Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kota, the cram-school capital of India


"Bansalites rock, IIT rocks, Lyf after IIT rox."

That's an example of 'aspirational' graffiti Bellman found on a metal bench at Bansal Classes. ;-)

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There's a lot of interesting stuff in Eric Bellman's WSJ story. For example, we learn that over 40,000 students go to Kota every year, and that about a third of the JEE-2008 rank holders are Kota students. Thus, if you use the numbers for JEE-2008, you'll find that a Kota student is about 340 percent more likely to get a JEE rank than a non-Kota student.

Yet, the pass-through ratio is barely 7 percent, even for Kota students. As opposed to 2 percent for non-Kota students.

Another interesting piece of info: women form about 13 percent of the students in Bansal Classes.

Bellman's piece is interesting throughout. Here's a bit about the transformation of the town:

The success of Bansal Classes spawned dozens of imitators, many of them started by Mr. Bansal's former employees. Some even teach students how to ace the entrance exam to get into Bansal Classes.

Cramming has been the salvation of Kota, an industrial center in the 1970s that then fell on hard times. In the past three years, new malls, restaurants, hotels, Internet cafes and clothing stores began to spring up to serve the 16- and 17-year-old cram kids. Many homeowners have added second and third floors to rent out to students.

Balwan Diwani, manager of Milan Cycle, a bike shop in Kota, says bicycle sales have surged to more than 2,000 a year from fewer than 200 five years ago. Mamta Bansal, no relation to the school founder, quit her job as a maid to start a service to deliver boxed lunches and dinners to 30 students as they study. "We try to make what their mothers would cook for them," she says. "I have had to learn how to make dishes from Gujarat, the Punjab and southern India."

Local schools also have benefited: Cram students have to attend regular classes so they can pass their high-school exams and graduate. Some high schools have early morning classes so cram students can finish early and move on to cramming.

"There used to be a lot of hooliganism and goons," says Pradeep Singh Gour, director of the Lawrence and Mayo Public School in Kota. "Now the entire city is like a university campus."

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While on this topic, take a look at this ToI story by Neha Pushkarna about the enormous JEE success of students from Andhra.