . Any other view of life, they argue, is pure nonsense – a poetic fantasy!

Death of wonder: education as compulsive performance

See its consequences. As parents, we began to impose our anxieties on our children. We seldom bother to listen to them carefully, understand or appreciate their unique traits and abilities, and assume that there is nothing beyond “safe” careers. Maybe they like poetry and literature; we remain indifferent; instead, we force them to join a coaching center and learn how to pass the IIT entrance test. Maybe your child enjoys music; it makes you anxious because you assume that your child, like your colleague’s child, should do well in math. And you start to discourage her; or you think music can only make sense if it joins a reality show and becomes instant celebrity. In other words, there is no appreciation of the joy and creativity inherent in doing a thing or pursuing a passion. Everything must give concrete / tangible / measurable “results”. If you like physics, you should be at IIT and become a techno-manager; if you like history, you must think about the UPSC Civil Services exam. Our children lose their wonder so early in life; there is no more joy in learning; it is a burden, a compulsive performance – simply a means of reaching a hypothetical notion of “being settled”. We destroy them. We turn them into overworked competitors continually fearing the stigma of “failure,” and chasing a goal imposed on them by their parents, neighbors, peer group and most importantly, the almighty marketplace.

Kill the art of teaching

Think about it. This rot risks destroying the culture of emancipatory pedagogy, the art of joyful learning and engaged teaching. It would demoralize those great professors who believe that physics and mathematics, history and literature, or geography and political philosophy have their own beauties which elicit wonder, activate the imagination and reflection and encourage curiosity in make sense of the world. In the age of coaching centers, exam strategies, guides and ‘success manuals’ with engaging knowledge capsules, neither young learners nor their parents would be ready to see the value of great teachers and teachers. libertarian education. In fact, the system has already destroyed our schools. As children get older, they feel that the school is just a formal body that organizes board exams; otherwise, according to them, the “real stuff” can only be offered by coaching centers. It doesn’t matter whether your child is enrolled in a public school or a fancy “international” school, there seems to be no escape from the tyranny of coaching centers. Forget the joy of learning physics and literature; forget the extraordinarily enlightening pedagogical principles that the tastes of Paulo Freire have developed; forget the creativity of good teachers who seek to take young people into the world of fascinating books; and forget those who believe that the joy of reading a poem by Pablo Neruda cannot be replaced by mastering the strategy to get 100% in the standardized test dominated by multiple choice questions. Education would be turned into a pure business. And the political class as well as the business elite would prefer to remain silent because nowadays, running a coaching center or a private university is almost like running a hotel, and this lucrative activity is in tune with the interest. instrumental of the politician-business link. .

Emptiness and cultural decadence

Finally, the loss of a meaningful, reflective and emancipatory education would harm the soul of our society. Well, our kids might come across as salable “products” with an attractive salary package; with our middle class aspirations, we could be proud of all these successful MBA graduates, techno-managers and careerists; and we could take to the streets to pressure the government to start and fund coaching centers to provide the passing packages for the medicine / engineering / management / fashion design / UPSC courses. We would hardly care about good public universities, good quality public schools, an honest and transparent process for recruiting teachers, good public libraries and countless book clubs in villages, towns and cities. . Our homes would hardly find enough space to store the works of Tagore and Whitman, Dostoyevsky and Sartre, Gandhi and Ambedkar, or Albert Einstein and SN Bose. Instead, our kids’ rooms would be filled with Aakash / Brilliant / Fitjee papers, BIJU notes, guide books, and all kinds of gadgets.

Imagine its consequences. We would end up creating a disenchanted / hollow generation. And the glitz of the corporate employer, or the big bank balance would not be able to hide the poverty of the inner world. With this void, they would buy, consume, drink, and wait for instant “enlightenment” from famous babas. They would equate culture with loud music, reality shows and the war on Twitter; YouTube bloggers would emerge as new heroes; and the language of communication would be reduced to a set of catchy words that fit well into the immediacy of social media. It would be the death of the creative agency, of the emancipatory voice, of critical thinking and of meditative calm.

What else do authoritarian rulers and their tech-business allies need?

Avijit Pathak is professor of sociology at JNU.

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