Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Annals of Extreme Coaching

A cram school in Hyderabad claims to have six students among the top 10 in JEE, and eight among the top ten in AIEEE. Here's the not-so-secret recipe:

Narayana Group of Institutions bagged six of the top-10 ranks in IIT-JEE and eight of the top-10 ranks in AIEEE this year. “We could achieve the feat this year as we were training these students right from Class VII. We set up ‘Olympiad Schools’ five years ago just for training students for IIT-JEE and AIEEE. The first batch completed Class XII this year and the results are here to be seen.”

He, however, admitted that though they had secured good ranks in earlier years, this year’s feat was unmatchable. “Earlier, we had only junior colleges wherein we gave admissions to students after they completed Class X from different schools. The two years time in Intermediate was not sufficient to train them for IIT-JEE and AIEEE in a complete manner. Now, with the launch of our own schools from Class VII, we can train students comprehensively for five years till Class XII. The concept proved to be a success as we could achieve top-10 ranks with our very first batch of students,” Dr Narayana said. [Bold emphasis added]


  1. L said...

    Though I keep writing that these coaching classes are ruining the mental abilities of generations of students, if their students get into IITs and achieve what they want, then why won't parents flock to send their children to these schools? Maybe it is I who needs a reality check.
    I don't know about those who get into IITs, but many of those left behind are wrecks....that I do know.

  2. Unknown said...

    And some of these scholars land up at IIT and lead a zombie life - too tired to do engineering. There are couple of them who had to even quit the B.Tech programme because of extremely poor performance.

    Ask Mr. Ramaiah if he can take "any" 10th std student and make him/her even clear JEE? There is so much of filtering in the process that these kids would have done quite well anyway. All that these coaching institutes do is to get the kids slightly better ranks and drain enthusiasm from the rest of their lives. Aweful.

  3. Vinod Khare said...

    What really bothers me is the cost at which these selections are happening. One would assume that graduates from good institutions such as IITs would have a good well-rounded education along with expertise in their chosen fields of study. If these kids are being trained right from class VII, I wonder when they get the time learn languages, history, geography, civics and other such "unimportant" subjects.

  4. Anonymous said...

    I think this sort of a "end justifies the means" is embedded in the entire selection process & examination system in India. The entire selection into an IIT is based on how one does on the IIT-JEE examination.

    Just consider an example of an ivy-league school, we can see that students have to apply for an admission to the BS degree. The application is primarily sorted based on grades obtained but importance is given to essays(which show some maturity), other stocastic & extracurricular activities as well. Thus leading to a (so called) good distribution in each incoming class.

    For example, being a medalist on an olympiad is a good stocastic achievement. Not considering that into an IIT admission process does show some flaw in the process. If the IIT Madras would complain about wanting raw intelligence rather than coached ones, a question would be if they'll review the admission process.

    The system has worked well till date but with students have more opportunites to show their aptitude these days could be consider an overall development as a need for admissions to elite institutions?

  5. L said...

    @Vinod Khare: That they don't learn history, geography is also tolerable, they don't learn how to live life...that's tragic. It's through the playgound fights about "my chance to bat" or "you're run out", that they learn to manage real life conflicts. So they are truly dysfunctional...at least many of them are... no joy in living, no eagerness to learn, nothing, they are zombies who can recite ALL definitions, ALL formulae.

  6. iitmsriram said...

    Since Ramaiah's filtering is mentioned, let me quantify it. About 10,000 students write the selection test for Ramaiah's and about 200 make it into 'THE' program. About 450,000 wrote the JEE this year and about 13,000 made it. Thusly, Ramaiah's is more selective than JEE itself, so it should not raise any eyebrows if ALL of Ramaiah's select list make it through JEE. Some others work on numbers, like the Narayana group mentioned in the article. Instead of filtering, they have large intake, so they get large segments in the selected population. To give an example of an extreme case of this, Resonance (Kota) is one of the largest, with about 20,000 students in the program. This year, about 1000 got selected; so, they are coaching about 4% of the test takers, but produce 7.x % of those selected - that would be the benefit of coaching.

  7. Unknown said...

    The kind of changes Ajay is talking about are implemented in IIIT Hyd. See http://www.iiit.net/research/featured-research . Another experiment they have performed is the strong emphasis on human values- thanks to Prof. Sangal, director.

  8. Anonymous said...

    Our entire system is geared against a well-rounded education. In school, for example, we don't really understand much about history, geography, civics -- we usually memorize sound bites and passages. The little understanding we do have is geared towards engineering and medicine related subjects -- that is, science and math -- usually through extra coaching. And that is because we HAVE to, if we want a career.

