Private institutes training students for entrance test emerge beneficiaries from modifications that were meant to curtail their dominance — fees have rocketed, while students remain worried

Last year, when former Union human resources development minister Kapil Sibal introduced changes to the pattern of the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) that determines admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology, he had held forth the promise of a system that would reduce dependency on coaching institutes.

Ironically though, some of the biggest beneficiaries of these changes have been the very institutes whose dominance Mr. Sibal was attempting to minimise. JEE coaching centres have not only registered record enrolments – between 50 and 80 per cent, they have also hiked their fees by at least 40 per cent this year. The increase, they claim, is to accommodate coaching for the newly-modified test, and also prepare students for school board exams.

JEE in 2 parts

As per the new rules, JEE will be held in two parts – main and advanced. The main exam will be equivalent to AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Examination), and the advanced to IIT-JEE. Of the total number of students who take the JEE main, only the top 1,50,000 would be eligible to sit for the JEE-advanced test for admission to the IITs. The advanced test would be held a few weeks after the main exam, sometime in April.

For admission to IITs, a student should now be in the top 20 percentile in her respective Class XII board exams. This is an alteration to the old system, under which (until 2012), a student scoring 60 per cent in her Class XII board exams was eligible for a seat in the IITs.

For a class VI student, coaching institutes now charge Rs. 30,000, and for a class VII student, Rs. 80,000. “They claim to train them for science and mathematics Olympiads and get them ready for JEE, but not more than six students in a batch make it to that level,” says R. Rengarajan, a parent of an IIT aspirant. A two-year intensive coaching course will now cost an IIT aspirant Rs. 4 Lakh, up from the Rs 2.5 lakh that many institutes were charging until last year.

Well-know coaching centre FIITJEE’s regional director Ankur Jain said the increase in fees was to rationalise the fee structure. “We initially used to offer scholarships to students who opted for classroom programmes. But now we offer them to those who opt for integrated programmes too,” he said.

Expenses soar

Those who run coaching classes say they need more professional teachers, more mock tests and more material that contains portions of both the main and the advanced tests to deal with the new pattern.

Officials at the TIME institute, another coaching centre, say the increase in the fees is just to meet costs of inflation. “Classes here are also a mix of CBSE and State board students with the latter in huge numbers. We have been dividing them board-wise now. State board students will have to work harder to qualify, as Tamil Nadu is a high-scoring state. There is a lot of time being spent on counselling the parents too,” says an official.

Individual trainers on the other hand, are trying to make the most of the situation. R. Raju, a trainer in Anna Nagar says he now conducts four different types of classes.

“Concept-building for students from class XII happens thrice a week,” he explains. Then there are IIT mains classes, school tuitions, subject tuitions and IIT advanced tuitions for ‘deserving’ students.

“I provide at least three hours of coaching every day for one year, and at least six hours of coaching for the next two years. In all, it costs a parent Rs 4.5 lakh, which is cheaper than most training classes,” he says.

Incidentally, Tamil Nadu does not have a good track record when it comes to the JEE. Last year, there were barely six students in the first 100 top scorers.

But there is chaos among the students and parents on what the test will be like this year. Everyone wants to keep their options open though, says Gita Prabhu, managing director, AIMS Education, another coaching centre.

Parents anxious

There are 32 different educational boards in India, with different patterns of examination and evaluation. “Parents are worried about their child figuring in the top 20 percentile in the country. A student who scores 78 per cent in the CBSE board for instance, will be eligible for IIT,” said Mr. Jain.

While the paper is expected to be easy, there is not much one can say now, says K. Ravi, an individual trainer. “Until last year, a student had many choices and the risk was spread. If it was not IIT, it was NIT or a government engineering college, or a private college. Now, even if you clear the main exam, you have to wait for the advanced to get into an IIT. Those who don’t make it will move down, so you cannot be sure of your seat until the last minute,” he adds.