Focus and discipline are essential to crack the IIT JEE, says co-founder Mubeen Masudi
“CRACKING the IIT JEE (Indian Institutes of Technology Joint Entrance Examination) requires a high level of academic preparation, as well as mental and emotional fortitude,” says Mubeen Masudi, co-founder, RISE Coaching Centre, Srinagar.
Along with these, he says, “focus and discipline” are two of the most important qualities a student must possess to succeed in this highly competitive exam.
“With the IIT JEE being one of the toughest entrance exams in the world, possessing focus and discipline can give a student a significant edge in achieving their goal of securing admission into one of the premier engineering institutes in India,” Masudi stresses.
Parents, he said, play a crucial role in shaping the overall personality and success of their children.
“While it’s important for parents to encourage their children to strive for success, they should not become a source of stress or pressure. Instead, they should appreciate their child’s hard work and efforts, regardless of the outcome,” Masudi, in a tête-à-tête with Kashmir Observer’s Farooq Shah, said.
Excerpts of the interview:
What motivated you, as a civil engineering graduate from IIT Bombay, to forego a career in engineering and instead start a coaching centre in Kashmir? What factors influenced your decision?
After realizing the advantages of growing up in multiple cities and attending an IIT, I noticed the lack of awareness and support for students in Kashmir to pursue similar opportunities. Many students settle for mediocre or terrible colleges due to lack of information or guidance. In 2012, I decided to return to Kashmir and address this issue by writing about it in local newspapers, counselling students, and eventually starting my own institute with a focus on sending more Kashmiri students to top institutes like IIT.
How would you refute the claims or allegations from your critics that opening a coaching centre in Kashmir was a shortcut to make a quick buck?
Opening a coaching centre in Kashmir was not a shortcut to make a quick fortune. It required using all of my savings from my first job and teaching only five students in the first year. While some coaching institutes may make money, most do not. Additionally, coaching institutes are often disliked because they symbolize the failure of school education systems. Ideally, schools should provide all the necessary education, but since they often fail to do so, coaching institutes exist to fill the gaps. Until education systems improve, coaching institutes will continue to exist and be disliked.
Looking back a decade, how closely have you followed your goal of launching RISE coaching institute as a social enterprise to level the playing field for high school students in Kashmir in terms of educational opportunities?
RISE coaching institute has made significant progress towards its goal of providing equal educational opportunities for high school students in Kashmir. While only 1-2 Kashmiris would make it to premier IITs every 2-3 years in 2012, last year 10 students from RISE made it to IITs, and the aim is to have 100 students by 2025. This success is attributed to increased awareness and support systems, not just at RISE but across Kashmir. Many students from remote areas of Kashmir are now studying at IITs due to RISE’s efforts. RISE has also changed the trend of students starting to prepare for entrance exams post-class 12th, with students now beginning preparation in class 11th. Other coaching institutes across the valley have also adopted this approach, which RISE takes credit for.
To what do you attribute RISE’s rapid success in making inroads and carving out a niche for itself in the highly competitive coaching sector within a short period of time?
From the very beginning, our sole focus at Rise has been on preparing students for competitive exams. We made it a point to hire faculty members who were top-notch and graduates from IITs. We were upfront with our students about our approach and made it clear that if their goal was to excel in board exams, we were not the right fit for them. While this approach created some initial friction, our results spoke for themselves and we gained the trust of many aspirational and dedicated students, which eventually led to Rise becoming a well-known brand. Despite minimal advertising, our brand name has become synonymous with excellence in the coaching industry, to the extent that people who are not directly associated with Rise are often surprised to learn that our enrolment numbers are lower than what they assumed. Our popularity is mainly cantered around serious aspirants of JEE & NEET, while we are not as well-known among students and parents who still place a higher value on board examinations. However, as more Kashmiri students and parents come to understand the importance of competitive exams in securing a spot at a top college, we anticipate a growth in Rise’s popularity.
How challenging was it for RISE to assemble a team of IIT pass-outs as faculty members, considering that faculty is the key unique selling proposition (USP) for a successful coaching institute?
The most difficult aspect of running Rise is finding suitable faculty members, particularly those who are graduates from IITs and are willing to work in Kashmir despite the challenges posed by situations of sorts. It’s a constant struggle to locate individuals who share our values and are committed to our cause while also being willing to work in Kashmir. Moreover, the task of ensuring that we have a competent team of IITians providing the best possible guidance to our students has become even more challenging in recent times, following the unfortunate incidents that occurred in late 2021.
Can you provide evidence or data to support your assertion that RISE has played a significant role in increasing the number of Kashmiri students who have gained admission to prestigious institutions such as IVY leagues and IITs?
As I said earlier, 10 students from Rise made it to IITs in 2021. This is an unprecedented number not just for Rise but also for our region. We never had so many students making it to IITs from Kashmir in a single year. What makes this even more impressive is the backdrop of 2019 and Covid. Since 2016, numerous students from Rise have made it to IITs. Our students have also made it to top IVY league schools. The trend started with Moazin making it to the University of Washington. Since then we started guiding students for US college admissions as well. In 2018, Rise students, Adeeba Tak from Shopian made it to University of Pennsylvania (Almuni include: Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, etc) and Moin Mir from Srinagar made it to Princeton University (Alumni: Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, etc), both on scholarships worth crores. We imbibe a sense of responsibility towards the society among our students as well. Adeeba and Moin created “Wath” to guide Kashmiri students aspiring to study in the US. Three students from their most recent cohort made it to top colleges in the US. I am sure, as our students start graduating from IVY leagues, IITs and other top colleges, we will see a strong ripple effect of their success in Kashmir. Something that swells my heart with happiness and pride.
