My cousin completed her Xth recently with a decent percentage and after a couple of entrance exams got admitted to two of the best colleges in town. The first was Little Flower Jr. College, a college which is a part of the same fraternity that I am an alumnus of and the second one, FIITJEE, a coaching centre that is now into imparting fulltime education with focus on IIT.
As someone who discourages people from taking up engineering anymore, I told my sister to forget FIITJEE and these other coaching center’s and join a perfect college setting complete with large playgrounds and extra-curricular activities. Not joining Little Flower was one mistake that I always wanted to forget so I tried all the tricks in the book to entice her to join there. Also, it’s probably the only college in Hyderabad that has such large classrooms, playgrounds, basket-ball courts and cafeteria, a pleasant change from cramped classrooms in residential apartments.
Another reason for pushing LF was due to the fact that she still had to learn a lot about India. My Cousin was born in the US and she hardly spent anytime in India before they moved here for good about two years back. For someone who never had public exams, school uniforms and 7hrs of monotonous subject classes, schools here were a shock and for days she refused to go. Finally we found one school that suited her, Vidyaranya, as it had relaxed rules when it came to dress code and social activities.
So for a long time her father and I had been contemplating a way to get her to understand Indian Psyche and accustom her to Indian ways and means and for which I felt LF was the best place. It was a little away from downtown Hyd, had a college bus, had extra-curricular activities that most students picked up and most of all there would be plenty of like-minded simple middle-class kids out there from whom she could learn a lot of things. From the day she came to India, a kind of protective cover was around her all the time, things like a dedicated car and driver, always mineral water and never ever going out to crowded places where she could get rid of her phobia of common people.
But the moment she stepped into FIITJEE, everything changed. The place reminded her of her school in the US as it had air-conditioned classrooms, plush seats, convenient timings (12pm-6pm???) and most of all, it was just beside her school which guaranteed that she would never have to take public transport or meet loads of new people. With just 20 super-rich kids in her class, all of whom came from affluent families and almost all them having chauffeurs waiting to pick them up, she felt at home. But for my uncle and I, it was a totally different horror story.
My family comes from a back-ground of eminent academicians who more or less call the shots everywhere they go. My father, himself a professor, has never ever been under guidelines as to how to handle a class let alone how to present himself before students and all the lecturers I ever cared about more or less belonged to the same mould. But FIITJEE was something else. For the first time I saw lecturers here in ties and dog-tags from whom a student has to take a prior appointment to clear his doubts. For the first time I saw a lecturer refusing to speak to the parents as any inquiry has to handled by an HR professional hired by FIITJEE. And for the first ever time I saw a college where a student to forbidden to run or speak louder than a whisper in the premises.
Now it’s been more than six years since my Xth but I was actually aghast by the way education has been corporatised. The course fee that FITJEE charges for two years of intensive coaching for JEE, SAT and AIEEE is a whopping Rs. 140,000 and all of that has to be paid before the student steps into the college. And incase the student does not cope up with the intensive coaching not a single penny is refunded.
The fee part is still all right but what pissed me of the most was the attitude of those HR guys at the reception area. We wanted a sit down with the faculty to explain that my sis’s CBSC background is not enough to cope up with the rigors of the State Syllabus but the condescending way in which the HR guy spoke to us was horrible. The expression he had all the while was “You have come to the most glamorous and expensive place in the world of education, why the fuck are you even asking me these questions? Pay the money and lick our feet”. All the while that chap was more interested in showing us the plush classrooms and hit-tech gadgets used while teaching.
The worst was still to come when the admission form was like a legal deed where every second statement read “… and FIITJEE is not responsible and no refund can be requested”. The above statement was repeated atleast a dozen times in the form. Also for the first time I saw the guardian’s photo being requested in the form and when my uncle failed to reproduce the same, the cashier simple rejected the form and said either come back with the photo NOW!, Or just deposit the cash and take a receipt for the same whenever we give the photograph. Imagine it’s not the student’s photo they want but the cash payer’s???
At one stage the whole process looked like a gigantic exercise where we just pay up the exorbitant fee to be jailed without questions. The uniform for FIITJEE can be bought only at one Raymond’s outlet in the whole city and the cost is fixed by the institution. Also, the student can come to the classroom only when he/she has the uniform and in our case, my sis got admitted on a Saturday and the classes were beginning on Monday. Just goes to show how horrible these corporate colleges can be.
When we finally managed to get hold of a couple of Sr. year student’s there quick response to our queries was that all of them had to fend for themselves when it come to college education using model papers and guides and only the high-level IIT coaching is imparted in the classroom. And also if one were to under perform in the IIT classes, the lectures apparently mock the students as being unfit for education.
This is the state of Intermediate education in a city that produces the maximum number of engineers in world. A city that has the highest number of IITians treats its kids in away that are devoid of any human touch and interest. All these are just money making machines with the sole aim to cash in on the parents desires of seeing the kids in the countries top premier institutions.
Now here’s what baffles me. FIITJEE claims to have secured 2900 out of the 4000 seats in IIT-JEE this year. If that’s true that the cost of getting into such a college is a cool 1.5 lakhs for two years! Can all the people in our country afford such amounts? So is quality education only restricted only to the super-rich who can shell out such vast sums? How the hell is a normal poor kid supposed to bear such expenses? A dear friend and a fellow blogger who is aiming for his civils also asked me the same question once. He is spending more than a couple of lakhs an year for IAS exams! Is all this money for coaching institutes justified? Even if it is, is it not the basic responsibility to provide an environment of education rather than training kids as corporate citizen’s right from schooling?
My sis chose FIITJEE because she is at home in such a world. But one question that nags my uncle and me is, are we doing a greater mistake by allowing her to join in such an atmosphere at such a young age? Will she be able to adjust to any other situation ever again?