Are evening academies a necessity or a plague?
Life is a race; compete or die!” It’s a famous dialogue from the Bollywood movie, 3 Idiots. For me, this applies best to the countless academies in the city.
Right after your intermediate exam is over, the ‘season’ of entry tests begins — roughly, mid-July. The academies start enrolling students with the promise to prepare them for their entry exam. With no respite allowed for even a day, the students are forced to follow a rigorous routine of revising the syllabus for the next two months.
Ironically, the academies that prepare students for the entry exams are owned by the very educational institutions where the students have already spent two years for their FA/ FSc. I wonder why, then, should these academies exist.
Perhaps, it is the default functioning mode of our education system in which the students are conditioned to memorise books to ace their board exams, but overnight the requisites change for the entry tests which are based on a ‘conceptual’ understanding of the texts.
In my opinion, academies hold hegemony in the educational landscape of a metropolitan city like Lahore. Ask any parents and they will answer in affirmative that their kids go to academies after school/ college. No wonder despite the prevailing economic situation of the country, academies are one sector that continues to thrive. They are likely to keep growing until some constructive educational reforms are brought in.
These academies are purely commercial services rather than teaching institutes. Some academies charge a whopping Rs 50,000 in fees excluding the study material which costs another Rs 6,000. A lower-middle-income family, in these times of inflation, cannot afford this.
If you look at the classrooms, they are literally henhouses with over 150 students crammed in tiny rooms. Everyday non-stop sessions go on for five or so hours. The absorbing capacity of students is not even remotely relevant to these institutions.
To add to the misery of the students, sessions are held on Sundays too. As if.
Allow me to say that both our teachers and our educational system are responsible for this situation. At school level, the academies largely function as a gateway to better grades. Mostly, these are managed by the same teachers who teach in day schools. It is sad that they should not treat their students as an opportunity for such gains. Instructors at the government school where I studied used to entice students to enroll in their evening academies. Some of them even threatened to penalise the students who ‘dared’ to enroll in the academies run by their rivals. None of us had the courage to question this.
If I must take a considerate look, the government school teachers are largely underpaid. Again, it is the government that should do something about it.
The negative impact of the academies often goes undocumented. The students here go through excessive stress, which in extreme cases forces the most sensitive ones to attempt suicide. According to a research, more than 30 percent students commit suicide because of the marks based system. Psychologists believe that the marks based system induces hysteria in some students and should make way for a grades system. Parents also play a (negative) role in this.
It is high time that voices were raised against the rather unnecessary academies. Focus should shift to a constructive growth of schools and colleges. A performance based system should reward teachers with economic benefits. They should not need to operate private academies.
A complete overhaul of teaching and evaluating systems is also indicated to encourage students to understand the underlying concepts rather than trying to reproduce their books in examinations.
The writer has BS Hons. in English literature from the University of the Punjab