The coaching game


Education is among the top five fastest-growing commodities in terms of private consumer expenditure in India. Given a choice, Indians prefer spending on education than healthcare and, as economic surveys of the country have shown, continue to spend more on education irrespective of the change in their income level. Yet, it is often argued that the mainstream education system in India suffers from multiple limitations, poor infrastructure, dearth of trained teachers and outdated curriculums. Regular school education is unequipped to prepare students for highly competitive entrance examinations. It was perhaps guided by this criticism that the Centre announced a massive overhaul of the education system through its New Education Policy (NEP) in July.

Implementing the NEP will be a long-term exercise. Students, meanwhile, will find recourse in coaching institutes to bridge the gap between classroom learning and preparation for entrance exams. This stress to clear entrance tests has led to a kind of “coaching boom” in India, with some cities emerging as coaching hubs. Data from the National Sample Survey Office’s 71st round survey reveal that more than a quarter of Indian students, over 70 million, take private coaching, and around 12 per cent of a family’s expenses go towards private coaching.

Not surprisingly then, according to research agency CRISIL, preparing students for entrance tests is projected to become a Rs 70,200 crore business by 2021, growing at a CAGR of 13 per cent. Another global agency, Technavio, predicts that between 2018 and 2022, the market will grow at a CAGR of 16 per cent.

With coaching centres mushrooming across India and on digital platforms, students face the unique challenge of finding the best institute catering to their academic requirements. The sky-high fee many of these institutes charge makes the process more complicated. Recognising a need for an informed opinion, india today has developed a ranking of coaching institutes across India. Launched last year, India’s first survey of its kind examines three categories of classroom-based coaching, for engineering, medical and management entrance examinations. For this exercise, Marketing and Development Research Associates (MDRA), a reputed market research agency, evaluated institutes on five broad parameters, intake quality and fees, quality of faculty, learning resources, training processes and outcomes. To ensure a robust ranking, all possible stakeholders, former and current faculty members, students and institute management, were consulted. The final ranking was based on the combined scores of the perceptual survey, objective data and experiential scores (see Methodology). The survey included about 400 institutes across metros and smaller cities.In fact, Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities are playing a key role in driving the growth of the coaching industry. Till a few years ago, the absence of coaching institutes for the poor and for those in rural areas was a critical factor in determining who gets into the top institutes and who is left out.

Even as the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic and schools and colleges remain closed, coaching for entrances continues in the digital space. Industry observers say the growth of online coaching is likely to emerge from Tier 2 and 3 cities. Rapid rise in internet infrastructure, driven by smartphones and cheaper data plans, along with wide acceptance of digital payments, will contribute to the growth of online coaching. The adoption of vernacular languages by edtech start-ups, too, is helping. A survey of 10,000 students by Gradeup, an education technology platform, found that 90 per cent respondents preferred online learning to real-world classes for entrances. A comparison between an edtech company and an established coaching chain gives an idea of this phenomenon. Just a year ago, the total revenue of Aakash Institute, one of India’s leading coaching centres, was $150 million (around Rs 1,114 crore), double of that of BYJU’s ($75 million, or Rs 557 crore). However, the tables have turned. In FY 2019, the total revenue of BYJU’s was $194 million (Rs 1,440.9 crore), 18 per cent higher than that of Aakash Institute ($165 million, or Rs 1,225.3 crore).

The emerging trend seems to be a hybrid model. While online players have opened centres to provide an offline touch point to students, brick-and-mortar coaching institutes, too, are offering app- and web-based solutions to increase their online footprint. With this blend of physical and digital, the coaching industry hopes to cope with a post-Covid world.

Despite massive growth, the coaching industry often makes headlines for the wrong reasons. Critics allege it is driven only by commercial concerns, providing poor-quality education focused on rote learning. According to psychiatrists, the intense curriculum, combined with parental and peer pressure, leads to high levels of levels among students. It is, therefore, important that coaching institutes create a structured module, keeping in mind students’ mental health and socio-economic backgrounds. The geographical barrier has been broken; it’s time to break the economic and qualitative ones too.

