What should I consider before enrolling my child in a coaching course for the IIT entrance examination? This question triggers many others: Is my child interested in joining IIT? Is my child IIT material? Which is the best institute? What should I look for when choosing an institute? Can I afford it? Is it worth it? Can the child do the preparation on her own?
Tips from those who have walked the trail
I asked four of my friends about their experience of putting their children through the much-vaunted IIT entrance exam. This is what they had to say:
“My son’s capacity to adapt to a new place, the ambience of the institute and teaching quality were important factors which influenced my decision,” says Sanjay Jogai, whose child is currently enrolled in a well-known coaching institute in Chandigarh. The boy will write the exam in 2018. This is a journey they are undertaking as a family, Jogai says. The family has learnt how to support the child emotionally and motivate him without placing undue stress on performance.
Seema Raj’s son was initially enrolled in a coaching institute in Hyderabad, but the quality of teaching was unsatisfactory. To help him avail of better facilities, the whole family moved to Kota. “I was very happy with the institute there. They have experienced teachers. That was our main criterion,” she says. The risk paid off and the boy won an IIT seat. He is currently pursuing an MS in Computer Science from Ohio University. For Seema, feedback from former students played an important role in choosing the Centre. However, good teachers are allocated usually to only the top three or four batches, other batches are taken in purely to make money,” she says. “Children who enrol purely because of parental pressure are unlikely to succeed,” she adds.
Another parent, Dr Sunita Vashishtha, is against the very idea of coaching institutes. She feels reliance on such institutes should be reduced. Even students who barely manage to learn their school portions are being forced into these institutes, she points out. The institutes charge a hefty fee, and in return, parents feel they are absolved of responsibility for their children’s performance. In reality, many children end up spending time unwillingly and unproductively at such institutes.
Sonali Shirodkar, a parent from Mumbai, whose son attended a sought-after institute, says that faculty should be the deciding factor while choosing an institute. They should be knowledgeable, experienced, interact well with students, and most importantly, should have passed the exam themselves. Logistics should be given importance too. Other factors to be kept in mind include flexibility of fee structure, the possibility of refunds and classroom amenities.
Many parents caution that it is imperative to check the credentials of institutes. Coaching institutes are notorious for paying toppers and high achievers with no connection to the institute to allow their names to be used to enhance saleability.
Coaching or self-preparation?
Can this tough exam be cracked without coaching? Many do just that - just about half of all aspirants, in fact. Nonetheless, coaching is useful if your child needs additional motivation to revise, practice and keep to a schedule.
Here are some advantages coaching courses offer:
- Healthy competitive interaction with a large group of students
- Scheduled revisions and practice
- A current syllabus, relevant to the year of examination, a distinct advantage over independent tutors or self-study
- Study material, timetable, conceptual clarifications, and repetition of key concepts, ensuring full coverage of the material
Choice of course configurations
Most established coaching institutes offer a variety of courses. Configurations include:
- Two-year course for students of Class 11, allowing time for pursuing the school syllabus simultaneously
- One-year course for Class 12 students - a compact, high-intensity preparation, alongside school board exams preparation
- Short-term courses
- One-year full-time course for students attempting (or re-attempting) the exam after they have completed Class 12
- Distance and online learning courses delivered through booklets, question banks, mock tests and video dispatches for lectures, etc. These are aimed at students wishing to prepare from their own homes and/or want to attend a coaching institute too distant for commuting. This option is also useful for NRI students.
Fees vary widely and can range from Rs 50,000/- per year to Rs 2 lakh, sometimes higher. The courses are not eligible for student loans. Given the immense demand, coaching classes are ‘one-size-fits-all’. Teachers cannot attend to each student individually. Ultimately, it is the child who needs to put in the effort.
Choosing the institute
Which is the best? The answer is, simply, the one that most suits your needs. However, keep these points in mind while making your decision.
- Do a background check of the centre. Ask for yearly enrolment and success rates. Talk to ex-students.
- Check the qualifications of the lecturers, their experience, whether they themselves have cracked the exam, and the ratio of permanent to visiting faculty.
- Consider the fee structure, instalment options, scholarship programmes, discounts offered and refund system.
- Inspect the classroom’s ambience to ensure that your child will be able to concentrate.
- Consider the commute. Timing can be tricky if your child is attending school simultaneously.
Additionally, look at:
- Study material offered
- Reference material available in the institute’s library
- Frequency of tests
- Performance monitoring methodology
- Criteria for grouping students
- Protocol to ensure that changes in examination patterns are promptly incorporated
There are several well-known institutes. Check out:
Once you have enrolled your child, ensure his well-being. Discuss all aspects of the coaching experience with him. Success will be neither achieved nor enjoyed if it comes at the cost of emotional or physical comfort.
Your child will be under a lot of pressure, self-induced, or brought on by teachers, society, peers and family. Pressure, poorly tackled, can have a lasting negative impact. According to Vinita Shah, an experienced career counsellor, everyone the child is in regular contact with should be taught to be understanding.
Sure, getting into an IIT is a dream cherished by many, but not getting through should not be regarded as evidence of failure or ineptitude either by the child or parent. IIT is not equal to success. What is success? For parents and children, that’s an interesting topic to be discussed.
Nivedita Mukerjee is a journalist, educator and parent. She writes about matters that concern a child’s success and well-being. She can be reached at email@example.com.