Coaching centres may challenge new guidelines

A government diktat barring coaching institutes from signing up students below 16 has ruffled the institutes, which begin training students as young as 10 for engineering and medical entrance examinations.

In a meeting on Saturday with more than 200 coaching centres, the Coaching Federation of India (CFI), an industry body with more than 25,000 coaching institutes under its wings, decided to seek legal remedy.

“Immediate legal advice sought to explore options and take necessary steps to halt the implementation of proposed guidelines. There was consensus to seek relaxation in regulations regarding coaching for students below 16 years, emphasizing the potential stress on those preparing for highly competitive exams,” said an excerpt from the minutes of the meeting seen by Mint.

“We would want to appeal to the government to reduce the 16-year age barrier to 12 years,” said Ashish Gambhir, director of CFI. “We are awaiting the guidelines to come in the gazette, and also states to tell us what to do before we take a call on the legal appeal.”

The Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Education last week released a set of rules—Guidelines for Regulation of Coaching Center —that said a coaching centre should not accept students younger than 16 years of age, or the student enrolment should be only after secondary school (standard 10) examination.

The institutes are awaiting more details from state governments since the regulation of +2 level education is the responsibility of state and Union territory governments.

According to one of the founders of a leading coaching institute in Kota, Rajasthan, it is this guideline that has bothered the centres the most. “About 10% of their revenues comes from young students who enrol as early as class V/VI hoping that most of their preparation is for a seat in engineering, medical and civil service,” the founder said on the condition of anonymity. “The revenue pie may look small, but it is a catchment pool for the coaching centres.”

Thousands of students enrol in what is called “dummy schools”, which have alliances with the coaching centres and do not insist on students attending classes. The young children instead work on their entrance tests and the school passes them in the school exams. The government is clear that it wants to avoid dummy schools, the founder said. A large chunk of these centres is based out of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra.

However, some coaching institutes have a different view. “I would not want the guideline to change, and 16 years should be fine,” said Pramod Maheshwari, the founder of coaching institute Career Point. “Children below that age need to learn other subjects and not focus only on entrance exams. In fact, even at the age of 16, the competitive pressures can be a lot for many students.”

The guidelines are meant to regulate private coaching centres. The ministry said the rules were “in the context of rising student suicides cases, fire incidents, lack of facilities as well as methodologies of teaching have been engaging the attention of the government from time to time”.

According to reports, 25 students died by suicide in Kota, Rajasthan, in 2023—the hub of coaching institutes in India.

“Since my kid has taken an integrated course, where the coaching centre is the only option till the child clears 12th board and then competitive tests, we are relieved the new policy doesn’t affect us, as these kids are above 16 years of age,” said the father of a Thane-based student who is enrolled with Mumbai-based School Toppers Coaching Classes. According to him, for students opting for four or five-year courses beginning ninth standard, it would have been difficult with the new guidelines kicking in.

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