Things to consider before enrolling your child into an IIT Coaching program

What should you consider before enrolling your child into IIT coaching?  The question triggers thoughts in many directions. Is my child interested? Is my child capable? Where can I enrol him/her? Which is the best? What should I look for when I am choosing an institute? Do I send my child out of town? Can my child manage class 11 and 12 along with this preparation? Can after-school tuition replace coaching? Can the child prepare on his/her own? Can I afford it? Is it worth it? What should I do now?

Just for your information, these exams are conducted by the CBSE board. The NCERT books are heavily recommended for the preparation of both JEE (Engineering entrance) and NEET (medical entrance). You may want to keep this in consideration as your child enters the middle school years, if your child wants to consider working towards these entrance examinations over the years. Most definitely in the years of class 9 to 12.

I asked four of my friends what they had to say about their experience of putting their children through the fabled IIT entrance exam.

What they had to say:

  1. “I had to go through many things before taking a final decision. Adapting to the new place by the child, atmosphere of the institute, teaching quality, behaviour of the teachers were important factors for my decision” says Sanjay Jogai, whose son is currently enrolled in a well-known institute in Chandigarh. His son will write the exam in 2018 but this is a journey, he says, that they are undertaking as a family. Supporting him emotionally, talking to him daily so he does not feel homesick, and motivating him without putting pressure on performance, are things they have had to learn.
  2. “Before choosing a class, you have to make sure that the child is not interested in just getting marks but also keen to understand concepts. I was very happy with my choice of the coaching institute. They have experienced teachers. That was our main criteria. However, the top three or four batches usually have the good teachers allocated but the rest of the batches are purely to make money” says Seema Raj, whose son attended a well-known institute in Kota. He had been to a coaching institute in Hyderabad while in grade 11 but the family was dissatisfied with its quality. Undeterred, the family moved to Kota to enrol him in a better institute. The risk paid off; Seema’s son was admitted to IIT. He is currently pursuing an MS in computer science from Ohio University. Seema adds that for her, feedback from students who had been to the institute played an important role. She insists that it is key to ensure that the child is really interested in the field they are applying to study. Children who enrol purely because of parental pressure are unlikely to succeed.
  3. Another parent, Dr. Sunita Vashishtha, expresses that in principle, she is against the idea of coaching institutes, despite their importance to the IIT entrance race. More thought should be given to reducing our reliance on these institutes. Echoing Seema’s sentiments, she says that even students who barely manage their school examinations are being forced into these institutes. The institutes charge a hefty fee in return for which parents can absolve themselves of responsibility. In reality, the children gain an opportunity to move out of the house and away from continuous parental pressure, spending time unwillingly and unproductively at the institute.
  4. Sonali Shirodkar, a parent from Mumbai, whose son attended a highly sought-after institute, says that your choice must hinge on faculty. They should be knowledgeable, experienced, interact well with students, and most importantly, should have passed the test themselves. Location and commute time is also important. How fees are paid is a factor; flexibility with instalments saves a lot of trouble if classes need to be discontinued for any reason. Many institutes do not offer any refunds. An interesting consideration was that since the classes continue through the summer, most classrooms are air-conditioned. However, these considerations for comfort can be undermined by the fact that seating arrangements are often inadequately matched to class sizes. During some classes, Sonali’s son had one leg out and the other inside the desk for the entire hour of the class!

Some parents mention that it is imperative to check references with families of ex-students for authenticating the institute’s claims. Institutes are notorious for paying toppers and other entrants with no connection to the institute to be able to put their name up on their marketing collaterals, hoardings etc. to enhance their saleability.

Most established coaching institutes offer a variety of courses.

Courses can be of the following configurations:

  • A two-year course for students of grade 11, who would like to prepare over two years, allowing time for their school syllabus simultaneously.
  • A one-year course for students of class 12, as a compact high-intensity preparation, alongside preparation for their class 12 finals.
  • A short-term course for about 4 months, which supplements preparation for just Maths, Physics, and Chemistry.
  • A 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, video dispatches as SD cards etc. for lectures and so forth. These are aimed towards students who wish to prepare from their own homes, and/or wish to attend a specific coaching institute that is too distant for commuting. This option is also useful for NRI students.

Seems like a lot of trouble. Do I even need an institute?

Coaching comes with a price, and no student loans are available for it. For most, this is a serious amount of money. 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.

Cracking the IIT entrance exam is a dream for many students and their parents. It is arguably one of the world’s toughest exams. Can it be cracked without coaching? Many do just that: just about half of all entrants, in fact. Nonetheless, coaching is useful if you child needs additional motivation to revise, practice and keep to a schedule.

There are some clear advantages to coaching. 

  • 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 as it may not be easily accessible.
  • Study material, timetable, conceptual clarifications, and repetition of key concepts, ensuring full coverage of the material.

There are several well-known institutes:

Which is the best? The answer is, simply, the one that most suits your needs.

Here are some pointers to help finalise the one for you:

  1. Reference check the coaching center. This is the topmost priority. Ask for the yearly enrolment and success rate. Talk to ex-students and ask whether the coaching added reasonable value.
  2. Check the qualifications of the lecturers and the ratio of permanent to visiting faculty. Ask for a list of the faculty, the exact status of their affiliation, and their experience with the exam. Some institutes hold open days to showcase their faculty and demonstrate lectures. Ask faculty how many years they have worked in IIT coaching and whether they have themselves attempted/passed the examination. Some institutes have ex-IIT’ans teaching various modules.
  3. Consider the fee structure, instalment provisions, scholarship programs, discounts offered and refund system. Fees vary widely and can range from 50,000 per year to 2 lakhs, sometimes higher. To justify these fees, some institutes offer various “special” facilities such as canteens, libraries etc. However, your focus needs to remain on the quality and track record of the course. Some institutes hold exams to award competitive, merit-based fee discounts, and/or to batch students by ability. Some centres accept instalments, and others offer a partial refund when dropping out depending on attendance.
  4. Inspect the comfort and seating provisions in classrooms. This is important for your child’s ability to concentrate. The prospect of sitting in a dingy/hot/cold/overcrowded classroom for 4 to 5 hours a day is absolutely mortifying.
  5. Consider the commute. Timing can be tricky if your child is attending school simultaneously — as these hours add to a regular school day, allow time for rest and recreation.