    If a well-rounded education is what we're after, the specialized coaching institutes are the wrong things to blame. We should be pointing at our generally pathetic rote memorization oriented schools. Even in class 2 or 3 in most schools, students can write pages of text that they memorized in class, but cannot form a single sentence by themselves.

    As far as IITs selecting those with higher intelligence is concerned, there are perhaps two aspects.

    First, the blame should be put at the IITs' door for not being more creative in designing entrance exams that are hard to coach for. Blaming the students or coaching centres is blaming the symptom, not the disease. Other institutes, like the ISI (Indian Statistical Institute) have very creative entrance exams that do test raw ability and are harder to prepare for.

    Second, to do well in higher science and tech, interest in topics and the ability to work hard is as important as raw intelligence. So perhaps we should be selecting students who demonstrate an 'aptitude' for hard work as well as intelligence. That is what some of these coaching institutes instill. If the student is completely unmotivated and is simply forced to work hard for five years, it is unlikely s/he will do very well.

  9. jimmy said...

    Ramaiah has been mentioned in a few comments. I went to Ramaiah, and in the hindsight donot regret a bit doing so. I learnt the meaning of a number. In one of the classes that was supposed to introduce induction, we just spoke about the number one for an hour and a half. I realised that functions like a^x or more generally real numbers, which have been assumed to be known things until my 10th standard, are actually unknown to me. I appreciated the development of basic knowledge of mathematics. Infact, one of my teachers used to take up 3 problems in a span of an hour and a half, and give immense commentary on them. Unfortunately, he is nomore. I learnt the subject. And now I am sitting in an ergonomic arm chair and proposing theories like perhaps Gods are speaking in a language called Mathematics!! Same story with Physics too. I was asked to visualise things rather than blindly solving the problems. I was trained to think, agreed- but it is the purpose of education, I thought.
    There was a considerable discussion on problems from reputed books like Irodov and Resnick, which are NOT written for IIT JEE, and written with an intention to teach Physics.

    I am pretty sure, I wouldn't have gotten similar insights had I been elsewhere. If I compare my Math classes in Ramaiah vs Math classes in IIT (first year)- which mostly involved the professor solving some problems on the board- the template problems, as I call them; and asking us to solve the rest of the problems in the chapter in some book- well, I'd anyday say Ramaiah is better.

    I am infact against all the coaching institutes that say, do 27 lakh problems, and you can answer the 27lakh+1th problem that appears in JEE. But stereotyping them with Ramaiah pains me. This appears to me like speaking with ignorance.

    Infact, I donot understand the point in simplifying JEE. 10 challenging problems in 9 hours is what I expect JEE to be like (it was like this probably 10-15 years ago)- and ofcourse a fair assessment of those. Then though you'll have these coaching institutes, they'll actually teach science to their students. How does it matter to the IIT officials if science is learnt properly in a class room environment or in a tuition environment?

    Regarding life, and draining enthusiasm in sciences for he rest of the life in a kid that entered IIT, well are we seriously just blaming the coaching institutes for that? Pls pls refer to the above comment by 'inthearmchair'. He has perfectly identified other issues which play if not equal, a much bigger role. And infact, in this crazy money driven world, lots of people are naturally attracted towards non-engineering/science side of the world. I know people, who vociferously campaigned for things like alternate energies, and ended up taking jobs in oil companies. Crazy world, what-else can I say? And, in IIT's under a relative grading scheme, people with low CG's and drop-outs always existed!

    As the previous commenter said, it is better to cure the disease rather than crib about the symptoms!

  10. Sivaramakrishnan said...

    @Jimmy: I guess the ire is not directed specifically at Ramaiah, but at coaching institutes in general, with "Ramaiah" being the catch phrase under which they're all bracketed.

    Let's make no mistakes -- most of us who have been at an iit over the past few years would definitely have had some "coaching". But that is purely a reflection of the fact that schools are simply not adequate. The best part of the outcome being, as Jimmy said, we actually learn a lot.

    The problem lies with the eans, and the sacrifices made towards the goal of clearing the JEE. As always, it is a question primarily of balance. When the sole aim becomes a good rank in some exam, a lot of things (including true education) take the back seat.

    I am of the opinion that the root cause of the problem is the parents, most of them uneducated(mind you, they might well be professionally qualified with postgraduate degrees for all we care). The way parents (and the whole of society) perceives the IITs is flawed. The only way to sort out the issue is through better information dissemination and awareness. It would be nice if the IITs could get some PR mechanism going to make sure that they are present the reality to the public, rather than some distorted sensationalistic illusion that the media portrays, and frenzied unthinking people propogate.