Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The backbone of the Indian Education system is not the official network of schools and colleges, but the parallel unofficial network of private tuitions. Children get initiated into the tuition racket pretty early on in life, sometimes even before they enter school. There are many tutors who ostensibly coach little kids on the essentials needed for admission to Montessori sections of ‘good’ schools. Catch them young, preferably as soon as they are born!

Coming from a family which prefers to swim against the tuition-tide, we were left to fend for ourselves as long as we could, surviving with a little help from our parents (to twist the Beatles song).

So when I remember my initiation into the tuition-racket, it is actually in the role of the tutor rather than that of the tutored.

I was a ripe 7-year old, newly promoted to the second standard (Class II). It was the carefree summer holidays before term started. I had a younger friend called Sonali, who would start her first standard that year. Now, Sonali’s mother (who I called Kakima – a generic term for all my friends’ mothers), was suddenly inspired to appoint me her daughter's tutor for one month to teach her the basics of the First Standard syllabi.

So, after playing and sweating it out in the playing ground every evening, I would accompany Sonali back to her house and guide her through the intricacies of Addition/Subtraction and Radiant Reader.

My charges? An evening snack every day – an omelette, or muri makha (spicy puffed rice) or chirey bhaja (fried crushed rice), and a bar of chocolate as a grand farewell present.



ugich konitari said...

Sucharita, back in the ancient days when i did primary school, tuitions were certainly not much in fashion (though after class V, things changed). But I just remembered my son going for a Sanskrit tution in Class VIII , to a neighbor with older children. While she was an excellent tutor, my son was more impressed with the great eats he had everytime he was there; ladoos, karanji, green peas pattice, .....:-)

The Scatterbrain said...

Your teaching carreer began at age 7 then!

None of my younger friends' mothers trusted me with their children's education. However, when I was in grade 6 & 7...(and even after that) I would literally drag the younger kids playing outside my house indoors, bribing them with rasna juice & spicy mixture to do some "craft" with me or read them a book!

I loved those times! But I wonder what they think of it!

Anonymous said...

After school we most of the class student were part of tuitions.
Chemistry/Physics school teacher.
But we ask for Tea plus biscuit from the teacher before we start our tuitions and he has to listen to us.
ha haha


seanag said...

Again, I must just say that this is a fascinating glimpse into a world that is very foreign to me.

A lot of 'learning' posts lately. I definitely feel like a slacker.

Kavi said...

Tuitions. Maths tuitions. And i kept failing !


But all of a sudden, i got some strange marks, which i attributed to a dorman skill that was always present.

And hooted aloud of the incompetence of earlier tuition teachers !

Nowadays there is this 'sir' business. I will be posting about this soon..

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks for all the in'tui'tive comments and memories.

Mampi said...

Wow, I also never went to tutions and proudly have saved my own kids from the menace so far.
Its a good idea to appoint a little tutor.