Additionally, look for:

  • Study material offered to each student
  • Reference material available in the institute’s library
  • Testing frequency
  • Methodology to monitor student performance
  • Communication by the institute and its faculty with parents
  • Timing options
  • Criteria for grouping students
  • Protocol for the institute to ensure they have incorporated the changes regularly introduced in the examinations, from negative marking, comprehension type questions, Higher Order Thinking Skills, New Question Banks for IQ tests etc.

Once enrolled

Ensure the wellbeing of your child. Discuss what is important. You want the best for the child. Success will be neither achieved nor enjoyed if it comes at the cost of emotional or physical comfort.

Some tips from a school psychologist for aspirants:

  • Get a good night’s sleep, 7 to 8 hours every day. Do it at the same time every day. A regular routine facilitates both the sleep and study schedule and you will feel more in control of your life.
  • Exercise daily for at least 20 to 30 minutes, whether playing a game with friends, or running/cycling/swimming, or even just stretching with yoga and light push-ups. Exercise aids concentration for the rest of the day.
  • Spend some time socialising with friends. Those who are fun and studious help those who are stressed and struggling with studies. This will make you feel good about yourself, and explaining concepts to others gives clarity.
  • Prepare regularly, systematically, and cumulatively, instead of waiting until just before tests or examinations.
  • You know yourself best, strengths and weaknesses, so be honest to yourself when creating a realistic timetable. Not adhering to your own timetable or procrastinating creates guilt, and the guilt – conscious mind blocks the channels to performance that you are capable of.

Your child will be under a lot of pressure, self-induced, or brought on by their teachers, society, peers, and family. According to Vinita Shah, a career counsellor for the last 13 years, all those around the child should know how to handle this pressure with understanding.  Pressure, poorly tackled, can have a lasting negative impact on all concerned. The expectations and dynamics of the whole system surrounding the child should be managed in a balanced manner.

In conclusion:

Granted, getting into IIT is a dream for many, but not getting through should not be regarded as evidence of failure or ineptitude for either child or parent. Such negative thinking impacts self-esteem. IIT is not equal to success. What is success? For parents and children, these are enlightening discussions to be had.

Our adolescents need career counselling, not mere guidance. Emotional support and a rational decision-making process are both essential. A child should be constantly supported through this acute and arduous journey.

According to Prof. Ashok Mishra, ( ex-IITian himself, Ex Dean of IIT Bombay (2004-2008), currently chairman of JEE  main and chairperson BoG IIT Roorkee), coaching institutes are serving a purpose of building competency and filling up the lacunae created by inadequacies of the school system. It’s a business borne out of incompetency of the primary service – that of schools.  In the report to MHRD on the JEE system, the committee headed by him has made several recommendations. Here’s the link to the complete report:

An excerpt from the report:

The current coaching is a very lucrative ‘industry’. As mentioned earlier, it has revenues of approximately Rs. 24,000 crores per year. However, it seems to fill a void – the absence of good teaching in schools – and does it effectively enough to make lots of money also. It is not always mindless profit, indeed at least some of the Coaching Institutions offer ‘scholarships’ for bright students who can’t afford them otherwise. There are still three objections. · The first is philosophical (yet important). The purpose of education is refinement of the mind not passing an entrance examination. · The second concerns the fact that ‘all work and no play’ makes a plus 12 grade student a dull individual with less involvement in activities other than studies. · The third is that students are forced to waste a lot time commuting in order to avail the benefit of ‘good’ coaching. 

As an educator, parent and writer, I think and write about the wellbeing of school age children. Do share your views on this post and follow my blog for more if this space interests you.

A version of this article has been published here


4 thoughts on “Things to consider before enrolling your child into an IIT Coaching program

  1. “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” -Robert J. Collier
    Ms Niv .. as always a beautifully thought out post on such an important subject ! You never ceases to amaze me ! So many questions haunt parents. I went through the same angst when the time had come to make those informed choices . Often times we think there is a straight path to where we want our children to go . I tried to draw that line but I got it all wrong . I was lucky that the children decided to ditch the ladder and used the jungle gym instead .. looking in all directions so that they did not miss those opportunities that I had !
    The points you have listed are so useful . Can I forward the link to some in my family who are IIT aspirants ? The CAT can be out of the bag and I am guessing that it was easier for Alan Turing to crack the Enigma code ! You mentioned the IIT entrance is a tough one .. it sure is !
    Trivial trivia .. I found the movie ‘ The imitation Game ‘ interesting !
    Respects 🙏🏻🙏🏻 Ms Niv for this writeup ! I feel no shame in wearing a button that reads ‘ I am not too good at Math so don’t ask me about how to go about a coaching program .. ask Ms Niv ‘!!! For those of you out there aspiring to pursue a career in Engineering at IIT , go right ahead and read this NOW !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well written and urgently needed topic covered by you Ms.Nivedita. There are so many parents who keep running one institute to another due to absence of proper info and guidance. Your article will be very helpful to all those aspiring to be an IITian.

    Liked by 1 person

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