March 31, 2012

Get to the top: About Kota

I have an article in the April issue of Caravan that I've wanted to do for years: about coaching classes ('cram schools", they're sometimes called) in the city of Kota, in Rajasthan. I finally started thinking about it and planning it several months ago, though for various reasons it was only in January this year that I was able to make the trip to Kota.

Lots of things to think about there. Pink suits. Parenting Consultants. Graffiti on a temple wall. What we are doing to our kids.

Please take a look: Get to the Top.

And your comments, as always, welcome.


Abi said...

Great article, Dilip!

I was fascinated by the stuff about cram schools separating the stars from the duds -- sections with names like A1, A2, etc., A10, B1, B2, etc.,
all the way down to D10! I'm surprised that the cram schools actually adopt such a scheme -- aren't they in the business of selling dreams like, "Even if you are a dud, we have a way of making you great! Come to us!"

You have talked to some of the kids in those 'D' sections. What's their (and their parents') motivation to stick with the program?

[I can see one possibility: Since the kids have uprooted themselves to get to Kota where they have joined a cram school and a regular school, leaving the place after, say, 6 months is not really an option.]

Anonymous said...

Very balanced and complete. We want more!

Suresh said...

We are by no means the only country where "cram schools" play an important role. This Wikipedia page details the presence of such schools in various countries, including India.

Just out of curiosity, how many students are enrolled in all in the Kota institutes? Are they enrolled in such numbers that we need to worry about them?

Sidd said...

Was Nitin Jain quoted more than any other administrator of any other coaching place, who remain anonymous 'senior administrators' because he shared your alma mater? I'm not suggesting anything sinister, just wondering if that could've played a part.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sidd, nope: it was just that other administrator(s) asked to remain anonymous, and I respected that. Nitin did not.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dilip,

It is technically not absurd to say that "probability zero" does not imply that the event cannot happen - presumably your reference to advanced mathematics and"exceptions" means you are aware of this. Yes, in the usual JEE world, probability spaces are discrete. Nonetheless "absurd" and "sun rising in the east"may be a little strong. One may argue that Bansal classes is unaware of these finer distinctions and they are right merely by accident, but perhaps their many hours of MIT course viewing has told them otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to speak with you sometime on how you did your research for this article? I was looking to do something similar - visit Kota and find out whats happening there...though my motivation is more banal than yours - I own stock in Career Point.

I do apologise for spamming your blog - I did not know how else to reach you.

I'm at or

I do hope to hear back from you.


Anonymous said...

To the author:

You've got your probability theory wrong when you say "In probability, one means certainty, zero means no chance—period. ". To illustrate, consider the probability of you guessing a real number your friend has picked at random in [0, 1] correctly. The mathematical probability assigned to the event of your guessing correctly is 0. However, it is not impossible that you make a correct guess. See for a more detailed discussion.

Technical details aside, it might have been better if you chose to brush up on some probability theory before writing this article, especially since you chose to criticize the coaching institutes on this very point.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Since this has come up more than a few times, and I've been meaning to respond, let me do so now before too many more days go by.

Ravi (glad to meet you a couple of weeks ago): yes, I'm aware of the exceptions. The point is this: I think in teaching probability you have to have the basic idea down right -- of 0 meaning no chance and 1 meaning certainty -- and only then explore exceptions. It's only when you have that clear that the exceptions make sense.

Anonymous: I did brush up. I still think those sentences are absurd in a set of notes introducing probability.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dilip,

I am going to continue to quarrel a little more - mainly with your terming the example given (probability of picking a real number between 0 and 1, or for that matter a random natural number from the set of all natural numbers) as an "exception. It is true that in high school we deal only with finite sets where probability one means certainty. In contrast, the general theory of probability allows one to deal with infinite sets as well where the two notions (probability one and certainty) do not necessarily coincide. The correct way of looking at things is to treat the probability usually taught at the JEE level as a special case of the more general edifice. In some sense high school probability is the exception!

Nice meeting you too.


Dilip D'Souza said...

Fair enough Ravi, I see what you mean by exception and that word could have been better chosen. My contention is that the finite set view of probability is the one that makes most sense to teach as an introduction to probability -- which these notes I mentioned clearly were (let me show you sometime). (Besides, this statement in those notes makes no mention, right there or later, about infinite sets). At least to me, it's only once that idea is clear that you can make sense of the infinite set example.

Without that, I think the placement of that statement in those notes is just confusing and absurd.

Anonymous said...

Kota is worst place on earth and does not serve any purpose. I know some guys who were in kota and after mugging there for 3-4 years,got into IIT.But did not do anything great in courses there. Its better to be in REC or local college at 16 years then in IIT at 20-21 years as people from Bihar,Up and andhra do.

Gaurav Raghav said...

Kota is a kind of a study hub as well. Still, it is up to a student to decide what to do

Arijit said...

I want to purchase your book "Branded by Law". However I found it to be out of print. Can you help me to get a copy?

Thanks and regards,

Assistant Professor
Department of English,
VIT University

Dilip D'Souza said...

Dear Arijit, please send me a note at dilip DOT fbk AT gmail. Thanks.