Mariam Malik from the PECHS Government College for Women scored second position in the intermediate exams conducted by the Board of Intermediate Education, Karachi, in spite of having abysmally low attendance.
Malik would go to college two days a week to attend compulsory lab classes. The rest of the week, she would study at a tuition centre, which is the same distance from her home as her college. Since her college records did not penalise her for poor attendance, Mariam succeeded in getting admitted to Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, for their electronics programme.
“In college, we would see our seniors doing the same thing - preferring tuitions over college,” said Mariam in a telephone conversation with The Express Tribune. Most of the teachers at her college held regular classes but very few students would attend. “This trend will end only if they [teachers] bar students, who do not have a certain minimum attendance, from appearing in the examinations,” she explained.
According to the rulebook of the board, students with an attendance below 75 per cent cannot sit for exams. However, this rule is not implemented. “Students skip classes because they know that the teacher is not keeping a record,” said Mariam.
The principal of Delhi Science and Commerce College, Prof. Aminul Haq Khan, who has taught at public colleges for 37 years, said, “Student attendance depends upon the quality of education being offered.” Public colleges offer a “tamasha” in the name of education, he explained. He also pointed out that the distractions offered by public colleges, such as the possibility of joining a political organisation, have an impact on attendance.
According to the professor, opting for tuition centres became a trend in Karachi in early 1980’s when incompetent teachers infiltrated public colleges. “These teachers kept their jobs but didn’t make an effort to improve their teaching abilities,” he lamented.
Cashing on the situation
Many well-reputed teachers in public colleges run tuition centres - at times, during college hours. They give exclusive attention to students in exchange for a handsome fee. Thus, tuition centres become a better deal for both, the student and the teacher. Tuition centres on average charge Rs25,000 to Rs30,000 to be paid over a period of 10 months. The more famous ones extract a ‘yearly package’ - a lump sum tuition fee - so that the student wouldn’t leave to join another centre.
Syed Zain Khalid, who has been running two campuses of the SZ Coaching Centre in Gulshan-e-Iqbal for six years now, told The Express Tribune that tuition centres are popular because teachers in schools and colleges do not do justice to the profession. “In our centres, we group students according to their abilities,” he explained, adding that extra attention is offered to students with less aptitude.
Khalid, who is a graduate of NED University of Engineering and Technology, criticised the teachers of public colleges who drew regular salaries from the government but used the classrooms to market their “other business”. “Many teachers run private tuition centres and advise students to join them for individual attention,” said Khalid. “This has become a thriving business.”According to the chairperson of the board, Prof. Anwar Ahmed Zai, “Tuition culture definitely needs to be controlled. Had I been in a position to regulate them, I would bring them all into a system and make them observe the guidelines.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2013.