Even though there are several renowned coaching institutes like Allen in Kashmir, only a few students are able to clear the IIT JEE exam. What could be the reason behind this low success rate?
The reason behind the low success rate of Kashmiri students in cracking IIT JEE can be attributed to various factors such as lack of awareness and access to proper guidance from an early age. Most students and their parents prioritize board exams in class 11th and 12th over IIT JEE, and they only start preparing seriously after completing class 12th, which results in limited time and effort compared to the aspirants who start preparing from class 8th. This skewed focus on board exams is inversely proportional to success in IIT JEE. It’s not just about joining a branded coaching institute but being taught by teachers who are qualified and understand the cultural nuances and realities of the students. The difference in the teaching level is evident when guest faculty from top institutes in Delhi or Kota take lectures at Kashmir-based coaching institutes. Many students from Kashmir go to Kota for JEE preparation but return within six months due to the lack of guidance they need to cope with the curriculum. To address these issues, teachers need to start from the basics and ensure that students are getting the guidance they need. Despite the success of many institutes outside of Kashmir, new institutes often struggle to do well in the region.
In your opinion, what are the essential qualities and skills that a student should possess to be able to successfully clear the IIT JEE?
In order to crack the IIT JEE, a student must possess focus and discipline. This means having a clear goal in mind and creating a routine that aligns with this goal. It can be challenging to remain focused on JEE preparation when friends and family members are focused on board exams or other events, such as weddings and parties. The ability to resist these distractions and stay disciplined is crucial for success. For example, during my own JEE preparation, I attended a coaching institute for two years while also dealing with school exams, farewells, birthdays, and weddings. Despite these distractions, I only missed one lecture and did not miss any tests.
“Catch them young,” is the key phrase with many coaching institutes outside Kashmir with regard to the cracking IIT JEE, some even start by training students from grade six. Does it make any sense or is it some market tactic?
The idea of starting early with coaching for various skills can be seen as both a market tactic and a sensible approach. With the current limitations of school education, it can be beneficial for parents to consider additional educational opportunities for their children at an early stage. This can extend beyond IIT JEE coaching and include various other skills such as English speaking, Design, Mathematics, Coding, etc. Moreover, the emergence of online learning has expanded the range of options available for early skill development.
Is it common for students preparing for the JEE to experience high levels of stress and pressure? If yes, how can RISE assist them in managing stress and maintaining focus on their studies?
Parents play a crucial role in helping their children manage stress when facing difficult tasks. Rather than solely focusing on their child’s success, parents should recognize and commend their hard work. Students who become too obsessed with success are more likely to experience stress, while those who prioritize the process of learning and growing through struggle tend to cope better. Parents can create a supportive environment at home by emphasizing the value of hard work and resilience, rather than solely congratulating their child for good exam results. Instead, they should praise their child’s dedication and commitment to studying, even if the results are not perfect.
What guidance would you offer to students who don’t succeed in the JEE to help them make informed decisions about their future careers?
Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that success is subjective and can be achieved through different paths. It’s essential to explore one’s interests, strengths, and passions to find a career that aligns with them. Pursuing a profession solely for its societal prestige or financial gains can lead to dissatisfaction in the long run. Students should also consider alternate pathways such as vocational training, apprenticeships, entrepreneurship, and pursuing higher education abroad. It’s crucial to have an open mind and not limit oneself to a single career path.
What alternatives are available for students who score low on the JEE but are academically strong? What could be their next most suitable option?
Traditionally, getting admission into a good college can be beneficial in kick-starting one’s career. Students who do not make it to IITs can consider applying to other renowned universities like Delhi University or Mumbai University for science courses. These colleges offer a diverse range of opportunities for students to explore.
Can the shift to e-learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic be considered a positive or negative change for students’ careers, or a combination of both?
The long-term effects of e-learning on students’ careers are yet to be seen, so it is important to wait and observe. However, there are some potential benefits to e-learning, particularly for students in places like Kashmir, as they now have access to a wider range of educational resources from teachers around the world. This is similar to how previous generations have had access to a greater variety of entertainment and art thanks to the internet and streaming services. As a result, this generation of students may have more diverse and exciting career options available to them due to the opportunities offered by online learning.
Given the incredible success of RISE in Kashmir, are you conscious of your Corporate Social Responsibility, and does RISE provide assistance to underprivileged individuals?
Rise has been providing scholarships up to 100% to underprivileged students since its inception, and its admission policy is based solely on performance in the admission test. The coaching institute also utilizes its network of successful IITians to sponsor the fees of students who make it to good colleges but cannot afford them. Despite being required to pay 18% GST and income tax, coaching institutes in J&K are obligated to teach 10% of their students free of cost, a policy that is not followed elsewhere in India. These coaching institutes in Kashmir are among the most affordable and accessible in the country, even for the poorest students. More information on this policy can be obtained from DSEK, and the media should shed light on it.
What sets RISE apart from other institutions, and why should a student choose to enroll at RISE over other options available to them?
RISE is not a suitable choice for everyone. Only students who are specifically targeting JEE or NEET should consider joining Rise, as they will receive the best faculty and support to achieve their goals. However, if you are mainly focused on board exams, Rise may not be the ideal place for you. While some Rise students do perform well in board exams, this is not due to the institution’s efforts but rather in spite of them.
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