Concept-based teaching is needed'

Print edition : August 26, 2011

B.S. Rao, chairman, SCEI, interacting with students. - BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Interview with B.S. Rao, chairman, Sri Chaitanya Educational Institutions.

WITH Sri Chaitanya Educational Institutions (SCEI) emerging as the pioneering institution in making Andhra Pradesh the foremost State in terms of the number of students getting admitted to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and other prominent centres of education, it is clear that its chairman, Dr B.S. Rao, has changed people's perceptions of competitive examinations.

In an interview with Frontline, Dr Rao outlined his views, including plans to set up concept-based Techno Schools all over the country.

Your institution has completed 25 years in the field of education. What gives you the most satisfaction as you look back and what do you think are the challenges ahead?

I get job satisfaction when I look at the progress achieved by Andhra Pradesh in nationally held competitive examinations like IIT-JEE [Joint Entrance Examination]. Andhra Pradesh used to be way behind and was in the eighth or ninth position. We began educating the public and creating awareness on the significance of an IIT education and the respect earned by an IIT alumnus. This helped create an impact on the parents, and students, too, expressed a keen desire to go to IITs.

Today, Andhra Pradesh is in the numero uno position, and students from the State are securing maximum admissions in any IIT in the country. This was corroborated by the Union Ministry of Human Resource, which lauded the State for sending a large contingent of students to the IITs. What more satisfaction can one get? Similar is the story with the medical stream. Be it AIIMS [All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi], JIPMER [Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry] or Christian Medical College, Vellore, students from here are in substantial numbers. Again in the AIEEE [All India Engineering/Architecture Entrance Examination], Andhra Pradesh's share is increasing, and the State is leading insofar as admissions are concerned.

Students from the SCEI secured the eighth and ninth ranks in the open category in the AIEEE, apart from the top rank in IIT-JEE this year. No other institution got three ranks in the open category in the first 10 positions. Besides, in the first 100, we got 15 ranks in the open category in IIT-JEE. Except Sri Chaitanya, there is no other institution in the country to have performed as well. In the State, too, no other institution got three ranks in open category in AIEEE.

In the State-level EAMCET [Engineering, Agriculture and Medicine Common Entrance Test], the SCEI got all the top 10 ranks in the medical stream and as many as 78 ranks among the first 100.

In the engineering stream, students from our institutions got 60 ranks out of the first 100, whereas all other State colleges together secured 40 ranks. Coinciding with the Silver Jubilee of the SCEI, for the first time, we got the top IIT rank this year.

At Sri Chaitanya, we have struck a balance between the medical and engineering streams. I have travelled to many countries, but in all these places, you mostly find institutions focussing on either of the streams and not both.

Basically, the nationally held competitive exams are concept-based, and we at Sri Chaitanya began imparting conceptual teaching right from school so that students can easily face such exams. The rote method will not help as the student should ultimately get a good rank and enter the best professional college.

My aim is to produce more civil servants from Andhra Pradesh. The trend must get reversed, and students from Delhi and other places must come here to get coaching for the Civil Services exams.

We are putting in the necessary effort, and I hope that I will be successful in that. Another goal which I have set is to produce the maximum number of chartered accountants.

With about 200 institutions of Sri Chaitanya spread across the country, we have the infrastructure and professional chartered accountants working with us. That way students aiming to pursue C.A. courses will get training from the C.As and they need not go anywhere else. I am confident that I will produce the maximum number of C.As.

You have spoken of providing quality education to Indians in far-flung rural areas. How do you plan to do that?

After the people were made aware of the importance of IIT/NIT [National Institute of Technolgoy], many students who were financially weak came to us and expressed a desire to study at IITs. We gave concessions and offered free seats to many of them.

We are planning to establish 50 concept-based Techno Schools in rural areas all over the country with an investment of Rs.200 crore. By the next year, these schools will come up in the rural areas of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Delhi. Already 50 such schools are working in Andhra Pradesh.

I feel that students from rural areas should be on a par with those in urban areas. I will apply the same formula in preparing students for the IAS [Indian Administrative Service] and the IPS [Indian Police Service] as we did for the national competitive exams.

Many people feel that the teaching pattern for Intermediate students is rote-oriented and stresses them out rather than allowing them to expand their creative horizons. What do you have to say about that?

Such statements are made by ignorant people. Normally, when you work more, you feel happier. In my 25 years, I have not come across students who study well feeling stressed. Students who have diversions and who do not study properly will get stressed.

Besides, the advantage of the residential system is that you can cater to students as per their requirements by ensuring that they don't get stressed. For instance, I always move among students and seek their direct feedback.

It has also been said that classrooms are crammed with too many students, making it difficult for lecturers to pay adequate attention to all of them. Do you plan to change this?

As per the Government Order, there are 120 students in a class in government colleges, but we keep the strength between 60 and 70. Also, after the lecturer completes his session, the class is divided into two groups and teaching assistants clarify the doubts of students.

The lecturer interacts with the students again in the evening. This way, our students never feel crammed. Besides, I treat the son of a Minister and the son of a rickshaw puller the same way, and that's why I am able to command the respect of the student community.

How do you plan to stay ahead and maintain your pre-eminent position as institutions that offer a similar type of coaching are mushrooming?

Generally, for the last 25 years we have been innovating. We plan two years ahead while implementing any improvements. With the syllabus volumes increasing, we think of making learning easier for students. Teaching has to change with changing times and we conduct year-long teacher training workshops to ensure that students get the benefit.

What systemic changes do you suggest be made to ensure that students have successful careers?

Concept-based teaching is needed. Mugging of subjects must be discarded and students must be trained to use concepts. That way a student could apply the concept for 100 questions. It is also important to ensure that teenagers are not affected by problems at home.

It will have a lot of impact on their tender minds, and they get stressed because of that.

Do you plan to extend free coaching to needy IAS and IPS aspirants?

No such decision has been taken for IAS coaching. But we are thinking of doing it in the coming year. For instance, I derive a lot of satisfaction when I see the son of a cobbler getting the 123rd or 124th rank in the entrance examinations.

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