Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, April 26, 2012

Got Class?


By TheAlien4mEarth

Ask your friends what they do after school. (hint: its not football practice or music class). In nine out of ten cases, the answer's going to be coaching.

What is it that drives people to coaching centers? Do we really need it as much as we think we do? When going to coaching becomes as natural as waking up in the morning, you know its something bigger than just plain necessity. RS carried out an online survey asking around 400 of its readers why they go to coaching, and in some cases, why they don't. From cute teachers to genjams to pre-exam mass hysteria to plain old laziness- here's what the people themselves had to say:

Samin, an A Level student, tells us that his school teachers aren't good enough. “Teachers only teach properly in coaching, not in school,” he says. “They're not going to teach everything in class; rather, they'll leave some part of the chapter for coaching,” he complains. School teachers are not known to give notes, either. When they do, they are not as good as the ones they give at coaching. In extreme cases, teachers have even blackmailed students with failing grades if they don't show up for 'extra help'. With an overwhelming majority of our respondents telling us that their teachers aren't 'good enough', this looks pretty serious. All we can say is that we hope the school authorities are reading this.

Coaching centres definitely have the upper hand here. With schools failing to provide quality education, private tuition/coaching may be the only answer for some. We were wondering about this alleged difference in teaching ability between schools and coaching. It turns out that it is a lot easier to switch teachers in coaching than to switch schools. This keeps the coaching teachers on their toes. And unlike in schools, the teacher gets more students if they teach better, and therefore they do. Call it a black market of sorts.

Another large group of people tell us that they need the extra help. However, half of that number also admit to giving into peer pressure. While everyone may not be good at everything, how much of it is their own inability and just how of it is their friends'? “When you see EVERYONE around you go to coaching and you're not, you're always going to have that nagging feeling that you're missing something,” says Sumaiya, doing her O' Levels. Its this sense of collective insecurity that makes students rush to the coaching centers. And the parents aren't very helpful, either. Instead of helping out with self-esteem issues, they take the 'you'll fail if you don't go to coaching' fear even further, discussing our grades at dawats and parents' meetings alike. But to be fair to them, they're only trying to do their job. If they send us to coaching and we still do badly, they can always yell at us with a clear conscience afterwards.

On the other side of the world are the overachievers, running to the tutors at the first sight of a B. Chill, people- there are plenty of other things that you can do to get your straight A's, and they don't always involve coaching. Try the library, Nilkhet, group study and the Internet. Coaching should only be an option if you're failing a subject consistently.

For others, coaching is just an easy way out. “Why would I spend my entire life reading the classics when I can just pass my SATs with the word lists that I get from my tutor?” says Samin. To their credit, these crash-course-type methods do end up working for most. If you've just crawled out from under your rock and found that you have exams in less than a month, coaching may be your only hope. But then again- notes for writing English essays!? Many kids get dependent on their teachers, and without even knowing it, they lose their ability to think for themselves. Rather than look up a difficult topic in a book or even Google it, they're going to wait for their teachers to just explain everything to them. “Its too much work looking up all that info by yourself,” says an A Level student. But think about it- these are the very kids who are going to go to university in a couple of years, where they have to *gasp* think for themselves. What happens next is anyone's guess.

Judging by what we can see, most students don't have the self-discipline to get things done for themselves. And that's where coaching comes in.

For these people, its more about having someone make them sit down and study rather than needing extra help with anything. We'd like to say that they're a minority, but unfortunately, they do make up a large portion of your coaching class. Samiha, who got 6As in her O Levels without coaching, tells them “Dude, if you're old enough to be giving O' Levels, you're definitely old enough to discipline yourself to study!” Most of these people say that they 'can't study at home'. So we asked why. Nagging parents, distractions, Internet and food, they said. While a lot of them just want to be babysat, this seemingly meaningless excuse does have some truth behind it. “I find it easier to study with my friends,” says Saba, giving O' Levels. Coaching centers have a more relaxed and informal environment than schools, and this may help lower inhibitions for those who are otherwise backbenchers.

On a completely different level are those whose schools don't offer the subject they are trying to study. Coaching is a near-necessity for these students. Once again, this is a case where the schools are failing to provide what the students want.

There are other, non-study-related reasons that people go to coaching as well. “There must be SOMETHING to it if everyone's doing it,” says Saba. And its not just about the studies, either. Coaching centers have a scene all their own, and for many its a part of growing up. Missing out on that experience is not something every kid would choose to do. “Admit it or not, coaching gives us something to do after school,” she says.

For some sneaky folks out there, coaching can be just another excuse to get out of the house. Alvi tells us how 'class ase' can explain just about anything to the parents, from dates to hangouts to football tournaments. Others are fed up with school because of the strict rules and the inflexible environment. Face it, when you're in Class 11-12, you just can't be bothered with things like wearing the right shoes or removing the five pairs of earrings before you show up to collect your mock scripts. Coaching centers are cool like that. Teachers are often friendlier, and more understanding- students often call them bhaiya rather than sir. These may seem like little things, but for a teenager already under pressure from the curriculum, the little things go a long way towards making the subject more bearable. But then again, its worth remembering that coaching centres are no substitute for school. They can never provide the kind of stable platform for higher education that a school can. And if you're into ECAs or are thinking of going abroad, you'd do better to stick to the school.

But after having said all that, the coaching-going people still tell us that 'not going to coaching is too much of a risk'. Even the students with the perfect GPAs are worried that they're taking a gamble with their grades if they don't stick to the status quo. Interestingly, those who don't go at all call it 'a waste of time and money' and that people just go there to 'hang out with their friends'. Of those who do go to coaching regularly, most say that they'd be happier without it. While we're not putting anyone down for choosing to go to coaching, we'd just like to remind you to think twice about whether you really need it, and many more times before you decide to make it a habit. May we kick ass in our exams, whichever path we take.



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