Regulation of Indian Coaching Centers – Need of the Hour
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Regulation of Indian Coaching Centers – Need of the Hour
The Ministry of Education (“Ministry”), Government of India, has recently released the much-debated Guidelines for Regulation of Coaching Centers (“Guidelines”) for consideration by the States/UTs. These Guidelines are in the form of model guidelines to be adopted by the State/UT governments by way of appropriate legal framework to regulate the coaching centers (“CC”) within their jurisdictions (even though education is a subject matter of the concurrent list of the Constitution of India).
The Guidelines have been issued in view of the rising number of unregulated coaching institutes charging exorbitant fees from students, unreasonably long coaching hours forcing students to leave schools and enroll with dummy schools, undue pressure, and stress on students (sometimes resulting in unfortunate student suicides), lack of reasonable infrastructure, fire accidents and other malpractices.
Salient Features of the Guidelines
a. A CC providing coaching for any study programme or competitive examinations or academic support to students at school, college, and university level, for more than 50 students will need to get prior registration in terms of the Guidelines.
b.In case of a CC having multiple branches, each such branch will need to be treated as a separate CC.
c.The government will need to facilitate the registration of CC through web portal/online mechanisms with minimum human interface.
2.Conditions for Registration:
a. CC should not enrol students below the age of 16 years, or the student enrolment should be only after their secondary school examination.
b.CC should not make any misleading promises or guarantees of rank or good marks to parents/students.
c.CC should not engage tutors having qualifications less than graduation or having been convicted for any offence involving moral turpitude.
d.CC should not make misleading advertisements relating to any claim, directly or indirectly, of the quality of CC or the facilities offered therein, or the result procured by such CC or the student who attended such class.
e.CC shall have a website with updated details of the qualification of tutors, courses/curriculum, duration of completion, hostel facilities (if any), fees being charged, easy exit policy, fee refund policy, number of students who have undertaken coaching from the CC and number of students who finally succeeded in getting admission in higher education institutions etc.
3.Reasonable Fees and Refund Policy:
a.The tuition fees charged by the CC must be fair and reasonable.
b.The CC must issue a prospectus mentioning all the information that they have to mention on their website under point 2(e) above.
c.The CC would need to make a pro-rata refund of tuition fees, hostel and mess fees (if any) within 10 days of a student deciding to leave the course midway.
a.CC should allocate a minimum of one square meter area for each student during a class/batch. There shall be sufficient infrastructure in proportion to the number of students enrolled.
b.CC would need to adhere to the fire safety codes, building safety codes and other standards and will obtain a fire and building safety certificate.
c.CC shall be fully electrified, well-ventilated, and sufficient lighting arrangements will need to be made in each classroom along with separate toilets for males and females within the premises of the CC. Safe and potable drinking water shall be available for the students and the staff.
d.CC should have a complaint box or register for students to raise any complaints. CC shall also have a committee for redressal of complaints/grievances of students.
5.Curriculum and Code of Conduct:
a.CC classes for students studying in schools should not be conducted during school hours to avoid dummy schools.
b.CC should make the curriculum/class timetable as such to allow students to relax and recuperate, and not build any additional pressure on them.
c.CC classes should not be more than 5 hours in a day and the CC hours should neither be too early in the morning nor too late in the evening.
d.The number of students enrolled in each class/batch may be clearly defined and shall not be increased during the currency of the course to ensure a healthy teacher-student ratio.
e.CC shall not make public the result of the assessment test conducted by it, and it should only be used to analyze the performance of the students and students who do not perform well should be provided counselling.
f.Batch segregation on academic performance shall not be done as it leads to excessive pressure on students, affecting their mental health.
6.Focus on having Counselors and Psychologists’ Support for Students:
a.CC should establish a mechanism for immediate intervention to provide targeted and sustained assistance to students in distress and stressful situations.
b.CC are encouraged to involve counselors and experienced psychologists to counsel and provide psychotherapeutic service to students for the resolution of mental stress and depression.
c. Regular workshops and awareness weeks may be arranged for parents, students, and teachers on mental health and prevention of stress by the CC.
d.Tutors may undergo training in mental health issues to convey information effectively and sensitively to students about their areas of improvement.
7.Penalties– In case of violation of any terms and conditions of registration or general conditions, the competent authority will have the power to make CC liable for a fine of INR 25,000/- for the first offence; INR 1,00,000/- for the second offence; and revocation of registration of the CC for any subsequent offence.
The release of the Guidelines (and nudging the States/UTs to adopt the Guidelines by way of appropriate legal framework) marks a significant step towards a more regulated and responsible coaching ecosystem. Cities like Kota known for its Joint Entrance Examination (JEE ) and National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) coaching centres (such as Allen and Resonance), have witnessed a heartbreaking rise in student suicides. Delhi too has seen its share of troubles with some of its areas brimming with coaching centres and facing acute infrastructure challenges. On the Ed-tech front, BYJU’s expansion into the offline space, through its acquisition of Aakash Institute, has raised concerns about alleged predatory practices with poor cancellation policies and false promises. Thus, these comprehensive regulations address pressing concerns surrounding exorbitant fees, student stress, and unethical practices, aiming to prioritize student well-being and promote a responsible academic environment.
However, some concerns have been raised regarding the scope of the Guidelines including the primary focus being restricted to physical CCs and overlooking the booming online/hybrid coaching industry. This creates a regulatory loophole, potentially allowing online platforms to engage in similar problematic practices as their physical counterparts. Limiting the enrolment of students of 16 years and above or post-secondary school examination is also causing severe heartburn in the industry as it overlooks the special coaching need of students appearing for important exams like the JEE or NEET. Suggestions for alternative solutions like age-specific regulations or stricter regulations for competitive exam preparation are being made.
While several states such as Bihar, Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur have already taken initiatives by enacting special legislations to regulate private coaching and tuition classes in their respective jurisdictions even prior to the issuance of these Guidelines, adoption of the Guidelines by other states/UTs would be only the first step in regulating this unregulated sector. While, over-regulation can adversely impact the industry and create unnecessary bureaucracy and delays, the actual change would come once the industry itself aligns to the growing and immediate need to focus on the wellbeing and wholistic development of young minds.