Flawed education system and private tuition

There is nothing new or surprising in the 16th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) which pointed out that almost 50 per cent of school students in Manipur take private tuition as an indispensable part of their formal education. What is surprising is the fact that more than 90 per cent of the students who go for private tuition are students of private schools. This fact has far-reaching implications. It implies that something is seriously wrong with the State’s education system. The Covid-19 pandemic shut down both private schools as well as Government schools for almost two years. But it was Government school students who were worst hit as majority of them did not go for private tuition whereas students of private schools somehow managed to continue the learning process to some extent for they could afford private tuition. Even when there was no such pandemic which forced closure of schools, Government school students were always at the receiving end when student bodies were in agitation mode over myriad public issues and also when teachers were in cease work mode over issues of their own like pay scale hike. Whether it is class boycott or cease work strike, it is mostly the Government school students who are suffering the worst. Their more fortunate colleagues reading in private schools are little affected by such disruptions for they have the privilege to go to private tuition centres or hire private tutors. The end result is an unassailable disparity between these two groups of students. This is most glaringly reflected in examinations conducted by the Board of Secondary Education Manipur (BSEM) and the Council of Higher Secondary Education Manipur (COHSEM). Government schools drawing blank in BSEM and COHSEM conducted exams is neither surprising nor inexplicable. Parents’ escorting their children to tuition centres was inescapable sight before the pandemic hit the State. It is only natural for parents to invest all possible time, money and labour for best possible education of their children. What demands immediate introspection of the whole society is the State’s education system.
The scenario demands a thorough analysis on a comprehensive scale encompassing Government school students and all those students who cannot afford private tuition. Private tuition or coaching is fast acquiring the status of a parallel schooling system. There are many compelling and not so compelling factors for the rise of private coaching system in parallel to the formal schooling system. Here, we cannot overlook the heightened sense of competitiveness.  There is no denying of the fact that private tuition equips students better to face examinations. At the same time, it evokes a question of fairness. Whereas the level of competitiveness is rising year after year, the arena of competition is shrinking reciprocally. Competition and sense of competitiveness has already become an exclusive domain of private and mission schools only. These exams have become so lopsidedly unfair that students of Government schools have been thrown out of competition. This fast growing tradition of going for private tuition gives unfair advantage to those students who can afford while victimising many poor students. If private coaching raises the level of competitiveness, it is also one major factor for the increasing number of High School drop-outs. A notion seems to have been imbibed by the students that it is impossible to pass Board and Council exams without going for private tuition. To many poor parents, both in rural and urban areas, private tuition is a luxury they cannot afford. With the culture of private tuition spreading like a plague, many families are struggling to send their children to private tuition sacrificing other basic requirements of the family. Even as all the odds are heavily stacked against the poor students, neither the Government nor the teachers nor the society has/have shown any urgency so far to rectify the flawed and sectarian education system.