Is it a 5 year journey to the IITs?
The IITs are undoubtedly among the most sought after engineering institutions in India, boasting of qualified faculty, quality research, and infrastructure and facilities that other institutes can only dream of. And, of course, then we have the students themselves who are considered the ‘crème dè la crème’. More than 3.5 lakh students give the entrance examination each year, but only 8000 actually get through. Naturally, kids start preparing long back, normally 2 years. But now-a-days a little strange but worrying trend we are seeing is the coaching classes offering courses to students in the 10th, 9th, or even 8th standard. Does JEE really require such a long period of preparation? In a bid to make a student’s future life good are parents deliberately making his present devoid of its childhood?
First, let’s get a few facts straight
IIT-JEE emphasizes on conceptual knowledge and analytical skills. In short, you can’t mug up formulas and definitions in a topic, and expect to be able to solve all JEE level questions with them. If you see a theorem, you need to ask yourself, “Why is it so?”, “Why not the other way round?”, and unless you can answer it with a logical explanation, that theorem is not really very clear to you. You should develop a “feel” of the topic in order to grasp it completely.
So why is the 2 year duration ideal?
Simply speaking, IIT-JEE tests your skills in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. The topics, more or less, are those that you will study in detail in 11th and 12th. Before that, you wouldn’t even have the basic groundwork required to tackle topics at the JEE level. It is really futile trying to get someone to study advanced topics for JEE when he is still in 9th! JEE level science is also highly based on mathematical topics like calculus, algebra and trigonometry, and that you learn in detail in the 11th standard only.
Then what do coaching institutes claim to do 5 years back?
Since it is simply impossible to start with JEE level topics at such an early age, what they generally want to start with is basic analytical thinking, and developing your logical abilities. But there is a big exclamation mark here: When you are in, say, 9th, or 10th, the board examinations definitely have a priority over everything else. Being your first public examination, they give you an idea of how you stand in the crowd. And simply stating, in blunt words, you can literally score 95+ even in a 10th Mathematics question paper, even if you do all questions in the textbook properly. So whether it is justified to concentrate on topics not relevant at that time is questionable.
So how do I decide what to do?
If there is such an institute you know of, and you are eager to enroll your child, I recommend you take care of a few things:
- Ask the teachers what exams exactly the child will benefit in. For example, we have NTSE in 8th now. Maybe they concentrate on it. It might be a worthwhile option since he is still three years away from boards. Do they concentrate on the boards also, specifically if he is in 10th?
- More importantly, get feedback from students/parents who had done that course. Did they benefit from it? Is it worthwhile putting in that much time? How do the students actually fare at the +2 level compared to those who did just 2 years of coaching? This information can provide a truthful, unbiased insight. In general, even those who have worked hard in their two years have made it easily to the IITs.
- Try to understand your child better. Every person behaves differently in different scenarios. It might be possible that by making a student work extremely hard in his early years, he becomes disinterested from studies when the real time comes. It could be possible that pressurizing him unduly can break him in case of failures. Hence, it is important for parents to not rush for things and rather think intelligently for their child’s sake.
My experience, although, has been that 2 years are more than sufficient. Most of the successful students we have talked to have worked hard in their 11th and 12th passed their exams. Irrespective of the marks they got in their secondary examinations, one common thing has been that they didn’t push themselves unnecessarily during those years and gave themselves time to grow.