With fewer students opting to go abroad this year, training institutes seem to be the worst hit, reports Radha Prathi
The R-word, recession, is slowly but surely making its way into every segment of society. It has affected the lives, goals and ambitions of students —students of science in particular. They now prefer to take the beaten path to avoid any kind of risks that they might be challenged with along the path of their academic lives.
The average middle class Indian who takes infinite pride in giving his children the best of education, and topping the degrees of his kids with the cherry of a master’s programme in a foreign university, was the veritable order of the day till not very long ago.
If one goes down the annals of the education blueprint in independent India, one is likely to find a certain pattern, which was rampant through the last three decades of the twentieth century.
Majority of the studious, intelligent and sincere students through school invariably opted to do their intermediate course in the science stream, followed it up with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and then proceeded to complete their MS abroad. The term abroad usually translated as the United States of America, while United Kingdom and Australia were the other options.
Though the process sounds pretty simple, it is not so. A good student has to work for one whole year to get his relevant papers ready. The process usually starts with making one’s passport (for it is mandatory to mention the passport number while applying for the qualifying entrance exams). Eventually it plays a major role in helping the student study abroad. Then candidates have to take up GRE and TOEFL exams besides performing well in their academics and apply for a seat in their chosen subject in various universities abroad. The students are also expected to submit a convincing “Statement of Purpose”, a critical essay on the subject they plan to pursue and also procure confidential letters of recommendation, original transcripts of their mark sheets, domicile certificate among other papers. Once the students get the acceptance letter from the universities in the form of the I-20 form, they have to show sufficient funds, which will at last fetch them a visa to help them fly towards their destination.
Given the longwinded nature of the process, students, more often than not seek professional help of institutes. These institutes not only tutor students to fare well in these examinations but also help them out with fulfilling other essential formalities in the procedure of obtaining a seat to study abroad.
Over the decades, coaching centers like Visu Consultants, Princeton, Kaplan and Times who have established themselves in several cities in India have captured the student market effectively. They coach students for just about any entrance examination for handsome fees. Some of them run four to seven batches of classes per day depending on the number of students. There have been instances of entire families who have availed the services of these institutions over the generations.
It was not just the students who benefited from these coaching centers. Venkateshan a retired mathematics professor took up teaching with Visu Consultants in Chennai and got himself transferred to Bangalore when he shifted base. He finds the job fulfilling both in terms of money and work satisfaction.
High school teachers and lecturers of language and mathematics teach for a session or two in these centers which help them to earn a tidy sum.
Rathna, gave up her job with a nationalised bank in order to work as a co-ordinator with Times. She acknowledged that the remuneration and working hours fit her like a glove and she has not regretted the switch-over. Meryll runs a private counselling center with eight staff members to help her process application forms of prospective students.
And then came the recession. The foreign shores suddenly lost their mystic charm and Indians have began to realise that quality education can be obtained inland. With the job market in the dumps and it will get increasingly difficult to earn back the money invested on ‘foreign education’.
The current batch of students no longer seems to care about studying abroad. Ranjeet a budding engineer from MSRIT whose cousins and uncles are abroad coolly remarks, that they went abroad for the money, since he cannot see the green bucks anymore, he sees no reason not stay on in the country. His friends from other colleges agree with him wholeheartedly.
And hence the dip in the number of students taking up entrance examinations this year.
The various centers, which offer tutorial courses, are finding that they do not have as many takers as in the past. Sudarshan who is running his own academy is toying with the idea of closing down his school and starting another business. Established coaching centers have cut down the number of sessions and are planning to shut down branches which do not have the minimum number of students.
Sahana who taught English at one such center finds herself jobless. She says that her center had as many as eight batches a day and there were eleven teachers who specialised in English or Mathematics. Today the center has dwindled to two batches a day with very few students.