Super 30, a distinctive programme that coaches students for the IIT entrance exam, has seen unparalleled success in the number of students that make it into the prestigious IITs each year. Its founder, Anand Kumar, selects 30 students from economically weaker families, provides them with food and boarding, and tutors them for a year as they prepare for the IIT JEE.
By 2011, 236 out of 270 Super 30 students made it into the IITs. We bring to you an exclusive interview with the man behind the success of Super 30. Pioneer, visionary and guru, Anand Kumar, as he talks of his inspirations, his plans for the future, his take on education in India, and the Indian Teaching Service he hopes to see become part of India’s blueprint for education.
How does it feel to see the running success of Super 30?
It makes me extremely happy. Many of these children left their homes, their villages, to come follow their dream; and to see this kind of result makes me very glad. This is the chance they need to break out of poverty and build a future for themselves.
What has been your inspiration to set up Super 30?
Growing up, I had a keen interest in Mathematics, and spent many hours working on my subject. After graduation, I applied and got admission into the University of Cambridge. But my financial situation, and my father’s medical condition were factors that held me back, and I had to let go of the opportunity. It made me realize that there were many students in India facing the same situation. Despite being gifted students, with a strong academic inclination, poverty and inaccessibility to quality education held them back. If there was a way to help them, I knew I had to find it.
Who has been your role model?
There have been many, but most outstanding in my memory, remains my father, Rajendra Prasad. He passed away around the time that my admission into Cambridge came through. He always said – Son, whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly. Put your heart and mind into it. He had a good heart, and encouraged in us, the idea of giving back to society.
What advice would you give our readers that are aspiring IIT-ians?
I would advise them to read voraciously, and be thorough with the basics. One must never memorise or “ratto”; that is not learning. Instead, study the basics, and understand them fully. As you develop on this, use your imagination and then apply to new learning.
If you could be India’s Education Minister, what changes would you bring into the system?
To begin with, everyone must understand that education is not a commodity to be bought and sold. Right now, there are expensive private schools, and there are Government schools, and there is a great divide between them. Quality education is being sold to the highest bidder. That has to change. Education – quality education – must be accessible to everyone. Government schools must impart education of the same standard available at private schools. And excellence in quality of education must begin right from primary schools.
Secondly, the IITs that now allow only 2 attempts at entrance admissions, must make allowances for children from less privileged backgrounds, and give them 3 attempts at clearing the IIT entrance exams. You spoke of primary schools; what changes do you think we need to see in this sphere of education? As I said, the quality of education must improve, and this begins right at primary school level. Most importantly, we have to attract and retain good teachers. It is the teacher that can transform a student, and it is imperative our schools have good teachers. We need to change the existing policies, and re-look at the salaries we give them, the facilities and tools to aid them in the classroom. Why don’t we have something similar to the IAS, and IFS? The ITS – Indian Teaching Service. Something as prestigious, to attract and build talent in the education sector.In your opinion, why aren’t there more schools like yours? Is this a difficult model to replicate?
Super 30 is a school that takes no donations. In this sense, yes it can be hard to sustain. But we have created a prototype, and we encourage the government, and corporate business, to replicate this model. In fact, several State governments have expressed interest in setting up something similar, drawing inspiration from the success of Super 30.
Any plans to expand Super 30 into Super 50 or Super 100?
Yes, why not? Super 30 started as an experiment with 30 students who showed potential. We had no idea the name would become so popular. If there are more children with the talent and determination, then there is always room for more.
What do you see yourself doing over the next few years? Any plans beside Super 30?
Well, it has been a dream of mine to run a school for children from lower income families, and from villages where quality education is not available. I plan to set up this school, for children from the 6th to the 12th standard. I am looking for land right now, for the school premises, and for a hostel for the children to stay. I want to give them a chance to think of going abroad, to study medicine, to attend Olympiads, and meet other students excelling in different fields of academics.