Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kota: City of Cram Schools, Poached Coaches, and Consultant Guardians

Dilip D'Souza has an absorbing profile of Kota, Rajasthan, the cram school capital of India. His comprehensive coverage includes a section on the schools that admit the students enrolled in cram schools:

This is a place for schools. When students come to Kota to work towards the IIT exam, they still have to sit for their 12th Standard board exams. For that, you can enroll in a school at home, or in one of several Kota schools. Rushika, for example, was officially a student at A’s Saint Steward Morris Convent School in her hometown, Bhilwara. Her two friends were enrolled in two Kota schools, but neither could tell me their names.

Puzzled by this stuff—that Rushika was enrolled in a school hundreds of miles away, that her pals could not remember their schools’ names—I walked one morning into one such school, in Talwandi. A man ushered me straight into the principal’s narrow office. From behind a desk that seemed to fill the room, he told me all I needed to know: annual fees 35,000, admission guaranteed as long as you are admitted to one of the coaching institutes, attendance required once a week.

“Once a week?” I asked. “But even once in two weeks is OK with us,” he replied (“chalega” was the word he used).

“Dummy” schools, of course: everyone in Kota knows about them. Kids enroll not to attend, but only so they can take their board exam. At dinner one evening, a friend told me that the Talwandi school I had visited has 40 or 50 students per class until the 10th. In the 11th, enrollment suddenly swells to 500 per class. Dummy students, too.

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Update: After writing this post, it occurred to me that Kota has been the subject of quite a few articles in newspapers and magazines over the years; and I have linked to many of them: here (ToI, 2005), here (WSJ, 2008), here (Rashmi Bansal's blog, 2008), here (Sunday Tribune, 2009). Anand Kumar's Super 30 is probably the only phenomenon that beats Kota in media attention.


  1. Dilip D'Souza said...

    Thanks Abi. Bellman's WSJ piece is framed on the wall at Bansal's. I tried hard to get a chance to find that same graffiti that he did, but they would not let me attend a class (not just Bansal's, any of them).

    I also tried to see if I could fit in some stuff about Super30, even got in touch with them and started scheduling a visit; in the end I thought it best to focus solely on Kota. Super30, another time.

    I've read plenty of Kota coverage -- Open, I think, also had a piece last June or so. It was a challenge to see what I could write that was new. Anyway, it's out there now, I hope people find it interesting.

    I was baffled by several things in Kota, this dummy school business certainly one.