Vinayak Sidana – Senior Chemistry Faculty – Akash Educational Services Ltd.
Mr Vinayak, tell us how you chose the education field as your career path.
I am a Chemistry graduate and after my graduation, I wanted to pursue my Chemistry studies further and so I appeared for an entrance test called IIT JAM. I scored 380 at an All India level. It was when I did my Masters that I opted to go for the education sector as a career. At our institute (Akash Institute), I try to create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. Students who want to do their Masters will opt to enrol themselves with us.
Didn’t you ever aim at teaching in a regular school?
The environment I got when I was doing my Masters was amazing and that is what I wanted to replicate in my career. That environment was my driving force to become a teacher.
For teaching in a school, there are various parameters – you have to do a B.Ed, which additionally takes a couple of years. If you want to join a government school, you have to qualify for multiple other exams. On the other hand, in the coaching industry, things are quite flexible. If you are super good at your subject, there is nothing that can stop you. Honestly, when it comes to the service you render, I don’t feel any difference whether you teach at a school or at a coaching centre.
For how long have you been teaching now, Mr Vinayak?
I have been teaching ever since I was doing my Masters. But, professionally it has been over a year now.
Where are you based out of?
I am based out of a place called Anupgarh; it is about 150km from Bikaner.
You mentioned that this job gives you flexibility. Can you please elaborate?
When you teach at a school, you have to be at the school from 7-1, or so. You have fixed working hours. But in the coaching industry, once you are settled at an institute, you have the flexibility to be present at the institute when you have classes. If you are occupied, on some day, due to some emergency, you have the option of rescheduling classes. So, you get flexibility plus you don’t have to complete a B.Ed to teach.
At a place like Akash Institute, what is the average entry level salary?
The entry level salary at Akash Institute is about Rs 60,000/- for a fresher. If you have 1 year of experience, you can even make more than 1 lakh.
Previously, I was at another institute called Career Point which was the first institute I joined and they used to pay me very well. When I joined Akash because I had experience, I had additional benefit.
The pay depends on the standard that we choose to teach and the impact you create during the interview.
Are all the Akash centres the same or are they different?
They are the same, in terms of what is being taught. I was appointed through the Delhi centre and the curriculum, modules and the test papers offered are all the same, across the country. For students it is all the same. There is consistency across institutes. Apart from the teaching styles that teachers adopt, it is all the same.
Mr Vinayak, is this a high-pressure job?
One major drawback about this industry is that you need to be present all the time. You can’t expect a holiday or 6-7 days of leave, etc. Every day is a working day.
Also, there is always the pressure of completing the course on time. Timing is important because there are tests very frequently. The student feedback also goes a long way. You may be teaching very well but there can be some students who may not understand your style of teaching. If they give negative feedback, you can be in trouble.
For the amount they pay, you can take the pressure in your stride. I feel I am in a very good position right now.
How about your colleagues – have they been around for a long time?
The age group of the teaching crowd is around 30 years. We have one faculty who is 50 years. In the coaching industry you need to have a lot of energy. So, the teaching crowd will usually be young people.
Also, when you teach in a coaching institute for 10- 20 years, you make a lot of money. So, by the age of 45 you can be in a position to retire.
What qualifications are required to join a coaching institute?
In my experience, people who don’t have a lot many other options, choose this line of career because there is a lot of uncertainty in this space.
They pay you well and there is flexibility but job insecurity is a factor we can’t ignore. Institutes prop up and fall, as well, like mushrooms. It all depends on the market. Today you may have thousands of students in your institute. But, it may not be the case the next year. Even if you are doing a good job and giving good result, the uncertainty of job conditions is a reality.
People who are Masters in Physics, Chemistry, Math or Biology will find it easy to get into such institutes. People who have done BTech from a good institute also stand a good chance. If you have completed your studies at IIT or other similar institutes, the entry is quite easy. If you have passed from IIT, etc. you may not have to give a demo class or go through their test procedures etc. It is almost a green card entry.
What have you observed about the students that enrol in such institutions? There is a general impression that parents force their children for such courses, is it true?
Every student is not wired to crack IIT exams and all students don’t aim for it as well. Parents need to understand this. They need to first talk to their children and understand what they want to do. Most people don’t do that. Nowadays, it is like a mandatory thing to appear for these exams.
Many children are forced into taking these classes. People who are associated with the institute will not want to have such conversations because this is a business. Even children who get 0 in scholarship exams (exams given before a seat is awarded to a child) will get a seat in such institutions. It is all about the money that comes in. Honestly, there is a lot of pressure in a class of 100 students. There are very good students and also children who do not understand anything that goes on in the class. Sorting out what the child needs is the parents’ responsibility.
When children who are unwilling to learn all this are present in your class, isn’t that added pressure on you too?
Yes, of course. Children who are unwilling won’t perform well. The teacher would chide them for not doing well. The Directors want everyone to do well. They only see statistics and numbers. Hence, they will pressurize the teachers and in turn, teachers will pressurize students. It becomes a vicious circle.
How expensive are these courses?
There is an entry test – All India Akash Talent test. Depending on your performance in that test, you are awarded a scholarship. The price that you pay at the institute depends on how you perform at this test.
For 0 scholarship students, the fees is about Rs. 1,15, 000/- and a person having max scholarship would pay about Rs. 85,000/. Offline coaching is quite expensive.
Does this kind of coaching actually make a difference in getting students into IIT institutes or does it depend more on the students? What is your observation?
Today the competition is very high. If you sit at home and study for 10-12 hours, it is not going to help you. If you have resources, study material, keep giving a good number of tests regularly and check your performance against some scale of parameter, then yes, you stand a chance even with home study. Even through online coaching classes, children can prepare and do well. But, IIT is a hard nut to crack.
Today, when you compare the style of teaching you are imparting now versus the style of teaching you have received in school, what are your thoughts?
Teaching in school is quite a relaxed process. The pressure is much less and also there is no compulsion to do every question accurately. Also, school-level exams are quite predictive. At school, all children have the scope of getting pass mark or above. The duration of each class in school is 45 mins to 1 hour.
When it comes to coaching, it is a different ball game altogether. The pressure is high. Class duration is a minimum of 1.5 to 2 hours. We go deep into concepts and subjects so that children understand it thoroughly. Also, we do a lot of application-based studies. There are a lot of questions that prop up, during these classes, which students may not experience in school.
So, are you saying that the quality of information imparted in coaching classes is higher than that offered in schools?
Not exactly. We go into the depths of concepts before moving into advanced levels. In school they don’t necessarily deep dive into the subject/concept. In coaching classes we cannot afford to do that because the questions can be highly varied. So, rote learning will not serve the purpose.
In school, on the other hand, they have lot more activities other than studies. We don’t do that. Also, coaching centres have at least three times the amount of time to cover portion than schools.
I am in no way criticizing school style of teaching; but the types of output expected from both places are different.
Thank you Mr Vinayak. Wish you all the best!