Meeting Anand Kumar: The Superman behind Super-30
In an interview with Firstpost, Anand Kumar, founder, Super- 30, talks about his work, gives an insight in to Bihar’s coaching mafia and tells us why he was evading filmmaker Anurag Basu.
They take the giant leap of faith, with Anand Kumar. Every year, 30 students from the poorest of poor families confine their world to a house devoid of any luxuries in Patna.
They devote 16 hours a day to crack IIT- JEE, one of the world’s toughest exams of its kind. They become the ‘super’ of Super- 30. In an interview with Firstpost, Anand Kumar, founder, Super- 30, talks about his work, gives an insight in to Bihar’s coaching mafia and tells us why he was evading filmmaker Anurag Basu.
To instill confidence and make it easy for children who are not fluent in English, you narrate the story of two characters called Rinki and Bholu as a mode of teaching. This way, the medium of instruction becomes irrelevant in your institute. But when your students get admission in IIT, they compete with students from top English medium schools and the medium of instruction is English. In many cases, they feel left-out, depressed and even commit suicide. How do you see this?
Lot of them get frustrated and they cannot be blamed for that. On his birthday, a child from an elite background throws a party in a hotel and cuts cake. A kid from rural background cannot afford these luxuries and feels inferior. There is no mechanism in today’s education system to psychologically prepare the child for such situations.
Considering the lack of educational facilities in rural parts of the country, do you think reservation can help students belonging to backward communities?
There is enormous talent in rural children including those belonging to various backward communities. If nurtured in the right environment, they can do wonders. But their previous generations have not studied. They have never been to school. To bring these kids to a level playing field, the government should provide some kind of help.
Do you see any changes in the quality of education in government schools today and how they were during your school days?
The condition is deteriorating. In our days, teachers were very passionate about their profession and children had tremendous respect for them. Also, the competition was, by and large, amongst the government schools only. Now with the opening of so many private schools, education has become business.
What is your opinion on the government’s plan to replace marks with grades for class 10 and 12?
On one hand, the government says that it will introduce a grades system to replace the traditional system of marks because the latter was leading to increase in stress and suicides in children. On the other hand, it makes the entrance exams to IITS and IIMs tougher. These two steps are not complementary.
Cases of students committing suicide do not depend on marks or grades but on the quality of education and environment students get in schools and colleges. We need better student- teacher ratio. While grades might hide the kids’ weaknesses in school, what about the struggles he will face in daily life? Education has to go beyond marks and grades. It has to be about life.
It is seen that lot of IIT and IIM alumni do not get satisfactory positions or encouraging work environment in Indian firms and they go abroad for work. Do you talk to your students about giving back to society once they pass out of IIT?
For a person to be successful, his talent must get an opportunity. What we do at our Super 30 is nothing but providing opportunity. I don’t think a majority of students take admission in IIT thinking that they will settle abroad after the course. But after passing out, sometimes they do not get a job matching their talent and knowledge and they relocate abroad. Unfortunately the government is not doing anything to change all this. Imagine students from foreign countries coming to IITs and IIMs; patients from across the globe visiting India for its healthcare facilities. That’s the kind of scenario I envision.
Students at your institute surely realise what they are talking about when they express the desire to study at the IIT and prepare for the entrance exam. Give us a sense of understanding their parents have about these academic institutes?
In 2010, a boy called Sharad Pal Yadav was studying at our institute. His father is a truck driver. He called the father and informed him that he had cleared the IIT exam, his father said “waah beta, tera ITI ho gaya” (its good that you have cracked ITI).
While parents of many of these students do not know the difference between IIT and ITI, they are sure that education will ensure a good future for their child. This is a generational change I am witnessing now. A decade earlier, parents were fine if they had their kids working with them on farms or dairies or assisting them at shops or with small business. Now they want to break this cycle and send their children to schools and colleges so that they get a job.
Is it true that you don’t disclose the list of students at your institute because of the coaching mafia in Bihar?
Yes. In 2007, we declared the list of our students before the IIT- JEE result was out. Three of them were kidnapped. I don’t know whether to call it kidnapping or something else. Actually, people from some other institutes got to know about my students who were doing exceptionally well. These students were taken away for some days when they were lured with money, job assurances and asked to deny any connection with Super 30.
But then those people realised their mistake and apologised before me. For the next two years, we did not declare the list of students. Now we declare the list before media so that the chances of such troubles are reduced.
Has Anurag Basu met you for the film he is reportedly planning on Super 30?
It was a funny experience. I don’t watch movies and did not know about Basu. So, couple of time when he called me and introduced himself, I disconnected the line. Then I did a Google search to know more about him. Finally, we met last year when he was in Patna. He appreciated our work and expressed the desire to make a film. We have spoken a few times on phone since then and I have also met him once in Mumbai. He was busy with Barfi!. Let us see when he begins work on the one which is about our institute.
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