‘Students should learn to apply concepts in day-to-day problems and develop parallel thinking to solve a question by different methods’
D K Goel, Chairman and Chief Mentor- FIITJEE Group talks about the state of engineering education in the country, preparing for entrance examinations, online coaching during pandemic and much more.
1. How would you describe the current status of engineering education in India?
No doubt, it is evolving in the right direction, new & attractive streams in engineering like Mechatronics Engineering, Nano-Engineering, Space Engineering, Agricultural Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, etc. are encouraging innovation. However, Engineering Education in India does require strategic change. Despite a vast number of engineering colleges, engineers produced specially from most of the private engineering colleges are unemployed and are not able to meet the rapidly changing technological and business requirements of the industry in India and abroad. Engineering subjects learned are outdated OR not updated as per fast growing industry requirements of sustainable development, automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning skills. There is a disconnect between students’ aspirations and parental pressure, syllabus in colleges and requirements of industry, political parties in power and management. However, there are these prestigious IITs, NITs, IIITs and BITS in sync with fast changes taking place in technology and are training good engineers for both developing and developed countries.
2.What kind of preparation should the aspirants undertake?
They should study from fundamentals, develop logical thinking, focus on improving their analytical skills, and progress to solving challenging questions. Students should also learn to apply concepts in day to day problems and develop a parallel thinking process to be able to solve a question by different methods. Students must meticulously follow the cycle of learning, practising, testing, analysis, and working on weak points inculcating the right examination temperament & practising in a simulated exam like environment are other important cogs in the wheels of preparation.
3.Studying science at higher secondary level in school can prepare you for diverse career choices and help you emerge successful in every walk of life. Agree or disagree?
Partly agree. The first part is correct, but the second part is not. It requires much more than studying science for success in any field. Success in life is determined not by subject alone but other factors such as joy and satisfaction in the field of work, focus, tenacity, commitment, emotional quotient, interpersonal skills, networking skills, empathy, and value system.
4.With new-age careers in demand among millennials, do you feel the demand for science and engineering is dwindling?
There is no fixation with Science & engineering now. Though the demand is not dwindling, the craze for it has dwindled a lot. However, it is true that Engineering gives birth to not just Engineers but also to individuals who invariably attain the ability to outshine. By pursuing Engineering / Sciences, you do not just become an Engineer / Technocrat / Scientist, but your thinking perspective also broadens to such an extent that you always outshine your contemporaries from other fields, and constantly scale newer heights of success. As a matter of fact, many career choices are available through various non-Science & Non-Engineering streams but if a student chooses science stream, he/she has the choice of an array of professional fields to work in. Nowadays, students are more fascinated by a career that can provide them with instant fame & money. There are still many students who only aim for a career in science or becoming an engineer irrespective of this, right from their secondary classes and work towards their dream by appearing for various talent hunt competitive exams for science students and then head on to their JEE preparation. So, it is all about the personal choice and interest of an individual. The field of science and engineering still stands strong.
5.In today’s day and age, how do you perceive the role of coaching institutions, especially since many of them seem to be mushrooming over the last two decades?
I wouldn’t like to talk of generally all coaching institutions but of FIITJEE alone.
The gap I felt while preparing for IIT-JEE was commonly felt by all students and I continued to feel this while interacting with students over the years.
The common problems of encouraging rote learning over fundamental based learning, no individualised attention, no effort for improving the IQ of every student in the class and no encouragement to develop a scientific attitude persist even now.
FIITJEE plays the role of taking care of these shortcomings of general school education. Further school level education is not geared to handle the intellectual demands of extremely bright students who are capable of grasping and learning beyond the average class. Students come to us with specific aspirations of cracking competitive exams which require specialised training. FIITJEE plays a very crucial role for all such students, ensuring complete guidance for them. We engage the best talent for teaching and ensure these goals are met.
Many coaching institutions have mushroomed over the last two decades. Not all survive the test of time and demanding nature of the work. Majority perish and some get reduced to being a mere supplement of school education.
We believe that if a coaching institute is built on strong pillars of value-system with interest and welfare of the students as uppermost in mind and a culture of encouraging innovation in its system it invariably succeeds. Finally, it is the satisfaction of students and parents and consistently excellent results which matter.
