Coaching centres cannot enroll students below 16 years of age | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Govt's new guidelines for coaching centres: Cannot enrol students below 16, charge exorbitant fees

ByAbraham Thomas
Jan 17, 2024 09:49 PM IST

Concerns were raised about the growing number of unregulated private coaching centres charging excess fees and causing undue stress on students.

Coaching institutes providing training for professional courses will now require to be registered, cannot enroll students below 16 years of age or charge exorbitant fees, and provide psychological and mental health support to students besides conforming with fire safety and building safety norms as per the latest guidelines released by the Ministry of Education for regulating private coaching centres across the country.

The Guidelines for Registration and Regulation of Coaching Centre 2024 prepared on Tuesday was forwarded to chief secretaries of all states and Union territories for taking appropriate action. (Representative Image)
The Guidelines for Registration and Regulation of Coaching Centre 2024 prepared on Tuesday was forwarded to chief secretaries of all states and Union territories for taking appropriate action. (Representative Image)

The Guidelines for Registration and Regulation of Coaching Centre 2024 prepared on Tuesday was forwarded to chief secretaries of all states and Union territories for taking appropriate action. While a handful of states already have laws regulating coaching institutes, at the national level a concern was raised about the growing number of unregulated private coaching centres charging excess fees and causing undue stress on students that resulted in student suicides.

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The issue even travelled to the Supreme Court recently in November last year when a distressed parent Aniruddha Narayan Malpani approached the top court seeking guidelines or any kind of a regulation to prevent loss of precious young lives at Kota, Rajasthan which recorded 26 suicide deaths in 2023, the highest since 2015.

The guidelines state, “Due to high competition and academic pressure on students, coaching centres should take steps for mental wellbeing of the students and may conduct classes without putting undue pressure on its students. Also, they should establish the mechanism for immediate intervention to provide targeted and sustained assistance to students in distress and stressful situations.”

Towards the end, the document said, “Coaching institutes are encouraged to involve counsellors and experienced psychologists to counsel and provide psychotherapeutic service to students for the resolution of mental stress and depression.” It formulated a framework for promotion of mental health which specified the level of intervention required to be taken by the institute for tackling graded problems beginning with mental wellbeing, attitudes and behaviour, psychosocial problems and severe problems or mental disorders.

A coaching centre has been defined to mean a place providing coaching for any study programme or competitive examinations or academic support to more than 50 students at school, college, and university level, but does not include counselling, sports, dance, theatre and other creative activities.

Prior registration with the designated authority of the state will be a necessity for running coaching centres and a code of conduct prescribed under the guidelines which states, “No coaching centre shall enrol student below 16 years of age or the student enrolment should be only after secondary school examination.”

This has been made as a condition precedent for registration besides other requirements such as - tutors to have minimum qualification of graduation, no misleading promise or guarantee of rank or good marks to parents/students, provide minimum one square metre space per student, and having a counselling facility in place besides other conditions.

In case of violation of any of the terms and conditions of registration or general conditions, the coaching centre shall be liable for penalties of 25,000 for first offence, 1 lakh for second time violation and revocation of registration for subsequent offence.

On fees, the guidelines provide that it shall be “fair and reasonable” and shall not be increased during the duration of the course. Further, if a student has paid in full and prefers to leave the course mid-way, the student will be refunded for the remaining period of the course. The refund will also include hostel and mess fees, it said.

While proposing minimum standard requirements required to run a coaching centre, the guidelines have stressed on obtaining a fire safety and building safety certificate besides providing fully electrified, well ventilated, separate toilets and sufficient lighting arrangements in each classroom of the building.

Under no circumstances can coaching classes be conducted during working hours of students studying in schools or institutions that may affect their regular attendance. The guidelines provide the curriculum to be spaced out and not more than 5 hours in a day (not too early in the morning or too late in the evening), provide weekly off to students and tutors and no assessment test on the day after weekly off. During festivals, coaching centres shall “customize leave” to enable students to connect with their family and get “emotional boosting”.

Apart from options for admission in engineering and medical institutes, the guidelines require such centres to give information about other career options to students to reduce stress among students and conduct mock test to assess capability of student and convey the realistic expectation to both students and parents.

“The students and parents shall be made aware that admission in the coaching centre is no way guarantee of success for admission in institutions like medical, engineering, management, law etc. or in the competitive examination,” the document said, adding that periodic workshops may be conducted on students’ mental health and to counsel them on “negative impacts of unnecessary mental pressure”.

Besides, the Centre’’s directives provide for a complaint mechanism to the competent state authority by students, parents or tutors/employees to be redressed within 30 days while requiring the coaching centre an opportunity of being heard.

The letter forwarding the report issued by deputy secretary Devendra Kumar Sharma of the department of higher education, Ministry of Education said, “I am directed to state that the number of unregulated private coaching centres in the country continues to grow in the absence of any laid down policy or regulation. Instances of such centres charging exorbitant fees from students, undue stress on students resulting in students committing suicides, loss of precious lives due to fire and other accidents, and many other malpractices being adopted by these centres are widely reported in the media.”

Education falls in the Concurrent List of the Constitution on which Centre and states can legislate. The letter said, “Considering that regulation o +2 level education is majorly in the jurisdiction of state/UT government concerned, hence, these coaching centres are best regulated by the State/UT governments by way of appropriate legal framework.”

Presently, some states have a legal framework to regulate private coaching and tuition classes. These include Bihar, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Manipur. A bill in this regard was moved last year by the Rajasthan government termed the Rajasthan Coaching Institutes (Control and Regulation) Bill, 2023 in the wake of rising suicides in Kota.

In the year 2017, the top court refused to entertain a PIL on this issue calling it a policy issue. Deliberations began in the ministry on evolving a guideline to regulate private coaching centres. In April, the states/UTs were asked to take action for regulation and strict penalty system for deviant institutions.

The National Education Policy 2020 announced on July 29, 2020 talked of focus on regular formative assessment for learning rather than the summative assessment that encourages ‘coaching culture’.

On November 20 last year, while disposing a PIL which highlighted the regulatory vacuum concerning coaching centres, the top court bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti said, “Suicides are not happening because of the coaching institutes. They happen because the children cannot meet the expectations of their parents.” The court allowed advocate Mohini Priya who argued the PIL to move a representation before the central government.

On January 6, Mohini wrote to the government seeking remedial measures while stating, “Coaching institutes are inclined towards commercialisation of education and prioritising profits over student well-being, treating students as mere products and exploiting them for financial gains.”

The representation further stated, “A holistic approach involving trained psychologists, teacher awareness programmes, a broader societal understanding of mental health issues and a cultural shift in the education system is essential for addressing the root causes,” following which the guidelines came to be issued.

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