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Cry in apex court to rein in coaching institutes

New Delhi, Jan. 2: The Supreme Court today sought within four weeks the Centre’s response on a PIL seeking regulation of unrecognised private coaching institutions, allegedly pocketing around Rs 35,000 crore annually through their “parallel education system”.

The petition was filed by the Students Federation of India (SFI), the students’ wing of the CPM, which also blamed the institutes for many stress-fuelled suicides. The figure on the estimated earnings is based on a survey by Amartya Sen’s Pratichi Trust.

The “publicity blitzkrieg” by the institutes puts students under tremendous pressure from parents to perform in competitive exams, said the PIL filed before a bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri.

The PIL also alleged false advertisements in newspapers, often with photographs of purported toppers, in competitive exams. Some of the “so-called toppers” featured in ads of several institutes, the petition alleged.

SFI lawyer G. Prakash told the bench that the coaching firms claiming to prepare students for entrance exams such as IIT-JEE and AIPMT (medical) were actually ruining the lives of the students and pocketing crores.

They could become a Rs 75,000-crore business soon, the plea said. The figures were also drawn from an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

“These unrecognised institutionalised private coaching companies are playing with the careers of young students and exploiting them and their parents by way of illegal demands and misleading advertisements. These institutions ask the students and their parents to pay their entire course fee in advance, which is illegal, unlawful, arbitrary, unwarranted, and unjust, as determined by various court orders,” the plea said.

Most of the fee is spent on misleading ads rather than on teaching facilities, the PIL alleged. It highlighted the example of Rajasthan’s Kota, the hub of medical and engineering coaching institutions, and said around 50 students allegedly committed suicide there in 2011.

The coaching institutions offer false hopes to students and parents, promising good results even for candidates who may not have an aptitude for engineering or medicine, the plea said.

The petition cited a recent report of a Union HRD ministry committee that held such coaching institutes responsible for psychological stress among students who joined central institutions such as the IITs, NITs, IIMs and AIIMS.

“The institutions try to enrol students as young as Class V, creating unnecessary pressure on young impressionable minds and reducing time for extra-curricular and childhood activities, self study and homework, reducing their love for books and learning and self-confidence.”

Some coaching firms run integrated programs in schools and encourage teachers to give tuition later instead of spending time in class, the PIL said, and added this is against CBSE and RTE (Right to Education Act) rules.

The institutions also hold various exams/tests on school premises, again violating CBSE guidelines, the petition said.

The PIL urged the apex court to pass the following directions:

Ask the Centre and states to take appropriate steps to ensure such coaching institutions do not collect advance fees for the upcoming academic session till the disposal of the petition

Direct states to take all appropriate steps to protect the interests of students and parents.