6.How and when was FIITJEE conceived?
FIITJEE was conceived in 1991 and operations started in June 1992. FIITJEE started with an investment of INR 10,000 in an 800 sq. ft. space in Kalu Sarai, Delhi. We had a very humble beginning as a forum for IIT-JEE with a vision to provide an ideal launch pad for serious JEE aspirants. We realised that in the absence of true guidance, many serious IIT-JEE aspirants are deprived of the opportunity to fulfil their dreams of becoming an IITian. It was this urge, to help such students that egged us to bring a renaissance in the IIT-JEE preparation landscape. Along the way to realise this vision, we went beyond coaching for IIT-JEE. We started to make a difference in the way students think and approach problems. We started to develop ways to enhance Students’ IQ. We started to leave an indelible mark on the students who went through FIITJEE training. This was evident in the ease with which our Students started to capture Top Ranks in IIT-JEE over the years. We started transforming lives and with time, we kept on setting newer benchmarks of excellence which enabled us and our students to achieve what we are today. Aiming for the unachievable and continuously raising the bar is a part of the FIITJEE DNA. Today with blessings of the Almighty and with our endeavour & vision, FIITJEE has not only PAN INDIA but an international presence in 3 Countries, 45 Indian Cities with more than 80 centres, 5 World Schools, 11 Junior Colleges & 78 Associate Schools. They all have an excellent pool of highly competitive & experienced faculty. Certainly, it makes us proud to witness how the institute has extended its operations & services and is benefitting thousands of students across and outside the nation.
7.How would you rate FIITJEE’S success in IIT-JEE horizon in its journey of close to three decades? Are you satisfied with this success saga?
I would like to quote that “it’s been pretty good so far, but we still have miles to go”. This journey has been absolutely exhilarating and all along we have achieved many milestones. But we cannot sit on our laurels. I am proud and humbled to share that God has been kind to us. With our efforts combined with students’ hard work, FIITJEE has been at the forefront of producing the highest number of selections in IIT-JEE (JEE Advanced) from classroom programs consistently for the past 23 years & from all programs for the past 22 years. We have transformed lives. For us, this journey is not over yet, in fact, it will never be over because, for us, the journey itself is the destination.
I feel satisfied when I see the sheer number of students FIITJEE has been able to help achieve their goals. I am satisfied with the success of my students, not just in JEE but in their lives. But there is so much more to do. My vision for my nation is to touch the life of every child through education and be a catalyst for the creation of a utopian society in India.
8.It is said that preparation for various milestone exams like NTSE, Olympiads & KVPY is a milestone to succeed in IIT-JEE. How successful has FIITJEE been in preparing students for success in all these exams?
These exams are a key milestone towards a larger goal in the fields of engineering and sciences. We have consistently produced Toppers & larger share of the total number of successful candidates in KVPY, NTSE, Junior & Senior Olympiads.
Our students have represented India at international level and have brought back gold, silver and bronze medals in International Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Astronomy and Junior Science Olympiad over the years. It would not be anomalous to say that “Winning is a habit at FIITJEE”.
9.What kind of gap does the institute look to fulfil in the market?
FIITJEE is focused on providing quality education. The entire team of FIITJEE ensures that students develop a deep understanding of the concepts in Science, Maths & Social Studies, and fall in love with their subjects and avoid focusing on rote learning. We fulfil the gap between learning in school and competencies required to scale highly competitive entrance examinations for entrance to prestigious institutes. We teach students the art and science of approaching a problem from its very fundamental level and application of learned concepts by developing their analytical skills. With this, we endeavour to enhance their logical thinking and emphasise on holistic development raising three important quotients- I.Q. (Intelligence quotient), E.Q. (Emotional Quotient), and S.Q. (Spiritual Quotient) to enable students to be successful in life. Today, there are institutes that are only aimed at fulfilling their personal monetary interests and give a back seat to the quality of education. Considering this major gap in the market, we are determined to extend all the possible support to our students and make them achieve, their academic goals and hence their life goals.
10.Since you have been in the market for close to three decades now, share with us how the aspirants and their expectations have changed over this period of time?
