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Cambridge hails toppers

Acing the IGCSE board exam requires smart and consistent effort, not rote learning, say Indian world toppers report Vimal Chander Joshi

education Updated: Sep 22, 2010 09:19 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Aftab Ashraf Chitalwala is on top of the world. After working religiously on his favourite subjects, mathematics (without coursework) and physical education, he has emerged as the world topper in both in the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), governed by the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) board.

He is one of the 21 students in India who were named “world toppers” by the board. CIE is equivalent to CBSE’s Class X board examination of (which will cease to exist 2011 onwards).

According to Geraldine Seymour, international communications manager, CIE, “India is doing very well (in the IGCSE). This year, 21 students in India won a ‘Top in the World’ award, unlike last year when the number was 10.”

Talking about his strategy, Chitalwala says that, along with studies, he used to allocate time for recreation too, especially sports. “I can’t study for long hours. I get a headache,” he says.

Another world topper, Rajit Kinra, a student of GD Goenka World School, Sohna Road, also doesn’t believe in studying for long hours. “I used to study for three hours a day,” he says.

Dedication and sincerity works. “I get 100 per cent involved in every activity I do, whether it’s studies or sports. Att IGCSE, they don’t encourage rote learning. If you pay proper attention in class, half of the job is done,” adds Chitalwala. He is also an avid reader. “I used to go through The Economist, which familiarised me with the current global scenario,” he adds.

Chitalwala also utilised his post-exam vacation in June by approaching an NGO called Agastya in Bangalore to teach underprivileged kids physics using sports as a tool.

“Through cricket and gilli danda, I explained to them the laws of Newton, force and acceleration. It was a learning experience for me too because I couldn’t understand Kannada (that the children spoke). We had to communicate through instructors who were fluent in either English or Hindi.”

His aim is to make it to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after his International Baccalaureate (equivalent to class XII board exams).

Youngest to qualify IGCSE board
At the age of 12, when Venkatesh Suvarna attended class X at the Utpal Shanghvi School in Mumbai, his peers used to call him chotu (tiny one). At times, he would feel bad. But now, he’s the one having the last laugh. At 13, the CIE has honoured him as the youngest person to clear the IGCSE board.

This isn’t his first accomplishment either. At age four, he had learnt Microsoft Office and at age eight, earned a Maharashtra State Certificate in information technology. College-going students usually appear for this exam.

Later, Leeladhar, Suvarna’s father, took his son to counsellors and doctors who were overawed by his brilliance. They suggested Utpal Shanghvi in Mumbai’s Borivali suburb as the school best suited to Suvarna’s needs. Leeladhar even had to shift to Andheri so that his son’s commute to school would be more convenient.

When he turned 11, he passed his Microsoft Certified Professional exam and went on to learn programming. It was at this time that his father requested the Utpal Sanghvi principal to treat his son as a special child.

This resulted in principal Abha Dharam Pal granting Suvarna a triple promotion (from Class VI to IX) even before the VI standard exams.

About future goals, Suvarna wants to appear for the IITJEE, for which he recently joined a coaching academy called IITian Space. This academy also doubles up as a school.