Tutoring success

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Apr 12 2010, 03:23am hrs
For the about 4.72 lakh students competing for the approximately 10,000 seats in 15 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), today is Judgment Day. No surprise, therefore, that the preparation regime is marked by extremes of discipline, dedication and direction, as students try to find a balance between their school curriculum and the joint entrance examination (JEE) syllabus. With the examination aiming to select the brightest minds, it has been widely believed and proven that sticking to school syllabus is not enough. And, this has fuelled the growth of a parallel system of educationthe coaching institutes. The entire coaching industry is pegged at Rs 10,000 crore by Assocham, while just the IIT-JEE and AIEEE market size is estimated at Rs 2,500 crore. The average coaching spend of each student ranges between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000 annually.

Ajay Anthony, vice-president, IIT-JEE, T.I.M.E, a coaching institute, sees a lot of potential for growth in this segment, as students have started taking entrance exams more seriously. Despite carrying the impression of a tough nut to crack, the number of applicants for the entrance exam has been rising at a steady pace of 15-20% every year. This has created an enormous business opportunity for entrepreneurs such as FIITJEEs DK Goel, who started in 1992 from just one centre and today has 46 in 25 cities across the country. And how lucrative the industry is can be gauged by the fact that education content and service provider Educomp Solutions Ltd plans to open 75 IIT coaching centres in this fiscal on a franchisee basis. Clearly, this is a golden formula that has made many millionaires.

And it is this coaching industry that has been running the economy of Kota, 256 km south of Jaipur. Approximately 50,000 students come to the city to get coached. The growing popularity of this industry can be gauged from the fact that a number of popular institutes have their base in Kota, with branches across the country. So tough is the competition among the institutes like Resonance, Career Point and Bansal Classes Pvt Ltd that each has an entrance test to get students on board for its programmestouted as a tough nut to crack, surpassing the difficulty levels set by the IIT-JEE exam as well. There are even dedicated teachers who prepare students for these entrance exams as well.

With turnovers running into crores, coaching centres are raking in the moolah with branches and franchisees set across the country. The Narayana Group, that offers coaching for IIT-JEE, AIEEE and PMT, for instance, has 26 branches across the country with approximately 4,000 students taking admission each year to get coaching for IIT-JEE, spending Rs 1,20,000 (excluding taxes) for a two-year programme. The growth potential is certainly huge!

Sandeep Nambiar (18) is one of the 4.72 lakh aspirants appearing for the IIT-JEE examination this year. This Delhi-based student, who wants to get into research, is also one of those who have opted for coaching at a private institute. Nambiar was one of the lucky few who managed to get a 70% waiver on his coaching fees, as he managed to clear a scholarship examination. It was a huge relief for me and my parents as we just had to shell out Rs 30,000 of the total amount of Rs 1 lakh for two years of coaching, says Nambiar, whose father is a Central government employee and mother a school teacher. I would not feel confident had I just stuck to my school syllabus, which needs to be changed to obviate the need for coaching, says Nambiar.

A senior IIT faculty member agrees with Nambiars views and adds that school education is not challenging enough. School curriculum doesnt test students intelligence and application skills. On the other hand, coaching trains a student to apply knowledge in different situations, he adds. Professor TS Natarajan, organising chairman, JEE 2010, is hesitant to comment on the coaching institutes and their growing popularity, but admits that they have a role to play. We, at IIT, look for raw intelligence, merit and analytical skills of a student, says Natarajan. And it is these qualities that are tested by the out-of-the-box questions of the JEE that has the reputation of not repeating a question ever. He also adds that efforts are underway to make the appropriate changes required in the school curriculum to match the standards of the JEE and reduce stress among students. However, he refused to divulge details.

The number of applicants for the JEE examination has gone up by 15-20% this year. Natarajan attributes this rise to the increase in the number of seats by 2,000 with the full implementation of the 27% quota for OBC candidates. An opportunity for entrepreneurs