The government’s move to table the Rajasthan Private Educational Regulatory Authority Bill 2022 comes in the backdrop of three students of a private test-prep institute in Kota recently dying by suicide, allegedly due to academic pressure
The bill seeks to prohibit private institutes from glorifying toppers, prescribes an aptitude test for admission and makes registration mandatory for all such institutes, even if they are only running online courses.
Jaipur: The Rajasthan government is likely to introduce a bill in the winter session of the state assembly to regulate private educational institutes – from schools to universities to test-prep specialists – and ease the academic pressure on students, especially those enrolled in private coaching centres or online tutorials.
The winter session is likely to be held in January, 2023.
The government’s move to table the Rajasthan Private Educational Regulatory Authority Bill 2022 comes in the backdrop of three students of a private test-prep institute in Kota recently dying by suicide, allegedly due to academic pressure.
“To regulate private education providers, the bill proposes to set up a regulatory authority to prescribe standards for education in private institutes, regulate the fee structure and also impose penalties for failure to comply with orders of the authority,” a senior government official said, asking not to be named.
A senior official of higher education department said the Bill will soon be tabled and it’s in the process.
The bill, which was drafted by a five-member committee of academicians, sociologists and psychologists and submitted in August, seeks to prohibit private institutes from glorifying toppers, prescribes an aptitude test for admission and makes registration mandatory for all such institutes, even if they are only running online courses.
Kota is the centre of India’s test-prep business, estimated to be worth ₹5,000 crore annually according to an official of the education department. Students from around the country arrive here in huge numbers after their Class X, and register in residential test-prep institutes. They also enrol in schools, most of which are largely for purposes of certification. Students attend classes only in the test-prep institutes , which prepares them for their Class XII examination, but more importantly, entrance examinations such as JEE and NEET. Some students find the grind stressful, especially because they are away from their families. In 2018, at least 19 students in the city died by suicide. The count was up significantly from 7 in 2017 and 17 in 2016. This year, already 14 have taken their own lives. No data is available for 2020 and 2021 as students were sent home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The law in the works is a response to this. HT has seen a copy of the draft bill.
States such as Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka already have regulations in place for private educational institutes. The Himachal authority have powers to regulate fee structure and seek for annual audit reports. The Karnataka authority also regulates fee structure and admissions the in higher education institutions.
The Union government also has higher education regulators such as the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
The Rajasthan government’s draft bill proposes an aptitude test and regular sessions with psychologists for students to counter mental stress – a concern that has gained prominence in recent days in the wake of the Kota suicides.
The three students – two from Bihar and one from Madhya Pradesh – of a private coaching institute in Kota were found dead in two different places. Police investigation found that mental stress was the reason behind the extreme step.
“To address the serious issue of high levels of stress among students, the authority will make comprehensive provisions for alleviating stress levels… It will make compulsory aptitude tests for students prior to their joining. The findings of such tests shall then be shared with their parents so as to apprise them about the aptitude of their ward and hold regular sessions with psychologists, for parents and students as well,” the draft law says.
The bill also says that private coaching institutes must have a career counselling cell to guide the students and help them prepare . It also calls for compulsory counselling sessions for students to de-stress them and prevent cases of suicide, and installation of a 24×7 helpline for both students and parents.
The authority will also develop a framework to keep a check on the fee charged by coaching institutes and make it mandatory for the institutes to publicly display details of the fee structure to avoid any fraudulent practices.
“The authority will take steps to rein in malpractices of bogus advertising, false claims (number of students selected in a particular exam, name of faculty and others) of coaching centres,” the draft says.
After results of competitive exams such as JEE and NEET are out, most coaching centres embark on an advertising blitz, listing their candidates who were selected. Most toppers appear on all ads, perhaps because they subscribed to course material or online tests from all schools, or because of commercial arrangements.
The bill also provides an easy exit policy, in case a student wishes to quit the course midway, with provision of refunds, and suggests imposition of penalty, including cancellation of the institute’s registration, if they fail to refund the money.
The bill also makes auditing of accounts mandatory. In case of violation, the education provider may have to pay a fine of between ₹1 crore and ₹5 crore.
HT reached out to popular coaching institutes ALLEN and Career Point for comments on the Bill but they did not respond.
Jaipur-based sociologist Rajiv Gupta said such a law is needed amid growing competition and academic pressure.
“At present, coaching institutes treat students as customers and teachers as service providers. Not much attention is given to individual needs of students and all focus on just studying leads to mental stress. Many students in Kota don’t have any form of emotional interactions with other students or even parents, leading to stress and depression that can lead to developing suicidal tendencies,” he said.
The authority should work closely with academicians and psychologists and ensure it doesn’t turn into another bureaucratic body harassing coaching institutes, Gupta said. “The aim should be to provide relief and guidance to students,” he said.