Based on the module of Harvard University, hundreds of students across the country who belong to Below Poverty Line families are being trained to crack entrance exams to the coveted Indian Institutes of Technology. Avanti, a non-government organisation, provides free coaching to these students.

It works mainly with municipal schools across the country: Chennai Corporation Schools, Jawahar Navodaya Vidhayalaya Schools, Puducherry and Mangalore. They also give guidance to Tibetan refugees students for whom they have established four special IIT coaching centres — two in Missouri, one in Selakui at Uttarakhand and one in Mundgod in Karnataka.

In Delhi, Avanti is training around 500 students in Shahadra, Yamuna Vihar, Subhash Nagar and Shahpur Jat. Akshay Saxena, the co-founder of the NGO, said: “Last year, 22 students were selected, out of which Delhi had five students, all from government schools. We saw 40 per cent selection in the IIT Advanced (top 1 per cent) from our first class in Puducherry and 95 per cent selection in IIT JEE Mains (top 10 per cent). In Navodaya, Puducherry, among 40 per cent students, 17 per cent made it to IIT and are now working in top companies across the country.”

The coaching method in unconventional. It does not have a teacher-student set up but ‘student-teaching-student’ method in a group of five to six. Instead of a teacher, an adult social worker works as a ‘caring guide’. “This has given us a better outcome than engaging paid teachers,” said 31-year-old Mr. Saxena, himself an IITian and an alumnus of Harvard Business School.

The content is built by the core team of Avanti comprising 50 IIT and IIM volunteers. They create a special curriculum called “Learning Coaches”.

The coaching is done through video-conferencing in all the centres initially, followed by the student-teaching-student method. Last year, Avanti sent 10 students from IIT to mentor the aspirants, but from this year it claims it will send 400 IIT mentors across the country. These mentors come from top engineering schools in India, including IIT Delhi, NSIT, DTU and Maulana Azad Medical College.

Recently, the NGO collaborated with the Haryana Government to provide IIT coaching to poor children in the State. Notably, as many late starters often do not make it to IIT, the NGO also facilitates their admission in colleges.

In Chennai, for instance, 95 per cent of Avanti centre students go to college and 65 per cent enrol in professional and technical education degrees. Also, in collaboration with the Directorate of Education, it sends IIT students to visit colleges and guide students, select some and send them to Vidya Mandir classes in its four Delhi centres, added Mr. Saxena.

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