Friday, December 19, 2014

Kota – Part 3 – Life in Kota from a Student Perspective

Photo - Pradeep Gaur (Mint). Read Article Here

I was in Kota for two days. After a training session with an institute on the first day, I had the evening and the whole next day free. So I decided to walk around the streets of Kota. I wanted to understand how this city created an ambience for Engineering Education.

The plan was to visit all the headquarters of the top coaching institutes in Kota, speak to a few students and just observe the student lifestyle in this factory for Indian engineers. I tried speaking to as many students as possible. It seemed like shopkeepers and local businesses also supported this culture and did everything to let the students focus on their learning. These were some the things I noticed and some of the insights I recorded, after exploring the city for over five hours:-

1)         Never Ending Chain (Student -IIT- Teacher-IIT) – The students get into IIT and then some of them come back and work as teachers at the institutes. Some students get into IIT, and then start their own coaching institutes. Kamal Singh was a student that did not get into IIT, as described in the Business Today Article. He had to join a private engineering college after failing his attempt for IIT. But when the magazine asked him what his aspirations for the future were, this is how the magazine noted his reply, ‘As for Singh, he wants to go back to Bihar after completing his engineering studies and open an IIT coaching centre in Siwan district. "I know exactly how coaching is imparted, what are the drawbacks and how to overcome the loopholes," he says. "Kota gets maximum students from Bihar. Every parent wants to send his child to Kota for engineering coaching. I want to stop that."

2)         Crazy Advertisements of students and teachers on the streets – Near the Kota railway station I saw a billboard, the size of a building with the top ranking student from Kota that year. Every institute offered the same service but differentiated its advertising with its slogans, number of students that got into IIT and finally the credibility of each teacher. These three points were stressed upon in over a thousand billboards spread all across the city.

3)         Best Services – There were plenty of food stalls and fruit stalls. There were also lots of food canteens for students. There were several other services at every block there, like, printing shops, gyms, newspaper stands, internet café and other international food outlets.

4)         Integrated Courses from an early age – Most of the top coaching institutes offer integrated courses. An integrated course is designed such that students can give their normal schools exams and prepare for the entrance exams for IIT on the side. Some students start this preparation as early as the sixth grade. They stay away from their families in this highly competitive environment for that long. It does have several psychological effects on them.

5)         Daily Schedule - Classes start at six am and go on for 12 hours till six pm in the evening. It starts over again the next day. Most students do not go to school here. The coaching institutes help them prepare for their school exams in the institutes itself. They use the remaining time to prepare for the IIT Entrance exams.

Kapil Sibal in his time as HRD Minister changed the entrance exam pattern for admission into the Indian Institute of Technology. This was a positive step to reduce pressure on the students. But it seemed like a negative step, for the various business and industries that ran the Kota Coaching Empire. Read more in this LiveMint Piece

It is a question we need to ask ourselves.

'Can we let business interests override education?'

Let us Learn Together
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