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The Hindu
The Hindu
Abhinav Pankaj Borbora, Devesh Kumar, Subhabita Krishna, Priyanka Mittal

Who goes to Kota’s coaching classes and why | Data

It is a sad comment on India’s education system and its employment scene that there are more and more coaching centres than colleges and universities nowadays. Some cities, such as Kota in Rajasthan, are in fact synonymous with their coaching centres, which are known to ensure that their students perform well in the various entrance examinations for professional courses.

However, of late, Kota has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons as rising student suicides have shifted focus to the mismatch between aspirations and opportunities. While Kota is not the only city known for its coaching centre, we attempt in this study to look at it as a case study to throw light on the question of why students choose to go to such centres and what they negotiate during their preparations for various exams.

With this objective, Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) conducted a survey of more than 1,000 students between the first and second week of October 2023. Thirty per cent of the sample consisted of girl students. The survey was conducted face-to-face using a structured questionnaire in Hindi. Each interview took 15-20 minutes to be completed. This is the first data point of a three-part series on Kota.

A majority of students who study in Kota’s coaching centres come from Bihar (32%), Uttar Pradesh (23%), Rajasthan (18%), and Madhya Pradesh (11%). Nearly half of them belong to cities and small towns; only 14% come from villages. Mostly, they have a middle-class background. The primary earners of their families are engaged mainly in government service (27%), business (21%), and agriculture (14%).

Thirteen per cent of the students studying in Kota have immediate family members who studied in Kota, while 28% have extended relatives who did so. These students mainly heard of Kota from these relatives. More than half the students (53%) do not have relatives who studied in Kota earlier. Forty-four per cent of the students said that they came to know about the town’s institutes through social media. Nearly half the students (46%) moved to Kota because of the reputation of its coaching centres, 39% moved to the town on the insistence of their parents, and 10% were influenced by friends who were going to Kota (Table 1).

Table 1 | How did you decide to start taking coaching classes at Kota?

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The majority of students at Kota are boys, and only 37% are girls. Given that students are usually expected to appear for entrance exams after higher secondary education, most students are aged 15-19 years.

NEET, the entrance test for admission to medical colleges, appears to have the most takers among Kota’s students with 59% going to coaching centres in the town to prepare for it. Of them, 76% are girls. The other popular choice is JEE, the test for admission into engineering programmes, with 35% preparing for it. This test is more popular among boys with 46% preparing for it compared with 16% girls.

Most students who do not manage to clear JEE or NEET on their first attempt move out. Close to half the students (49%) will be appearing in these entrance exams for the first time. In contrast, 26% continued to be in Kota after their first attempt (Table 2). That number comes down further to 13% with regard to those who have already made two attempts.

Table 2 | How many times have you appeared for the JEE or NEET exam?

A good number of students (29%) were also enrolled in other coaching centres before deciding to move to Kota. It is safe to say that students often choose to move because they are not satisfied with their exam performance. Among those who will be making their first attempt, only 23% undertook coaching elsewhere before moving to Kota. That figure climbs to 39% with regard to those who have already sat for the exam twice (Table 3).

Table 3 | Before getting admitted to a coaching centre in Kota, did you take coaching classes elsewhere?

Besides preparing for these exams at coaching centres, students also need to be enrolled in a school to clear their board examinations. Clearing the board exam is a mandatory condition for becoming eligible to appear in entrance exams. Among those who are enrolled, only 16% go to regular school. A staggering 81% of coaching centre students are instead enrolled in ‘dummy schools’ (Table 4). These ‘schools’ do not require them to attend regular classes; they merely enable them to satisfy the requirement of sitting for board examinations.

Table 4 | Do you go to a regular or distant school?

While carrying out their exam preparation in Kota, a majority (49%) of the students live in hostels and 30% live as paying guests. While these are the most common choices of accommodation among students, a smaller number of them (17%) also rent apartments. Living conditions in these accommodations vary. With regard to the quality of food served in hostels and paying guest accommodations across Kota, only 12% of students said it is very good; 27% said they did not like it and 57% said the food was passable.

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Despite all these challenges, year after year, a large number of students move to Kota, join one of its many coaching centres, enrol in ‘dummy schools’, and find accommodation. Most of them often put up with barely passable living conditions. What makes them go through all this is? The majority of the students (65%) consider clearing JEE or NEET exams to be extremely important (Table 5). 

Table 5 | How important is it for you to succeed in the NEET or JEE exam?

They see these exams as a means to a better life. Thirty-five per cent feel that clearing JEE or NEET will help them settle down well in life, 22% believe that their respect in society will increase, and 16% hope that their economic condition will improve (Table 6).

Table 6 | If you clear JEE or NEET, what will change in your life?

Source: Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)‘s survey of students in Kota

Also read | Data | NEET may deepen shortage of rural specialists in TN

Listen to our podcast | Vital Signs Podcast Episode 1 | Does NEET favour wealthy, urban and CBSE board students

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