ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Success Factories

Investigating the Indian Corporate Test-preparation Industry

In recent years, India has become home to one of the fastest-growing test preparation or coaching for “high-stakes examination” industries in the world. In this paper, collating data from various sources, we demonstrate its growth, explore the potential factors fuelling it, and argue that it contributes to the perpetuation of deeply ingrained inequalities in the Indian society. Seeing these trends as symbolic of the transformation of higher education into a tradable commodity, we highlight the limited attempts by the state in developing a robust regulatory environment despite increasing recognition of associated problems.

The authors would like to acknowledge the anonymous reviewer and thank them for their valuable comments, which were helpful in revising their work.

Each year, India witnesses a large number of aspirants appearing for various entrance examinations. This includes both the aspirants for higher education as well as those seeking entry into coveted government jobs. In 2021, the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main conducted annually for admission to various engineering colleges in India, saw approximately 0.9 million aspirants competing for about 36,000 seats. In the same year, the Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Examination (UPSC-CSE), saw close to a million aspirants for as few as 712 seats (Table 1, p 55). Recently, the government announced the introduction of another large-scale, nationwide entrance exam, the Common University Entrance Test (CUET), a single test for determining admissions to all central universities across the country. To be launched in July 2022, an estimated two million students will be taking the test for admissions to around 2,00,000 undergraduate university seats (Kumar 2022). Due to the presence of such a large number of test-takers every year, in multiple streams of study, the test- preparation market has seen wide-scale expansion across most states of the country with fairly high levels of corporatisation (Bhalerao and Sabnavis 2018). Many such test-preparation service providers, like Career Launcher (CL Educate Ltd) and Career Point Ltd are now running businesses worth millions of dollars ($46 million and $58 million respectively—see Table 2, p 56). The rapid growth of this industry has also had its own discontents, including, inter alia, concerns of equity (Bray 2009; NDTV Profit 2012), extreme psychological stress on students (Nair 2014; Subbarao 2008), and corruption for the achievement of desired results (Saxena 2015).

In the present paper, we attempt to map the political–­economic landscape of the rapidly expanding test-preparation industry in India. We collate data from a variety of sources, including academic literature, practitioner reports, annual reports of industry participants, government reports, media reports, parliamentary statutes, etc, to study the growth of this industry and delineate the factors fuelling it. We look at some of the significant players in this industry as well as the nature, size, and segments of their operation. We demonstrate, using data available from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) websites, JEE reports, and other sources, that the chances of getting admission into institutes of higher learning as well as access to test-preparation services, due to high fees along with the prevalence of income inequality are very bleak. Subsequently, we critically examine the efforts made by the lawmakers as well as the lack of it—to regulate the aspects of this industry. We then discuss the evident and possible socio-economic consequences and the corresponding implications for policymakers. Throughout the paper, we use international examples and contexts, wherever applicable. While we differentiate clearly between private tutoring in general and the industrial test-preparation segment (which is part of the larger private-tutoring environment), we use evidence from both sectors to bolster our arguments as both have considerable interlinkages.

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Updated On : 11th Jun, 2022
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