That private coaching has become such a rage in Kashmir – a phenomenon unheard of in advanced societies- is a direct reflection of the state of academics in schools and colleges whose students feel compelled to take supplementary tuitions in order to make the grade in examinations. As a matter of fact, schools and colleges function with the foreknowledge that their students are being coached privately, and therefore formal classes are nothing but a perfunctory exercise solely to justify employment and salaries for teachers.
In any case, what educational institutions, or more precisely their proxies, coaching centres, have reduced education in Kashmir at a very formative level to is an exercise in spoon-feeding where students are encouraged to park their brains along with their shoes – and now increasingly motorcycles and fast cars- and unquestioningly lap up whatever their tutors dish out in the form of notes. This readymade material meant for faithful reproduction in examinations suspends the students’ critical thinking and turns them into a passive receptacle of second-hand labour. With such an easy shortcut at hand, students rarely take the trouble to take their actual classes seriously or use them as a healthy interactive medium with teachers they (the classes) are meant to be.
An argument being advanced these days about tuition centres helping students to compete in taxing entrance examinations is as specious as the origins of the coaching syndrome itself. What the students are being encouraged to put to test is not their understanding of concepts and their critical faculties but their ability to memorise long blocks of print dispensed so expensively by their tutors and to reproduce them on the examination sheet. If coaching centres are so indispensable for Kashmiri students, why spend hundreds of crores rupees of scarce public money on schools and colleges which, by inference, are then redundant?
The government has to act, and urgently so, not only to make the practice of private coaching unnecessary (except in the cases of severe academic disability in some students) but to overhaul the art of pedagogy in its entirety. Teaching in schools and colleges has to be drastically refashioned on lines adopted by more enlightened societies in order to make learning an intensively active exercise for students where they are encouraged and groomed to bring their intellectual faculties into full play and not just bank on passive reception and mnemonics to score high marks.