The competitive nature of the Indian educational system has ensured the mushrooming of coaching centres across the country, over the last few decades. From the engineering and medical entrances to the UPSC papers, there are centres that specialise in moulding students for every examination.
A survey conducted by ASSOCHAM in 2013 revealed that the coaching industry in India is a multi-billion dollar one. The survey had projected that it would turn into a 40-billion-dollar industry in 2015.
There is no denying that turning students into engineers has become a national obsession. However, the emotional toll these strict coaching classes take on a teenager is enormous.
It’s all about “cracking” the entrance. But, sometimes it is the student who cracks under pressure. This year, Kirti Tripathi’s suicide, brought to focus the immense pressure that students face in most coaching centres in the country. In 2016 alone, seven students committed suicide in Kota, which is a hub of such institutes.
According to Aarthi Kamath, a Mangaluru-based child psychologist, “The problem is that many children are sent to these coaching classes at the age of 12 or 13. At this age, they don’t know what they want to do with their lives and are not equipped to handle so much stress. Another problem I think is the segregation of students, on the basis of their performance, into different sections by some coaching centres. While the centres may have their reasons for doing this, it can adversely affect the self-esteem of the child, who is already under a lot of stress.”
Are these kinds of classes the only way to get that coveted IIT seat? It doesn’t seem so. Enter Ignus, a coaching centre with a difference. Located in tier 2 and 3 cities in India, Ignus offers tech-based learning solutions to students preparing for JEE and Olympiads.
In 2013, Mervin Rosario, an IIT-B alumnus, and Sharath Holla, a graduate from BITS – Pilani, decided to leave their full-time jobs and work on a start up in the education sector. Though it was initially conceived as an online educational site, along the lines of Coursera, Mervin and Sharath soon realised the need for quality coaching in smaller towns. Once they received the initial angel funding from Villigro, they decided to start a centre in Hassan in Karnataka.
“Admissions to a majority of the prestigious colleges and selection for most government jobs are decided by competitive exams like JEE, CAT, Civil Services, etc. Unfortunately, students from smaller cities and towns don’t have access to good quality coaching facilities. In Karnataka, they usually move to Bengaluru or Mangaluru for coaching. Ignus tries to get quality teaching to smaller cities and towns at affordable prices,” says Mervin.
Technology is the driving force behind Ignus’s efforts. Students do a pre-reading before coming to the class. They are then made to sit in groups. A complete lesson structure, including a short video on the topic, is available on their tablets. There are concept-based questions they have to try and solve by themselves. The content for the lessons have been created with the help of experienced professors.
Ignus started with a small batch of 12 students in a rented room in Hassan. In 2015, they moved to a proper building and now have around 40 students in each class. The first batch passed out this year and the results are a testimony to their effective teaching model. Praveen, a student of the institute, got the 6th rank in CET and 1524th rank in JEE mains. This is the highest rank Hassan has seen.
“What stands out about Ignus is that instead of focusing only on the curriculum, the team goes deep into the subject. This helps us understand right from the basics. In the first month of coaching, they even went as basic as addition and subtraction. Many centres only focus on the actual curriculum and don’t provide a holistic approach,” says Praveen, who has just joined NIT-Surathkal for Computer Science Engineering.
Over the last three years, Ignus has expanded. The team, which now comprises six members, has centres in Mangaluru, Davengere, Hassan, Mysuru, and Madgaon, and handles 250 students.
Apart from JEE coaching, Ignus also holds after-school programmes in math and science for classes 8, 9, and 10.
Enrolling children in coaching centres is an expensive affair. According to the ASSOCHAM study, a majority of middle class parents spend one third of their monthly income on extra coaching. Sending a child to a well-known coaching centre in a city like Bengaluru will cost a parent at least Rs. 1 lakh a year. But, parents from smaller towns, who send their children to the big cities for residential coaching classes, often end up spending a lot more money. Affordability is probably a big reason why Ignus has been received well by parents and students in smaller towns.
“Actually, parents aren’t reluctant when it comes to sending children to an unconventional centre like ours. In fact, they feel since we are outsiders, we will do a better job,” says Mervin.
Ignus opened two new centres in 2016, but plans to start at least five centres in tier two and three cities every year. They also plan to offer coaching for different competitive exams in the near future.
A move that is sure to be welcomed by the students and parents of smaller cities and towns.
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