The son of a vegetable vendor from Bihata in Bihar, Santosh Kumar has come a long way. He now teaches at a university in Belgium. When you juxtapose the two images—one of him at his village home, which lacks even basic amenities like water and electricity, and the other of him posing as a delegate at a science congress in Belgium—you begin to understand what he means when he says that Super 30 is a system that helps make the impossible possible. And his fervent question to Super 30 founder Anand Kumar is, “Is the battle going to get tougher now?”
Super 30, based in Patna, is important for a unique reason. It is perhaps the only place where boys and girls from impoverished backgrounds can aspire for a career in engineering or technology. Every year, this training programme selects 30 meritorious students from extremely poor backgrounds, sharpens their skills in science and mathematics and succeeds in achieving a nearly 100 per cent strike rate in the IIT-JEE.
The new proposals, however, threaten to disturb Super 30’s hard-earned equilibrium. As Shashi Narayan, a Super 30 alumnus who teaches at a university in France, said in an e-mail to Outlook explaining why the system would fail for the poor: “If the new system was in place when I took the IIT test, it would not have been possible for me to reach where I am now. I think there is a huge gap between the various state education systems. I did my schooling at a Bihar government school where the highest score used to be below 90 per cent.”