The Education Ministry, last week, taking the cognisance of coaching centers charging exorbitant fees from students, released guidelines to regulate the entities by the way of an appropriate legal framework. The action of the coaching centres were promoting unhealthy competition and stress among students, rise in student suicides and other malpractices.
With this move, individuals who are interested in imparting coaching or establishing, running, managing or maintaining a coaching center, will now have to register the center as per the guidelines. Also, for the coaching centers having multiple branches, each of the branches would be considered as a separate coaching center which would need a separate application for its registration.
The ministry said it aims to provide guidelines for the regulation of coaching center for better guidance and assistance to the students in any study programme, competitive examinations, or academic support. As per the guidelines, in case of violation of any of the terms and conditions of registration or general conditions, the coaching center will have to cough up penalties of Rs 25,000 for the first offense, Rs 1,00,000 for the second offense, and the revocation of registration for a subsequent offense.
Welcoming the move by the government, Tushar Agarwal, advocate, Supreme Court of India said, “The present guidelines are much awaited in view of ‘mushrooming’ of coaching institutions without any proper check. Now with the compulsory registration requirement, all coaching institutions who will not apply for registration, they will be fined for that. Further the coaching institute might be closed by government order.”
Any person aggrieved by the order of refusal to register a coaching center or its renewal or cancellation of registration, may, within thirty days from the date of receipt of such order, appeal to the appellate authority in the manner as may be specified by the appropriate government, it stated.
“No doubt that these guidelines will help in preventing students’ suicides as entire focus is on mental and psychological support to students however apart from this, some more basic standards have to be laid down before giving permission to any coaching institute to operate,” he added.
Welcome step say experts
Welcoming the move, Ankur Mahindro, managing partner, Kred Jure said, “The guidelines are a positive step towards regulating a majorly unregulated sector, by prescribing minimum age limit for admission and prohibiting misleading promises, false rank assurances, excessive fee, etc. and is likely to provide sustained and targeted assistance, however, sufficiency of the same would only become clear once the guidelines are implemented and necessary infrastructure is developed for its effective implementation.”
Another legal expert, Aslam Ahmed, Partner at Singhania & Co. believed that the success of current guidelines in halting the uncontrolled expansion of private coaching centers is contingent upon a number of factors.
“These include the guidelines’ specificity and clarity, the efficacy of enforcement mechanisms, and the regulatory framework’s capacity to adjust to changing circumstances. Cooperation among education authorities, law enforcement agencies, and stakeholders, as well as public awareness and reporting mechanisms, are critical to the success of the guidelines,” he said.
Ahmed maintained that the periodic reviews and updates are also necessary to keep the regulatory framework current and address new issues. “Inadaptsend, the success of the current guidelines will be determined by their thorough implementation and their capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.”
Shashank Agarwal, Advocate, Delhi High Court highlighted that several enactments have been made by various state governments to regulate the private coaching centers. However, only now the central government felt the need to frame these Guidelines.
“Clearly, the laws put in place by the State Government must have missed something. Even today, these Guidelines are only guidelines which will become effective only when the state governments adopt and implement it as a law,” Agarwal added.
What is still missing?
Highlighting a para of the guidelines defining a coaching center, where it says ‘coaching’ means tuition, instructions or guidance in any branch of learning imparted to more than 50 students, Advocate Agarwal said some coaching institutes can show less students in their record or break their strength of students into multiple sections having less than 50 students in each section, in order to avoid mandatory registration.
The effectiveness of these guidelines will depend on the regular audit of such coaching institutions regarding compliance of these guidelines, he added.
He also voiced against the marketing provisions of the coaching institutes and said there should be provisions which should regulate excessive marketing and promotion by coaching institutions to lure students.
Further the contents and study material provided by coaching institutes should also be scrutinised and screened, he said.
Ankur Mahindro of Kred Jure further urged the need of ‘immediate assistance’ in the guidelines saying, the guidelines are aimed towards redressing multiple issues faced by students and parents in distress, however, has failed to provide a mechanism for providing immediate assistance especially until necessary infrastructure for effective implementation of these guidelines is set up.
Talking about the measures for the better implementation of these guidelines, Aslam Ahmed of Singhania & Co. said creating awareness among students, parents, and the general public about the guidelines is crucial.
“Additionally, establishing easy and accessible reporting mechanisms for violations can empower stakeholders to report non-compliant coaching centres,” he added.
He further said regular audits of coaching centers to assess compliance with guidelines, maintaining an optimal student-teacher ratio, establishing a comprehensive code of ethics for coaching centres, and outlining principles of integrity, transparency, and professional conduct will help create a culture of ethical practices within the coaching industry.
Agarwal said the guidelines miss out on one of the most essential elements for its effective implementation, i.e. its advocacy. Advocacy here means imparting knowledge and information and raising awareness about the legal rights and duties of all the stakeholders.
“The issue being dealt with by these guidelines impacts not just the coaching centres, but the students, their parents and the teaching staff. It is important that all these stakeholders are made aware of their rights and obligations so as to achieve effective implementation of these guidelines while protecting the interests of all the stakeholders,” he said adding.
(Written by firstname.lastname@example.org)