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.
Government is set to enact a law establishing a regulatory authority to keep tabs on private educational institutes including coaching centres, ensuring that they open counselling cells, end “glorification” of toppers and deal with the kind of stress that possibly led to three students committing suicide recently.
The draft law proposes aptitude tests for students before they join a coaching centre for competitive exams, and a helpline if they find that they cannot face the stress.
“The Rajasthan Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Bill – 2022”, which has been in the making since 2020, is likely to be introduced in the next session of the state assembly.
It covers schools, colleges as well as centres, like in coaching hub Kota, that prepare students for competitive exams.
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.
Recently, three students studying at a Kota centre committed suicide, allegedly because they could not cope up with the pressure of studies there.
The draft bill also seeks to regulate tuition fees, annual fee hikes, cost of study material and other charges levied by private institutions, including tuition centres. The authority, headed by a prominent academician as chairperson, shall also make provisions to fix study hours, days off and the gap between tests to avoid stress on students.
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.
The bill proposes heft penalties — up to Rs 5 crore for repeat offenders. The draft bill mentions setting up a career counselling cell to inform students about job options. The regulatory authority will also take measures to discourage “bogus advertising” and “glorification of toppers” to prevent other students developing a sense of “inferiority”, the draft says.
It will also deal with false claims by coaching centres about their students succeeding in competitive exams.
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.
“In order to ensure mental as well as physical well-being of the students in educational institutions, the Authority shall frame regulations for regular counselling, recreation and safety of the students.
It will mandate establishing of a counselling and mentoring cell in every institute,” it says.
Specific directions shall be issued for ensuring safety of girl students. There will also be provisions for differently abled students, teachers and non-teaching staff in private educational institutions, it said.
The draft says there will a mandatory aptitude test for students before they join a coaching centre – and its findings shall be shared with their parents.
The Authority shall mandate setting up a 24×7 helpline for students and parents. Private institutions would pay a maximum penalty of Rs 1 crore if they violate provisions of the proposed law.
The fine could increase up to Rs 5 crore for a repeat violation. The bill seeks mandatory registration of all coaching institutes with the government and annual auditing of their accounts.
Last month, the state government issued guidelines to provide mental support and security to students studying at coaching institutes.
The guidelines suggested telling students about career options if they fail entrance examinations for IITs and medical institutes. They also had provisions for refund in case a student quits an institute, an official had said then.
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 guidelines also suggested an online portal to lodge complaints. Over two lakh students from across the country are taking tuitions in Kota for entering medical and engineering colleges, staying in about 3,500 hostels and as paying guests elsewhere in the city. Three of them allegedly committed suicide about a week back.
Ankush Anand (18), a NEET aspirant and resident of Bihar’s Supaul district, and Ujjwal Kumar (17), a JEE aspirant from Gaya district, were found hanging from the ceiling fans in their rooms at the same house on Monday morning.
The third victim, Pranav Verma (17), a NEET aspirant from Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri district, allegedly consumed some poisonous substance at his hostel late Sunday night, police said. Initial inquiries revealed that Anand and Kumar were falling behind in studies at their coaching centre.