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Govt wants to keep hands off coaching cells

New Delhi, March 17: The Union human resource development ministry will tell the Supreme Court that private coaching institutions do not come under its jurisdiction and it cannot regulate their activities.

In response to a notice issued by the apex court on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the Students Federation of India, the students’ wing of the CPM, the ministry is expected to make a distinction between private coaching and educational programmes leading to a degree or a diploma or any certificate that facilitates further studies or jobs.

“The private coaching institutes offer some sort to training to improve the preparedness of students for some examination, which is not the same as education for a degree or a diploma or a certificate. They are not under our jurisdiction,” Ashok Thakur, the secretary, higher education, told The Telegraph.

In the PIL, the SFI has contended that unauthorised private coaching institutions are mushrooming in the country. These institutions are giving “misleading” advertisements about their achievements and creating false hope among students, the PIL said.

The Supreme Court heard the matter on January 2 and issued a notice to the HRD ministry asking for its response. The next hearing is due in the first week of April.

SFI national president V. Sivadasan said poor students were vulnerable to cheating by private institutes. “The poor students get lured by misleading advertisements of coaching centres. In advertisements, the coaching centres put out photographs of toppers of different national entrance tests claiming credit. Most of these are false claims,” Sivadasan said.

He said education is a not-for-profit sector in India. The private coaching institutes make huge profits from coaching, essentially an educational activity, the SFI leader added.

“The government must regulate the functioning of the private institutes by prescribing quality norms, fee structure and penalty for malpractice,” Sivadasan said.

He said many poor students commit suicide after failing in entrance tests. He blamed the coaching institutes for such tragedies.

While students from rich and middle-class families crosscheck the claims made by the coaching centres, poor students rely on newspaper advertisements and join coaching institutes with high hopes. They borrow money and most of them fail to crack the entrance tests, he said.

Sivadasan’s views have found support from N.C. Jain, father of Nitin Jain who topped the IIT-JEE entrance in 2009.

In 2010, Jain had filed a complaint with police against a private coaching centre, alleging that the institute was running a blog in the name of Nitin without his consent. He alleged that the institute had taken Nitin’s signature on a letter of endorsement about the quality training of the institute without explaining why his signature was being taken. The institute put out the letter signed by Nitin as an advertisement, which was opposed by his father. The coaching institute has denied these allegations.

Jain said the leading private coaching institutes charge about Rs 2 lakh for 600 hours of coaching for engineering and medical entrance tests. These institutes boast excellent training facilities. However, there is no independent assessment of such claims.

Jain quoted a study by industry body Assocham and said the turnover of private coaching centres could be around Rs 1.5 lakh crore per annum in India. Nearly 40 lakh students appear for engineering entrance tests while about 10 lakh students sit for medical entrance tests every year.

Coaching is also provided to crack exams for the civil service, school services and management education.

The institutes do not refund admission fee to a student in case he decides not to pursue the training, Jain said.

While educational institutions are set up as trusts or societies, which are non-profit bodies, the coaching centres do not follow any uniform management system. Many institutes are registered as profit-making private companies and several are unregistered and they run as unregulated business, Jain said.

Jain had filed a separate PIL in Delhi High Court which directed him to approach the Supreme Court as a similar petition is pending there. Jain is planning to move the apex court soon.

Private coaching institutes, however, contend that any move to bring them under a regulatory regime would lead to licence raj and corruption.

“Coaching is a sector where the parents and children make informed and appropriate choices. If you bring institutes under a regulatory regime, it will lead to licence raj and corruption,” said Satya Narayanan R., the chairman of Career Launcher, a private institute.

Narayanan said that the quality of education was poor in government institutions despite regulations.

He also denied the allegations about the misleading advertisements.

“According to norms, all the advertisements have to be supported with auditable evidence. Things are very transparent,” he said.

Thakur, the higher education secretary, said the government would tell the Supreme Court that it would focus on improving the quality of education in government institutions, discouraging students from going to private coaching institutions.