It’s a fulfilment of the Great IIT Dream in Andhra Pradesh. As soon as the IIT-JEE results were declared on May 25, rank madness took over in the state. The No. 1 ranker, Immadi Prudhvi Tej, was from Andhra, as were five others in the top 10. Jubilant ‘corporate’ junior colleges rushed to hold press meets where their victorious students were showcased, not unlike prized bulls. An onslaught of commercials of these IIT-grooming colleges hit the small screen and there was no escaping the mania. While it might not be official yet, the word on the street in this: If you want an IIT seat, train at a coaching centre in Andhra Pradesh.
Prudhvi Tej, who comes from the temple town of Dwaraka Tirumala in West Godavari district, was furiously courted by coaching centre managements to pose for advertisements in their uniforms. A student of Sri Chaitanya IIT-JEE Academy, Prudhvi Tej says his preparations began when he was in Class 8. Headed for IIT-Bombay to study electrical engineering, Prudhvi Tej says his ultimate ambition is to be an IAS officer. In fact, five of the toppers from Andhra Pradesh say they want to study in IIT-Bombay because of its good infrastructure facilities and the lure of being in the commercial capital.
Talking about the state’s success in the entrance exam, M. Umasankar, IIT State programme co-ordinator at Sri Chaitanya, says that “children in our state are totally focused on studies and the pressure to excel in one’s career begins at school itself”. It’s immense pressure, indeed. The routine for students at corporate colleges like Narayana and Sri Chaitanya is gruelling. Students like Prudhvi Tej would have to wake up at 5.30 am. Classes would start at 6 am and continue till 1 pm. A two-hour break for lunch and a siesta would be followed by studies again with an hour’s break for games. Bedtime was at 10 pm.
T. Bharagava reddy, Sri Chaitanya student “I aim to do research in Robotics.” (Photograph by P. Anil Kumar)
“It was tough but I never felt any pressure because there were breaks in between,” says Prudhvi who struggles to express himself. Bhargava says they were allowed to watch movies on Sundays and even saw the World Cup finals. Sunday, however, is not a holiday at these centres as mock exams are held between 9 am and 12 noon and from 2-5 pm.
Even to get into such centres, there is an entrance test. Shaimak Reddy, who secured the third rank in IIT-JEE, was a student at Narayana College. “Narayana approached us when he secured a second rank in their entrance,” his mother Kalpana reveals. “He was offered free accommodation and education.” Shaimak’s younger sister too is being groomed in a similar fashion. Now a hero of sorts in his apartment complex in Hyderabad, Shaimak is constantly bombarded with phone calls and visitors seeking his advice on how he cracked the IIT entrance exam. Asked if the pressure ever got to him, Shaimak says, “I was always focussed on the goal and this hard work will continue in the future too. After IIT, I want to study at IIM-Ahmedabad and be a CEO.”
Shaimak Reddy, Narayana “I was always focused on the goal and this hard work will continue in the future too.” (Photoraph by P. Anil Kumar)
A. Krishna Kumar, zonal in-charge of the Narayana IIT Academy, says that the advantage with such centres is that training for both intermediate and competitive exams comes under one roof. “Teachers are constantly supervising the students from 6 am to 10.30 pm. Another plus point is that the CBSE, ICSE and SSC syllabi are integrated in our courses and therefore our students are way ahead of the others. IIT these days is not just about intelligence, but also about practice.” Stating that IIT is a dream for most parents in Andhra Pradesh, Krishna Kumar admits that comparison with the neighbour’s child does prevail in the state. “Competitiveness has increased over the years and many aspirants are from a rural background.”
Another famous institute run by academician and legislative council member Chukka Ramaiah is more modest in its approach. The IIT Ramaiah Institute picks 170 students every year through an entrance and coaches them. So reputed is its entrance test that once students clear this, they are courted by other corporate junior colleges to join them. While Sri Chaitanya and Narayana have about 200 branches each, Ramaiah’s runs from a small house in the Nallakunta area of Hyderabad. Classes are held from 4 am to 8 am and from 4 pm to 9 pm.
Whilst none of its students have bagged top ranks this year, mathematician Ramaiah is the man who is credited with sparking off the IIT dream in the state when he began his institute 25 years back. However, Ramaiah has been very vocal against the commercialisation of ranks and the practice of turning education into a business. “Creating human wealth is my philosophy,” Ramaiah says. The influx of Telugus into Silicon Valley is also largely credited to Ramaiah because many of them followed the engineering goal set by their guru.
Speaking about the widespread interest in IITs, legislative council member Prof C. Nageshwar says education is a reflection of the economy. “There is a huge capital inflow into this sector. Corporate schools and colleges are investing thousands of crores. The market operates wherever there is a demand. It caters to the consumers directly. It does not care about society.” Such is the competitive nature that teachers in these schools are paid salaries of up to Rs 3 lakh a month sometimes. Narayana and Sri Chaitanya are believed to have reached a formal understanding not to poach professors to keep the salary rates steady.
Talking about the robot-like training in coaching centres, Nageshwar says that this is because an alternative approach hasn’t been explored in AP. “Other states are also producing IITians without this kind of rigorous training. This need not be the only way where psychological pressure on the child is built up from Class 8 onwards,” he says. Another reason for a heightened interest in IITs is the decline in standards in the state’s engineering colleges. “There is a proliferation of engineering institutions but no proliferation of standards,” says the MLC.
Academicians fear that overemphasis on the sciences is leading to a total neglect of social science and languages. “We are creating islands of excellence in an ocean of ignorance,” says Nageshwar. “Our state is producing technocrats who have a total disconnect with society”. Despite such fears, it is evident from the euphoria prevailing in the state that the IIT dream is here to stay.