Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Coaching Classes : Boon or Bane?

Having attended a large number of coaching classes in high school, I feel qualified to write about this. Throughout my school life, it was a very touchy subject. Schools prided on being self-sufficient and looked down on students who went to coaching classes. Many peers did not respect me and assumed that whatever brilliance I exhibited was from prior knowledge from these classes. Relatives felt I was so stupid that I required coaching. Despite all this, why do students attend coaching classes and is it useful at all?

This is from my personal experience, my views cannot be generalised to any class. There is an ocean of difference between the quality of classes.

#1 Peer Pressure

This is the No.1 reason for me attending coaching classes in 9th grade. My parents felt I was losing out on an edge that some of my peers may have. Initially, I was disgruntled. I was not some idiot who required coaching. But when I joined there, I loved it. I made lasting friendships. I was a painfully shy and quiet kid. I doubt I learned anything useful but I enjoyed the company.

#2 The Difference in Syllabus

This I felt at the end of 10th grade. When I attempted to solve previous JEE papers, I was at a clear loss. There is a humongous leap from 10th syllabus to 11th. And the gap is even more prominent with entrance exams. So, I applied for many IIT-JEE coaching institutes. I could not afford half of them. Then, at a tradeoff between quality and cost, I settled at the best option available to me. Even the coaching classes had an entrance exam! Very soon, there'll be coaching classes for those entrances :P

#3 School vs. Coaching

This is where the crux of the issue lies I feel. Most school teachers concentrate on completing the syllabus and most coaching classes concentrate on clearing ranks. Amidst these crazy races, the central goal of learning, the concept, is lost. Again, this is a sweeping generalization as I am going to list a few exceptions below. It is not particularly anybody's fault. As a result oriented society, working in a limited time-frame, say 2-4 years, we are fanatic about achieving a goal and these are the paths available to them.

#4 Engaging Children

With working parents and distracted teenagers, coaching classes became puddles of guaranteed concenration. It has become a teenager creche if I may go as far as that. Like I mentioned before, I made a lot of meaningful friendships, sometimes with those professors themselves!

#5 Small Sizes

Since a lot of school teachers do not to take subjects to a required depth, many coaching classes thrive. I found this to be particularly true for Physics. I fell in love with the subject at coaching classes. Once again, I'm emphasizing that school teachers are not to blame. As they have a class of students with varying abilities and interest, more often than not, they have to pander to the lowest common denominator.

The Million Dollar Question: Did these classes help?

First, let me list the classes I went for. Ninth and Tenth standard, I went for coaching in Science and Math, It was mostly concept oriented. I remember he used to make fun of my teachers for making mistakes and I used to pounce on him and defend them. Simply because the complaints he picked up were from students who were not paying attention to my teachers in the first place :P I liked going there, it was light, funny and in words of another coaching prof, "Intellectual Entertainment". I felt like it was brain exercise. Plus, I was an insufferable know-it-all at that time, it was fun :P Both, to be made fun of and to be myself :D In 11th I went for IIT Coaching. That was when I fell in love with Physics. I could not cope with the strenuous hours. I quit mid-way but continued learning Organic Chemistry. Then, in 12th I went to three coaching classes, Math, Physics and Chemistry. I dropped out of chemistry in 2-3 months. My math mam became a very good friend, she used to  find mistakes in questions where my answers were correct, something I had not experienced before. She used to call them compensating errors. Last but definitely not the least, I am indebted lifelong to that Physics coaching sir. What was previously a love for Physics, he made me win her hand. He instilled so much confidence in me and sharpened my skills.

I do not know how much they contributed individually. If I had not gone for any of these coaching, I would not have got into a premier institute.  Collectively, for me, they worked. That is because I love to study. I think if you are invested in these classes and have a yearning to learn new things, it's a boon. If you go there because your parents or friends told you so, it's a bane. I could not gain this expertise in school. Why that is, is not completely clear to me. I have a hunch it is because we have large classrooms and less teachers that we cannot get as much individual attention as we deserve.

Any Drawbacks?

The first time I thought my life was meaningless, I was 16. The tremendous pressure to achieve is something no child should have to undergo. I do not think coaching classes are to blame per se. If the teaching methodologies come together, such that if you put effort in school, you can achieve the results you desire, nothing would be better than that. Many students coach weak students after school. If you coach students at the other end of the spectrum as well, that would be awesome. That was the irony of the situation. Most people think that the lives of students like me who enjoy studying are rosy and set. It is very difficult to fathom how rocky their roads are.


I didn't go for any coaching during college. College syllabus was quite self contained. I felt the difficulty level was 10% of what I needed to understand in school. I qualified in GATE as well without coaching. I didn't score a great rank but just qualified. I went for CAT coaching and that was a complete unexpected disaster, Thankfully. I think after that kind of effort at schhol, studying just became easy.

Would I put my kids in coaching classes?

I wouldn't because I'd be one hell of a teacher for them ;)

Also, this post is based on a conversation when me and my friend were discussing we should start a coaching class in case we don't graduate :P