'Being a good human is more important than cracking IIT'

'Being a good human is more important than cracking IIT'


'Being a good human is more important than cracking IIT'

Your institute has been hailed not only by Indians, but also by several international publications. Did you anticipate this level of success?

When I set up this institute, we had no idea that it would be this successful. And the media coverage has really taken us by surprise. For instance, we received several letters from Japan after a Japanese channel featured a show on us. In 2007, Norika Fujiwara, a beauty queen and an actress from Japan, even came to our house, and shot a film on us!

This year, your institute had 24 students out of 30 getting into the IITs. Are you disappointed that only 24 made it?

No, I am not disappointed at all. The most important thing is not getting into the IITs, but it is about being a good human being. These are students from extremely poor backgrounds: from families of landless labourers, rickshaw pullers, vegetable vendors. If not IITs, these students will get into NITs or other prestigious engineering colleges. For me, whether it is 22 or 28, it does not matter.

Besides free tuitions, you also provide free lodging and free food for your students? How do you make it work financially?

Well, the staff — myself, Amit Kumar, Praveen Kumar, and Rahul Rangan — teach the students at Super 30 during the day, and in the evening we conduct classes for other well-to-do students, from whom we charge a fee. With this money, we run our household and teach the underprivileged kids.

You are also known to have declined donations from the state government and even from the corporate sector. Why so?

Well, we wanted to show everyone that with sheer will power, even in a poor state like Bihar, free and good quality education can be provided to the underprivileged kids. That is why we do not take any donations. However, we have requested the Bihar government to provide us with some land to expand our institute.

The success of Super 30 has also had its pitfalls. For instance, many institutes claiming to be related to yours have started coming up.

Yes, I would like to make it clear to everyone that there is only one Super 30 institute. Many fake Super 30 institutes have come up over the past few years. Recently, the Chattisgarh government handed Rs 1.6 crore to an institute that claimed to be a branch of ours!

And there have been threats to your life too..

Yes, the coaching mafia in Patna have some unscrupulous elements. I have had two attempts on my life, and once an assistant of mine was stabbed and was in a critical state for two weeks. Currently, the state government has provided police security for me.

Does this not perturb you?
As far as the police security goes, I’m grateful to the Nitish Kumar government for taking care of security. But I do miss the freedom to do what I want. Right now, when I’m in Bangalore, it feels so great to just walk around and do as I please. I can't do that back home.

Tell us a little more about your teaching techniques. How is it different teaching students from an underprivileged background?
For each problem, we train our students to solve not only using the traditional methods, but to solve each problem in five-six other ways. We also use a lot of multimedia techniques in teaching our students.
We use two characters. Rikki, a smart student from a well-to-do middle class background, who is dressed smartly, and eats pizzas and noodles. And we have Bholu, who is from a poor background, who likes eating bhutta (corn), and greets his elders by folding his hands.  
Rikki, who despite being smart, starts sweating when he is presented with a tough problem. On the other hand, Bholu is someone who delights in cracking such problems. The purpose of constructing this elaborate story arc is to have students identify with Bholu, and give them the same confidence to solve problems.

What is your take on the proposed JEE reforms?
Well, we are against the proposal to make 80 per cent cutoff in board examinations as a minimum eligibility for attempting JEE. We have also asked the Minister to increase the number of attempts for poor, rural students from two to three. Another suggestion that has been given is to standardise the syllabus for Class 12 across the country.

So, what is next for Super 30?
Well, we are tying up with a publisher in Hyderabad to bring out books for IIT training. Almost 80 per cent of the books have been written. We are also working on setting up a teacher training institute. Teachers can make social revolutions. And lastly, we would like to build a school to provide quality education to the poorest sections of society.

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