It all started with coaching for getting into the engineering programmes at IIT. Considering that a few thousands are chosen from an application pool of few hundreds of thousands of students, coaching centres started cropping up in every city’s street corners, ostensibly to coach these aspirants to get into IITs. Now, medical colleges, law colleges, architecture colleges as well as design institutes have their own entrance exams for aspirants, therefore necessitating the arrival of centres ‘coaching’ students to crack these exams and get into sought-after colleges of repute.
In this connection a tragic and heart-breaking story was reported from Surat in India, this week. A coaching class on the fourth floor of a building, caught fire killing more than 20 innocent students, who were being coached for a career in Design.
Several things are so wrong in this story that merits attention by the Design community. We have scant preparedness for fighting fires in commercial buildings. Fire extinguishers are not easily available and /or noticeable by users. Fire escapes are not designed and made for Indian buildings. Signages for exiting during a fire are not easily spotted. Fire clearance for buildings are sought and given without a thought and for a bribe. We have tall buildings but most fire-fighting equipments are not tall enough to reach these heights. Designers design materials and ads on inflammable materials like ‘flex’, that add to the fire. And in this particular case, designers would have been involved in coaching students, paying no heed to all the above.
There is another important thing. Why do we need ‘coaching centres’ for Design?
In Design, entrance exams are conducted to choose the original thinker, the uniquely talented, the quirky creative and the rare gem. How does anyone ‘coach’ somebody for that? If anything, ‘coaching centres’ fit everyone into templates, that defeats the whole purpose of a unique character.
And yet, these coaching centres are mushrooming in illegal basements and fourth floors of commercial building, ostensibly to train students to get into prestigious design institutes. As far as I can see, the major purpose of these centres are to create and distribute the database of design aspirants. They become focussed target for private design institutes to peddle their programmes. The centres are only successful in building the database. The good ones make it on their own mettle and the mediocre ones are peddled off to mediocre institutes as a part of the database.
Designers who teach at such centres and design institutes who encourage this should do some soul searching.
Otherwise, there’ll be no one to stop the fire.