Over the years the expectations of students have taken a major shift. Earlier the students used to worship their teachers but today Guru-Shishya reverence is no longer there in most big & metro cities. The reason behind this is that today students & parents look at education merely as a commercial service. With this, a sizeable percentage of students and their parents expect institutes to give them success without doing their part. These students believe that it is the entire responsibility of the coaching institute to make them achieve good marks in their target exams once they have paid the fees. However, the truth is that a good institute provides the right direction & inputs and like Arjuna, students must be focused and must follow the directions given by the institute and its faculty in letter and spirit. Students’ hard work and focus are irreplaceable.
11.Has the current pandemic changed the coaching format for engineering aspirants?
I don’t think so. Today, offline classes have been replaced by online classes to cater to the current situation until it gets normalised. The offline coaching will rebound as soon as it is allowed. The current change is only temporary.
12.Should we expect a spurt in online classes?
Yes. This will be the new distance education program. Online classes and its virtual classrooms are set to replace the postal correspondence program, especially for children staying in tier II & III cities.
13.How has FIITJEE adapted its format to deal with the current situation?
In the current situation of COVID-19 pandemic when other students were left midway with their preparation, students at FIITJEE didn’t even furrow their eyebrow and get tensed. It is because we immediately rose to the situation and introduced Live Online Classes- a replica of our offline classes which are equally powerful. We started LIVE online classes batch-wise just as per our planned schedule of offline classes with 2-way communication. There is hardly any difference between offline and online classes except in-person human interaction. It was a seamless adoption and ensured that no time of students was lost. Those students who are willing to start their preparation for competitive & scholastic exams can now appear in our Home-Based Online Admission Test and once they qualify the test, they can then avail easy and hassle-free access to our live online classes and start preparing as if everything is normal. Today, we are glad to see our students embracing these online classes wholeheartedly and being greatly benefitted.
14.Since many Kota students are going back to their hometowns, will FIITJEE and other coaching institutes try to work towards helping them study at home?
We are doing it already. Many students who are going back from Kota have already joined FIITJEE programs and studying through Live Online Classes from their homes. We are receiving an overwhelming response from them as they appreciate studying in a small batch size of less than 50 students whereas they were made to study in huge batches of 150 – 200 in their previous coaching Institutes. Since students are back home, parents are happy & relieved that their children are now safe and continuing their preparation through FIITJEE’s live online classes. Once the situation normalises, they can start studying at the nearest FIITJEE Centre. Now, the students are blessed to have the physical presence and the emotional support of their parents at every point of time.
15.At a personal level, what is it you enjoy the most about preparing students for entrance examination?
Personally, I enjoy most: turning “average” students into “extraordinary” performers. We have many such stories in FIITJEE.
One thing that I find extremely important is Improving IQ & EQ of students. If a student has a balanced mix of both IQ (Intelligence Quotient) & EQ (Emotional Quotient) then he/she can be nurtured to set sights on Engineering Entrance Exams like IIT-JEE etc. apart from the preparation required for the core subjects. It is because both IQ and EQ form the firm base of a student’s preparation for any entrance exam as well as other competitive exams.
16.When you are not at work, how do you choose to unwind?
I unwind by doing even more work. The time that I get after meeting my day’s targets, I invest it in analysing newer startups, especially in EdTech space. We are an active investor and leave no opportunity of serving the society. Work keeps me both physically & mentally healthy. What further unwinds me is interacting with goal-oriented people who are dedicated towards fulfilling their dreams and have the determination to struggle through any storm and walk forward. It motivates and strengthens me.
17.What do you feel about the media houses like HT? How are they breaking new grounds?
News is one of the most important contributors to educate mankind on a constant & consistent basis. The media houses like HT play a pivotal role, as we get to know many diverse things and developments in various fields across the globe from one source only and do not need to source them from multiple points. The media today finely comprehends the significance and need of delivering only the factually correct news, for which they make endeavours to dig the details right. The media houses are breaking new ground by sprawling their reach to the arenas that were unreached earlier. Whether its education or any other avenue, it’s the media only that serves as the ideal platform for promotion. And by promotion, I mean reaching the masses and not the financial interests. It is akin to service to society.