Access, success, and excess

Debating shadow education in India

Authored by: Manabi Majumdar

Routledge Handbook of Education in India

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138091610
eBook ISBN: 9781315107929
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines the extent, effectiveness, and equity implications of supplementary private tutoring in India – a widespread practice that is described as the ‘shadow’ of mainstream schooling. It claims that though there is a long history of private tutoring in the country, what is new about the present paradigm of paid coaching is its scale, scope, and salience at almost every level of education. Nowadays, private coaching is considered ‘essential’ for students from all social strata and of all abilities – for under-achievers as well as class-toppers – to master even the basics in education, irrespective of the type of school they attend. The chapter suggests that both mainstream and shadow schooling increasingly look and function alike under the weight of excessive commercialisation; both have become excessively test-centric, leading to an intensification of the ‘culture of coaching’. What is more, at times supplementary tutoring creates a substitution effect, reducing the formal school into a mere certification centre. This overshadowing quality of the shadow is a relatively recent phenomenon. Its serious negative implications for school processes, for equity goals in particular, and for the education system in general, are examined here. Above all, the chapter claims that the system of private tuition renders the process of teaching and learning, which is quintessentially a ‘team sport’, an individuated and isolated strategy. The private path to success that it advocates devalues learning from each other.

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