“GATE preparation itself makes students better engineers,” says Dr Indrani Kelkar, GateForum

 A postgraduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), and PhD from Mahila University, Tirupati, Dr Indrani Kelkar, spoke to PaGaLGuY about GATE, and how to prepare for it. She has been working with GateForum for the last six years, and is currently the Assistant Vice President of Academics. 
Being an expert in the education industry, with an experience of over 30 years, she also spoke about how the country’s education system is changing. Excerpts from the interview.

What part  of GATE exam do students find most challenging?

Most challenging questions in GATE exam are – numeric questions, combination questions from two or more topics, and also when there is no specific sequence of topics in which questions appear in the exam. Preparation for these can be done by solving lots of such type questions from previous years GATE papers, online mocks using the virtual calculator facility, and practice tests.

Majority of JEE aspirants aim for IIT Bombay, is it any different for GATE aspirants. 

GATE aspirants aim for the Indian Institute for Science (IISc), as it is the top ranked institute for higher studies and research, followed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B).

You were a lecturer before joining GateForum. How difficult is it to design the academic structure for coaching students vs college students? 

In college, the structure is well-planned by university itself, as most of the data like number of working days, hours, and credits per topic, etc are specified, and common to all by the university. The college has to only plan weekly time-table and lecture plan. Each class is for maximum one hour, and about seven lectures everyday. Student enrolment is one time, attendance is monitored, and valued for eligibility to write exams.
In GATE coaching, only weekend classes are to be planned and enrolment of students is continuous. So sequence of topics to be taught, number of hours to be allotted is an important part of planning. Everyday, the faculty needs to give at least seven to eight hours of lectures. They need a strong knowledge base and motivation capacity. Also, the class has a lot of diversity, including third and final year engineering students, working professionals etc, and so, another task for the faculty is to satisfy all of them.

One advice for GATE aspirants.

Take GATE exam as a chance to learn engineering concepts in depth. Learn their applications well, so that future education or professional experience, is based on a better foundation. GATE exam also opens the gate for private engineering college students to join India’s prestigious institutes like IITs, IISc for higher studies.

Parents and students in India have a single-minded approach to education and that is academic excellence. Do you feel that only following such a strategy prepares a student for life outside of and after academics?

No, especially GATE strategies like practicing only previous year’s question papers does not work as repetition of those questions is a rare chance. Moreover, GATE questions are based on applications of engineering concepts, which needs thorough understanding and good explanation by expert faculty. Coaching in GATE demands faculty to have a strong grasp of the fundamentals. They must have the ability to make students understand the concepts very well so that the application part is understood even at the time of the exam.
 GATE preparation itself makes students better engineers, to be fit for life as professionals. Those who qualify GATE exhibit deeper understanding and perform better in higher studies at the best institutes or at jobs in PSUs.

How do you see the education system developing in the future?

When we see the importance of exams like GATE growing day by day, naturally students from private institutes are motivated to be better from second year of engineering itself. Technology driven by concepts in basic sciences and engineering will lead to real development. Exam oriented and marks oriented learning is shifting to knowledge oriented learning which is more profound and strong. One common entrance exam like GATE for all engineers across India should make all technical and engineering institutes fall in line for syllabus, knowledge delivery, assessment etc. It seems that the same will slowly happen with other entrance tests, which will nullify the ill-effects of today’s education system in a way.