Test prep in education: Helping students gain new opportunities

Continuing from our first blog post in this three-part series, we look at how test prep organizations are making a difference to the academic and professional opportunities that are open to students—thereby enabling them to fulfil their aspirations and gain success.

Understanding the role that test preparation solutions play in creating a level playing field, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has invested in three organizations that provide underprivileged students with innovative and accessible test prep solutions—Avanti, Online Tyari, and Edutel. While Avanti delivers coaching for the IIT-Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), India’s common engineering entrance examination, Online Tyari is a mobile app providing learning solutions for entrance exams for government jobs, and Edutel targets high-quality learning outcomes in board exams and state college entrance exams for government school students through its satellite based technology solution. Millions of students are impacted by these organizations’ centers, platforms and technologies. In this blog, I explore the journeys of some of these students to trace how these innovative test prep solutions are enabling their success.

A foundation for an aspirational future

A student at IIT-Kanpur, Kalpit Yadav remembers how Avanti brought high quality coaching for IIT-JEE at a fraction of the cost charged by other providers to Kanpur. In the past, students typically needed to migrate to large metros for quality coaching.

When asked how Avanti helped him prepare better, he points to its pedagogy, “I really liked that the teachers at Avanti were very hands-on. Since class sizes were small, we received individual attention. They also used innovative techniques, like videos, which we could later use at home.” He added, “Earlier I used to be dependent on teachers. With Avanti, I got into the practice of studying on my own.”

Did Avanti’s test prep solutions make a measurable difference to his education and life? The answer was a resounding “yes”, as Kalpit is currently a student at IIT- Kanpur, one of the most prestigious engineering institutes in India where he pursues electrical engineering. Moreover, Kalpit finds the holistic experience and exposure at IIT to be enriching, and believes that an IIT degree would drastically improve his job prospects and family’s income. He is looking forward to completing his Masters soon and joining Avanti’s alumni mentorship program to coach other aspiring college-goers.

Towards a better life

In a completely different setting, but also in a similar pursuit of excellence, Edutel’s satellite network based education solution helps students in government schools across remote towns and villages in Karnataka gain access to quality education. The organization’s technology solution affordably connects expert teachers in central studios as they broadcast lessons to students in thousands of schools.

One such institution is the local government school in Somayajalahalli village, in Kolar, Karnataka. Here, Sirisha S, a student in class XI, recollects using Edutel’s supplementary classes to score 96 percent in her grade ten state board exams. She told us, “In the Edutel class, the teachers showed us science experiments that were not possible in our own classroom, due to lack of infrastructure.”

She highlighted the fact that English grammar and conversations became easier to grasp with teachers demonstrating exercises live. Another star student like her, Sharada V. from Nesaragi, Belgaum, also credits Edutel’s in-depth, innovative teaching for her score of 99 percent in English and 100 percent in Math, in grade ten.

In Sirisha’s own words, “When we listen, we often forget, but when we see something visually in images, we can grasp it, and retain it in our memory.” Her learning continues to open doors to a better future, and according to her, she will now study further and become a doctor. In Somayajalahalli, where her parents never went to school, that is a vision for a better life.

It is this hope of a better life that inspires millions of young people in India to aspire for government jobs. Here too, test preparation becomes critical, as the route to such career opportunities is through competitive exams.

Making opportunities equally accessible

It is this hope of a better life that inspires millions of young people in India to aspire for government jobs. Here too, test preparation becomes critical, as the route to such career opportunities is through competitive exams. Online Tyari’s mobile app is designed to help them—delivering customized, vernacular test prep content over low Internet bandwidths, helping applicants prepare for entrance exams.

Neha Kumari, from Jharkhand, is one such applicant who used this online app when preparing for the SSC CGL exam that recruits staff for various government posts. She vouches that the app is immensely useful, and recollects, “I studied using Online Tyari’s current affairs section and the English section with its vocabulary exercises.” The results are self-evident. Today Neha works with Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), one of the largest steel producers in India.

She aims to join the Income Tax department next, and is depending on Online Tyari again, to take her through the SSC CGL exam, even as she lives and works in remote Burnpur, a small town in West Bengal. She further said, “With this app, I can study anywhere. I don’t have to search for materials physically. I feel I’ve also earned respect by being a working woman.”

Test prep solutions like these are making study resources accessible to students, wherever they might be and whatever their socio-economic background, and in turn creating a level playing field. Kalpit, Sirisha, Sharada, and Neha, are leveraging these solutions to break the cycle of urban poverty and create a better life for themselves and their families—reaching their goals one dream at a time.

In the final post in this series, these test prep providers will discuss their innovative business models further and share their vision for the future.