The course will prepare the students in advance for the prestigious National Talent Search Examination (NTSE) conducted by NCERT in class VIII. According to FIITJEE, the foundation course will also help them learn analytical skills required to prepare for IIT JEE. Kalyan Kumar, executive director, FIITJEE, said, ‘‘Starting a foundation course for class VI students will help students develop a temperament for competitive exams, develop thinking skills and to perform their best in a given timeframe.’’ He added, ‘‘We have been getting a lot of queries from parents for the course.’’ Those who clear NTSE, get a scholarship for as long as they study. It is also considered to be a high-point in the curriculum vitae in future.
According to coaching institutes for competitive exams, starting early helps students test waters before they actually start tuitions for JEE from class XI. In fact, such courses are in great demand amongst parents who do not mind paying beyond the school fee when it comes to their child’s career. Said Sai Kumar, course director, Time, ‘‘We start coaching students from class VIII but there are many others who start training children from classes V and VI.’’ Parental pressure has led to such a trend.’’
Agreed Aakash Chaudhary, director, Aakash Institute, ‘‘Most parents want their children to start writing national exams like NTSE right from the beginning. We have nearly 400 students from classes VIII, IX and X.’’ He added, ‘‘They come for both engineering as well as medicine. Starting early makes sure they know it before class XI if they have an aptitude for science or not.’’
And to curb stress on children, coaching centres say the course for younger students is not made rigorous. ‘‘The classes for such foundation courses are held only twice or thrice a week.’’ At Aakash Institute, the foundation course starts with class VIII and is conducted through distance learning. However, schools are hardly at peace with the idea of putting class VI students through the grind.
Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal, Springdales School, said the best way to discourage this practice was to change the attitude of parents. ‘‘We should discuss the matter with parents. If their children go for such coaching, they stop taking the school curriculum seriously. Instead of hijacking their brains, they should be exposed to interdisciplinary and holistic education.’’ Bharti Rattan, who teaches chemistry in Apeejay School, Pitampura, said, ‘‘We had NTSE scholars in our school even when there were no coaching institutes. Such institutes just mint money by misleading people.’’
The coaching centres and schools may be passing the buck to the parents, but parents do not agree. Vipin Sharma, father of a class VII student, said, ‘‘I want my child to do well in these times of cutthroat competition. But I cannot rely on schools for that. Schools do not even prepare each student well for CBSE curriculum.’’ Another parent, Deepak Mishra, who has enrolled his son with FIITJEE, said, ‘‘My son is in class VI. Though he is preparing for NTSE, his ultimate aim will be to crack the engineering entrance exams. He gets the right atmosphere at the coaching centre as he has the best students from various schools around him.’’ He added, ‘‘It’s good that he is clear on becoming an engineer right from the beginning.’’