Maharashtra’s licensing of private coaching centres is a dangerous proposition.
The Maharashtra government’s proposal to regulate private coaching centres and home tuition providers not only is unwarranted, but also sets a dangerous precedent. It requires coaching centres to get a government licence and seek a renewal every three years, while home tutors must get their licences renewed every five years. The state had also proposed making government approval of fees charged mandatory, with the government having the authority to reduce these. Surprisingly, even though the right to legal redress is a fundamental right, the proposed regulation prescribes a ban on coaching centres from approaching the high court and the Supreme Court, reposing the final say with an appeals committee formed by the government. Maharashtra also wants 5% of the seats in coaching centres reserved for BPL students. Class-sizes are also to be capped, and each centre will be subject to grading based on performance-based audits every three years.
Such oppressive policing and fee/class-size caps will not only put smaller coaching centres at a disadvantage, but also endangers the prospects of the students. The licence raj Maharashtra is proposing could foster a system of patronage and nepotism where high-quality coaching centres, if the fee caps prove unsustainable for them, simply shut shop, leaving students in the lurch. What’s worse, any reduction in margin may crimp the room for coaching classes to serve underprivileged students, something that many coaching centres voluntarily do today, ensuring that the very accessibility the state wants to ensure is severely limited. In a country where public school infrastructure is not much to speak of, clamping down on private education providers in the manner Maharashtra is proposing is just not the right way forward. Given it could also encourage other states to follow suit, the proposal sets a dangerous precedent.