Private tuition banned under new Indian law

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 August, 2009, 12:00am

A mainstay of India's education system - the private tutor - is under threat after a radical new education bill was passed by parliament.

The milestone bill makes education free and compulsory for children aged six to 14. Currently, about 70 million children receive no schooling, and more than a third of Indians are illiterate.

But tucked away in the bill that has been hailed as the 'harbinger of a new era' in its attempt to prepare children for the 21st century is a clause that bans school teachers from offering private tuition.

For decades, Indian teachers have given private tutorials to bump up their meagre salaries and their services have been in large demand as there is intense competition for limited university places.

With 40 to 70 children per teacher in a class, parents feel their child needs extra individual support.

'I'm not teaching to get rich or get the latest mobile. I'm doing it to make ends meet,' New Delhi teacher Praveen Kumar, who was unaware of the clause, said.

'On my salary, I can't support my family, and I don't see what right the government has to stop me doing some honest work after school.'

Mr Kumar teaches maths, which along with physics and chemistry is one of the subjects most in demand for tutoring.

A survey in May showed that the use of private tutors had increased by up to 45 per cent in the last few years. Many middle-class parents spend a third of their monthly income on tuition for their children.

Kapil Sibal, minister for human resource development, has banned private tuition to tackle the growing problem of teacher absenteeism in state-run schools.

At any point, a quarter of teachers are absent, usually too busy giving private tuition to attend school, according to official figures. But he may find it hard to abolish the practice.

'Is he going to have policemen checking what teachers do after school? For as long as parents know their child will never get into a good university without top marks, the demand for tutors will continue, bill or no bill,' Salim Azharuddin, the father of two 15-year-old boys who have tutors at home six evenings a week, said.

History teacher Charu Kochchar, whose 18-year-old son left school this year, welcomed the bill.

'Teachers who work until 9 or 10 every evening giving tuition are not fresh or enthusiastic the next day at school. They owe it to their students to put their jobs first,' she said.