The one year I spent in T.I.S.S. while my pursuing my L.L.M. was the happiest I have ever been as an adult. It almost made me forget how unwanted and insecure I had felt in law school for five long years. Throughout that entire year, I must have more good-natured debates and discussions than I can bother to remember over a garam chai ki pyali. Having said that there were a few who would love to silence me by pointing out that I know nothing about ground realities having led a life of led by the privileged. T.I.S.S. did make me aware of my privileges like never before. T.I.S.S. and G.N.L.U. were as different as chalk and cheese in terms of campus culture. Having said this, when I returned to Delhi during my dad’s second tenure after Xth it was as good as the first time because it is very little you grasp about the essence of the city as a kid in primary school. I was feeling even more subdued than usual during the summer vacation after my Xth boards as one of my best friends Dabbo moved out of the town earlier than expected and I lost my pet dog two weeks short of her 4th birthday. Like most other kids around me, I felt intimidated by just glancing through the books meant for aiding in preparation for competitive exams. By the time I landed in my new school in Delhi, I had already missed about two weeks of school. Having missed basics like the difference between scalar quantity and vector quantity I could neither make head nor tail out of most of the syllabus. Whatever effort I was putting in failed to yield results as it was misdirected. Being morose made things even worse than they already were. Small town coaching got replaced by enrolment at the nearest coaching centre to which was walking distance from home. For a while, I internalized not being able to grasp any of the subjects, before realizing that the attempts of the teachers at the coaching centre were even more half-hearted than mine. My version of bigadh jana was roaming around on the streets with my new found best friend and eating sharing chocolate éclairs which came for Rs 12 every day with my recently discovered best friend Nishka as classes got over before the stipulated time before being found by my parents one day. My parents had remained really supportive till my performance continued to deteriorate steadily. After performing poorly at the half-yearly exams I was hopeful that at the parent’s teacher meeting my parents would be dissuaded by my teachers to let me continue with the science stream and I will be able to undo the mistake of opting for science over humanities. All hell broke loose when my teachers informed my parents that I just haven’t been studying and principal convinced me to continue with science and switch over after XIIth. That is when my private tuitions began and helped me sail through school with respectable marks. This was followed by a crash course for C.L.A.T. which I attended in the month of April after the XIIth board exams. I wasn’t any luckier this time either. I paid for the C.L.A.T. package which was supposed to be the most expensive one only to be informed that classes for legal reasoning would begin only after C.L.A.T. is over! Having said that, to be fair enough the study material supplied by the coaching centre was really helpful. Till today I tell Nishka every now and then that the only thing that came out of the first coaching centre I enrolled at was meeting her. My parents never sought a refund for the fees as the terms and conditions of the brochure clearly stated that it is non-refundable. I was lucky that my tuition fee was lesser as the first I only enrolled for the C.B.S.E syllabus and the second time it was for a crash course.
Not all students are as lucky as I was. Many enrol for two-year courses that are meant to prepare them for competitive exams. Some of them might have availed trial class to assess the classes but they get to know the reality only after they have enrolled for the classes after paying the full amount of fees. At times the teaching is of sub-standard quality. There are times the best teachers are allotted to batches of those students who have been consistently performing well as they have the potential to give name and fame to the institution. The rest of the batches have to make with whatever kind of teachers they get. Then there are times the teaching commences at such a speed manner that many of the students aren’t able to cope up. Classes meant for clearing doubts aren’t given the priority they deserve.
Coaching centers have been around for a while but the kind of boom they have witnessed in the last two decades is unprecedented. When the web series first made an appearance in India it became an instant hit with the youth as there was little going on T.V. to cater to their needs. Soon enough these two phenomena married and the result was Kota Factory and Lakhon mein Ek. The fact that the former was had Jitendra Kumar, as part of the main lead and the latter was helmed by Biswas Kalyan Rath who both happen to be alumni of IIT Kharagpur went on to add authenticity to the concept further. These two series have gotten right the psyche of students studying at coaching institutes far away from home, the intense competition to survive there and most importantly how these children are treated by these institutions and what their priorities are. Most of you would have probably watched these series. If you haven’t, I would strongly recommend you to watch them. Recently, I came across another series Aspirants where a student is forced to come up with false pretenses to get a fee refund as he is dissatisfied with the classes.
The good news is that you don’t have to resort to such tricks anymore. Consumer across various jurisdictions over the country that delivered judgments stating that coaching centers are to return requisite percentage of the lump sum of money deposited by parents if the classes fail to satisfy the needs of the students despite the concerned contract stating explicitly that the said sum is not refundable as it amounts to deficient service. I would like to add that these contracts are a classic example of standard form contract as in this type of contract, the other party is not in a position to negotiate with the terms and conditions laid down in the contract, the party just has the option of either enter into the contract or forget about the contract. One can just imagine the kind of authority coaching institutes wield over middle-class parents desperate to secure the future of their wards and the kind of crazy bargaining power they have in this scenario.