Education, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, is the manifestation of perfection already in people. At times people do require multiple opportunities to exhibit the perfection achieved through education. Vinit Nandanwar, the District Collector of Dantewada knows this perfectly well. Native of Bastar, Chhattisgarh, he was able to achieve success in arguably the world’s toughest exam for the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) in his fourth attempt. In his point of view, “everyone deserves a second chance to pursue their dreams, even if they fail, it shall never be a regret that there was a lack of opportunities for them”. With an innovation of ‘Second chance’ the district administration of Dantewada helped 47 students, who were to reappear in competitive exams after passing class 12th, to qualify for JEE Mains, JEE Advance, and NEET.
Dantewada, a district highly affected by Left-Wing Extremist (LWE) activities, has a tribal population of 74%. As per the census 2011, the overall literacy rate of the Dantewada district is 42%. Dantewada still lags far behind in terms of inspiring successful STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medical, and Mathematics) careers. The lack of literacy has also paved the way for educational improvisation in the region.
Choo lo Asman is an initiative of the Dantewada district that was started in 2011 to provide students of the Bastar region with an opportunity to compete with coaching-driven crowds of cities like Kota. Since the beginning, Choo lo Asman has shown remarkable results in making dreams come true for selected students. Batches of 80 boys and 80 girls, based on a district roster of 76% ST, 4% SC, 14% OBC, and 6% Unreserved, are selected every year from government schools to attend classes at Choo Lo Asman. With free schooling, coaching, and food, these students are taught on two different campuses for boys and girls. Intensive training of four years (9th-12th class) consists of regular problem-solving practices, mock tests, and quizzes alongside the course curriculum. Students are mostly engaged in preparation for competitive exams and school exams simultaneously.
For 12th-pass students, consisting mostly of students from the previous batch of Choo lo Asman who could not qualify for the competitive exam on their first attempt, a ‘Second-chance’ initiative was started in the same institute to focus only on the competitive exam. Thereby, extracting more results by providing ‘second chance’ students with an opportunity to prepare wholeheartedly for NEET/JEE under the mentorship of skilled teachers with a focused approach.
The objective of ‘Second-chance’ was to complement the efforts put up by the students in the reappearing year. Students generally faced the dual pressure of preparing for board exams as well as the inexperience of appearing in competitive exams. The 12th-pass students with their pre-acquired experience of appearing in the competitive exam know well their areas of improvement. They had a better chance of being successful in competitive exams. The ‘Second chance’ initiative also provides the space for the 12th-pass students to share their experience and knowledge with students appearing for the first time.
For the sustenance of the ‘second-chance’ batch, interested students were selected based on a qualifying test. There were dedicated teachers to take sessions for the ‘second chance’ students making them fully engaged toward their goal.
The innovation encompassed streamlining the system to gradually improve the performance of ‘second chance’ students. To achieve this, a structured curriculum was developed, ensuring comprehensive coverage of topics on a daily basis. Teachers were assigned responsibilities to ensure timely completion of the syllabus. Doubt-clearing sessions and course corrections were implemented at regular intervals. A well-defined exam schedule based on coverage of topics was established. All these modifications enabled students in preparing adequately and face competitive exams with greater confidence.
The performance of students as well as teachers was rigorously monitored by the school administration. The performance evaluations were discussed with the district administration during weekly meetings. The district collector himself frequently visited both campuses. Motivational and experience-sharing sessions were also conducted by the collector to charge the students for working hard. With the inspiring results in the first session itself, the ‘Second Chance’ has proven to be a replicable initiative.
The success of 47 students out of 64 from the ‘Second chance’ batch in comparison with 19 out of 131 students from the 12th class, shows the impact of this innovation. In the ‘second chance’ batch, the success rate for boys was 65% and 80% for girls. In perspective, only 21% of boys and 2.5% of girls were able to qualify from the rest of the students who appeared in competitive exams alongside their board exam from the Choo Lo Asman campus.
The same model is now being scaled up with online classes. Across 13 schools in the district, 1157 students (641 of 11th class and 516 of 12th class) are attending online classes for NEET/JEE. Of these 963 students are preparing for NEET and 194 for JEE. The initiative has the potential to inculcate desiring students from nearby districts as well.
To further scale up, multiple centers can be dedicated to students preparing for NEET/JEE. ‘Second chance’ students can also be motivated to participate in other competitive exams. The idea of competitive examination readiness can be replicated in other competitive exams such as Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), National Defense Academy (NDA), and Common University Entrance Test (CUET).
With all-around efforts by the students, teachers, and district administration, it has been proven that ‘Second chance’ can make dreams come true. All it needs is the zest from all the stakeholders to provide an opportunity and space for deserving candidates.