Church schools warn against predatory 'coaching centers'
A sudden surge in the private tuition business has caught the attention of the Bangladesh High Court and attracted a hail of criticism from Church educators. There are now an estimated 50,000 coaching centers across the country, with 20,000 of them in the capital, Dhaka. Many have only opened recently. Concerned by this development, the country’s High Court called upon the Education Ministry to investigate. The ensuing report was highly critical of the standards at most centers and recommended that students should not be encouraged to enroll with them. Inadequate teaching and overcrowding were among its main concerns. However, there is no law as yet against coaching centers or regulation of their conduct. Indeed, some of them claim to be government approved. Some media reports say powerful business interests are involved in this multimillion taka trade, which may make the government reluctant to take a firmer stance. Church leaders are most annoyed by the fact that some centers also adopt the names of well known Church-run institutes, implying that they are part of the same establishment. The highly respected Notre Dame College in Dhaka is one victim of this practice. A coaching center called Buetec, which operates in nearby premises, claims to be run by former Notre Dame staff and goes so far as to guarantee admission to the college if one enrolls there. A Buetec representative, who did not want to be named, said, “Yes, we do offer coaching for students aspiring to study at Notre Dame and many of them have made it.” Now Notre Dame has contacted all its students and parents, warning them not to be lured by this or any other center trading under its name. “I simply hate this coaching business,” said Holy Cross Father Benjamin Costa, the principal. “If these centers provided a true education, what would be the use of schools and colleges run by the Church?” “The coaching is not acceptable anyway and I don’t think they are useful. This is nothing but wasting money.” Brother Robi Purification, headmaster of St Gregory’s High School, calls the coaching trade “the deadliest disease for education in Dhaka.” But he acknowledged that prevailing conditions may force some teachers to offer private tuition or take “moonlight” jobs at a coaching center. “We have always discouraged our teachers from it,” he said. “But when we can’t pay them more than 10,000 to 12,000 taka (US$ 125-$150) a month they simply have no option, with the cost of city living.” One teacher who runs a center near St Gregory’s insisted there is nothing wrong with private coaching. “The students who come here score well in examinations and get the chance to go to good schools, including some run by missionaries,” he said. “We help weaker students who are not properly cared for by their institutes or at home.” Related reports Catholics plan to run university Dhaka Catholic schools under pressure Bangladesh education revamp gets Church nod
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