After the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) results, coaching classes get busy spinning success stories. Each student who makes it to the hallowed Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) may just be reduced to a rank, but it is their golden ticket to netting more candidates for admission. But information collected by the tech colleges reveals that close to half of those who make their mark in the entrance test prepare for the exam on their own.
The IITs ask every student who takes the JEE whether he/she prepared for the test “on his own or via other methods”, which, in short, covers all sorts of coaching provided. This includes classroom series, distance learning, referring to tutorial notes or appearing for mock tests. Candidates are also informed that their selection would be based on the marks they have scored, irrespective of their preparation method.
Data provided by candidates shows that about 50% students said they studied on their own. Their share has altered over the years. Data analyzed by the JEE cell reveals that while 60% of the students who made it to the seven old IITs in 2007 opted for some form of coaching, in 2008, this figure dropped to 45%.
Coaching classes, though, insist that their enrolment numbers have been ballooning every year.
Praveen Tyagi, proprietor of IITians Pace, said the statistics were not authentic. “My students ask me if they should disclose that they took coaching. We, like most other classes, advise them against doing that. For, we fear some day the IITs may decide to favour those who didn’t take coaching.”
Heads of coaching centres say it isn’t easy to bag a rank without professional help. Vijay Singh, who taught at IIT-Kanpur, recalled that the coaching phenomenon became big only in the mid-90s. “Even in the 80s, a tiny proportion of the class did prepare for JEE through a coaching class. But Kota emerged in the early 90s as a coaching hub, and in one particular year, a large percentage of students who qualified from Bombay zone (with covers Rajasthan too) was from there,” he said.
Soon, aspirants swelled, and the premier colleges also multiplied to meet growing demand. Coaching academies mushroomed and fed on the IIT craze that had caught on.
In 2005, the IITs were forced to look inwards, and a committee headed by C N R Rao, principal scientific advisor to the prime minister, limited JEE attempts to two, to tackle the coaching phenomenon. “Students who came in after spending years in coaching classes used to burn out very fast; most took six to seven years to complete the four-year course,” observed an IIT-B faculty member.
In fact, the coaching syndrome is so deeply ingrained that IIT insiders too doubt the authenticity of the data they have collected. A faculty member who teaches mathematics in IIT-Guwahati did not agree with claims made by students. “I do not think all students are giving us the correct picture on the coaching front. Surely, there are some students who make it from extremely poor and disadvantaged backgrounds, but I feel most other candidates take some sort of coaching,” he said.