From a Civic Burden to a Private Affair: Educational Success through Private Tuition in India

Manabi Majumdar

(Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta)

July 2014


Drawing on various quantitative and qualitative dimensions of the growing practice of supplementary private tutoring evident at all levels of school education in India, this paper aims to focus on its causes as well as effects on learning levels of pupils and on the mainstream school system in general. Is quality an automatic correlate of private tuition, inevitably yielding tutees’ educational progress, even when measured strictly in narrow terms of test scores? Do the mainstream and its shadow (i.e. the tuition market) increasingly look alike in their pedagogic goals and practices, and if so, do these ideas and exercises energize or enervate the vision of education understood as a pursuit of critical and creative thinking about the self and the world? Does competition in the tuition market cause salutary pressures on mainstream schools for them to improve their standards? And, is supplementary private tutoring an ‘egalitarian supplement’? These are some of the questions that this paper seeks to explore, the analysis of which is likely to shed light on the limits of treating education as a purely individuated private choice rather than as a civic enterprise.