Methodology

The task of choosing the right coaching institute to secure admission into the prestigious IITs, IIMs or AIIMS to pursue engineering, management or medical education is a challenging one. The India Today Group’s Annual Best Coaching Institute survey aims to make this task a little easier. Conducted by MDRA (Marketing and Development Research Associates), a pioneer in institutional ranking and rating, the second edition of the survey ranks the coaching institutes preparing students for the top three entrance examinations:

JEE, for admissions into IITs and other top engineering colleges

NEET (UG), for admissions into top medical colleges

CAT, for admissions into IIMs and other top MBA colleges

The MDRA methodology has tried to cover all key stakeholders:

Experienced faculty members of coaching institutes

Current students attending coaching classes

Alumni of coaching institutes currently studying in IITs, IIMs and medical colleges

The coaching institutes

The study was completed in the following phases:a) Desk review and expertopinion: A list of 400 established institutes imparting classroom training was prepared, ensuring institutes from all zones of the country get representation. Institutes known across the nation (in terms of reach and accessibility) were shortlisted for the next stages.b) Parameters selection: Key parameters to differentiate between the good and average coaching institutes were determined via in-depth interviews with experts in the field and experienced parents. Based on these, the following five broad parameters were considered: ¶ Intake quality and fees, student selection criteria, establishment age, fees, scholarships etc.Ë Quality of faculty, qualification, experience, selection criteria, knowledge, student-faculty ratio, student interaction, problem solving, retention, etc.Ì Learning resources, infrastructure, location, study and test materials, etc.¹ Training process, teaching methodology, skills development, personal attention, regular evaluation and feedback mechanisms, time management training, stress management and strategies for cracking entrance tests, etc.

Outcome, selection ratio, average rank of students, spread of selections across different centres, post-exam counselling, consistency in selection in top institutes, etc.

c) Determining weightages: The weightage for each parameter was fixed in 2019, and was retained for consistency in comparison over the year.d) Perceptual survey: This involved administering questionnaires to a wide variety of respondents:1. Experienced faculty members who have taught in several institutes2. Current students 3. Former students now studying in IITs, IIMs and medical colleges

Respondents were asked to rank top institutes as per streams relevant to their field in the country as well as in their zone. In addition, rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) on five parameters was taken to ascertain their knowledge about a particular institute. Perceptual survey was carried out among 1,596 respondents via face-to-face interviews across 25 cities, Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Dehradun, Lucknow, Kota, Jaipur, Ghaziabad, Roorkee, Varanasi, Mumbai, Indore, Ahmedabad, Pune, Nagpur, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mysuru, Coimbatore, Vijayawada, Kolkata, Patna, Ranchi and Bhubanesware) Experiential survey: Conducted among 770 ex-students, who were asked to rate their institutes on five parameters based on their experiencef) Objective survey: Due to Covid, most coaching institutes were closed and hence could not submit their objective participation. However, data was collected by speaking to the institutes and through their websites; outcome and outreach parameters were established through secondary research (institute’s social media account, advertisements, news articles). Under the outreach parameter, data pertaining to number of branches and franchisees were factored in, while the outcome parameter comprised data related to the final selection of students in JEE Advanced, NEET-UG and IIMs, respectively. Due to this limitation, the weightage of objective data in the ranking is 5 per cent, which we plan to increase in subsequent rankings.

g) Assignment of ranking: Rankings were assigned based on combined scores of perceptual survey, objective data and experiential score in the ratio of 75 per cent, 20 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. The total combined score of each institute was arranged in descending order with the one scoring the highest allotted first rank.

A team comprising researchers, statisticians, analysts and field investigators worked on this project from March to August 2020. The MDRA core team, led by Abhishek Agrawal (Executive Director), comprised Abnish Jha (Project Director), Rajan Chauhan (Sr Research Executive), Somendra Shahi (Research Executive) and Saksham Singhal (Assistant Research Executive).



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