In the mid-1990s Mumbai, joining an engineering college within the state meant doing well in your board exams only, whereas joining an IIT meant giving entrance exams as well as doing well in your boards. This made prep difficult, and Maharashtra’s students did not want to risk failing both exams, hence they did not concentrate much on IIT JEE.
During this period, Praveen Tyagi, a student at IIT Delhi, came to Mumbai for an internship at BARC in 1997. Fond of tutoring since childhood, he realized that Mumbai’s engineering aspirants did not attempt IIT JEE as they were unable to get the required coaching. Taking this up as a challenge, he came back to Mumbai after graduating to start PACE in 1999 and follow up on his passion for teaching.
Tyagi credits this passion to his father, who instilled a love for education early in his life. He had grown up in challenging times, and his father continued his education in the face of family opposition. He states that his father considered education to be a foundation on which children could succeed in life whichever way they wanted. After making it to IIT-D, Tyagi met his own expenses and fees by coaching students in his spare time.
Since PACE began in 1999, engineering education in India has undergone a sea change. Entrance exams are mandatory for all engineering colleges, hundreds of new colleges have cropped up, more specializations and new syllabuses have come in, and age old teaching methods have been updated to match industry standards. While this has been a boon in some ways, ensuring that more students are able to join engineering, it is also a challenge navigating through the waters of engineering education as it is today.
“Both parents & students are aware of current trends across the ecosystem. If a student is not able to get into an IIT, they are aware that NITs and other institutes are also there, which are equally good. Parents do make wise choices and play a role in defining their child’s future, but in the end, it is the child’s call too,” Tyagi states, when asked about the pressures the education system forces on students.
Tyagi gets miffed when talking about the JEE itself. “The IITs and CBSE conduct the entrance exam just once a year. They have enough time to get everything right, yet errors get in. This is not fair to students who have studied hard for years to get there. The exam operators should also respond to the students’ fears and queries regarding the issues. This much is owed to a student who stands to lose a year thanks to their mistakes,” he explains.
An innovator who tries to stay one step ahead all the time, Tyagi came up with the idea of starting integrated coaching in Mumbai in 2008. When commuting occupies a large chunk of a student’s day, integrated coaching ensures that regular college classes and exam coaching happen in the same place, reducing the places a student has to reach in order to learn everything.
Having spent over a decade and a half teaching students, Tyagi is proud of what he has achieved. His students regularly best the city and state lists of toppers in JEE, and his institute, PACE, is one of the largest coaching institutes in Mumbai. He continues to look for ways to innovate and improve the learning process for his students all the time.