22 January, 2021

Hard Knocks On Cram Schools

Students are home, colleges are closed…India’s Rs 25,000-crore coaching industry struggles to survive the Covid pandemic

After and Before
Students in Kota leave for their homes during the lockdown; they file into a coaching institute in pre-Covid times
Photograph by PTI & Sanjay Rawat
Hard Knocks On Cram Schools

The cram schools in Kota sell dreams—a collective ambition to crack the tough tests for enrollment in top colleges such as IITs or any of the 13 AIIMS campuses in India. A degree from one such institution can guarantee a lifetime of fat pay cheques or jobs abroad. This industrial city by the Chambal in Rajasthan is the holy grail of India’s private coaching industry—a roughly Rs 25,000 crore business that fills in for a failed education system and feeds on the aspirations of thousands of students and their middle-class parents. The town has grown since V.K. Bansal, an engineer, founded Bansal Classes in 1985, the first to help students prep for the college entrance tests. The institute’s success triggered a teaching shop boom, with Kota as its unofficial headquarters, the go-to place. The dream that spawned the city’s Rs 4,000-crore industry—about 80 per cent of the city’s economy—is now in pieces. Covid-struck like most businesses, an uncertain cloud hangs low over the rows of coaching centres and those who live off...



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