The COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult time for students as all schools, colleges and coaching centres were closed. Despite several challenges, Aakash Institute continued to provide quality education through online classes and guided all aspiring students. During an interaction with Orissa POSTfounder of Zindagi Foundation and Director of Aakash Institute, Ajay Bahadur Singh, spoke about the challenges and the institute’s initiatives to meet them.

What were the facilities Aakash Institute provided during the pandemic?

The pandemic has completely changed our education system. Digital teaching evolved and teachers prepared themselves accordingly. At Aakash, we offered maximum educational facilities during the pandemic. We started online classes from April 2, 2020 when everything was under lockdown. We were probably the first institute in Odisha to completely go digital during the lockdown. We provided all students e-books through links. We also introduced i-tutor programme under which lectures for one year were provided online.

What are the major demerits of online teaching?

It’s really tough for underprivileged students to keep pace with online classes. First of all, many of them can’t afford a smartphone. Since most of them are from rural areas, it became difficult if they didn’t have proper network facilities in their areas. Let me give you an example of Roshan Paik, a student of Zindagi Foundation. He is a son of daily labourer from a remote area of Sambalpur. During lockdown, when he returned home, he couldn’t attend online classes. We tried to provide him a smart phone but we couldn’t reach him as his father’s number was unreachable. The could not afford to recharge the phone. By the grace of god, he didn’t lose hope and worked harder and achieved success.

Which is the best medium of education, online or offline?

See, it is impossible to replace offline learning. Classroom learning always helps students to focus and concentrate. In offline classes, teachers can make eye contact with students and can judge how much they are grasping. Facial expression of students helps teachers modify their way to deliver lecture. Online classes and classroom education will co-exist. But I can say that students now need more online facilities along with offline classes.

Motivation is necessary. How did Aakash Institute motivate students?

Yes, students need to be motivated to perform well. Aakash Institute did a wonderful job to motivate students. Our students interacted with most distinguished personalities like noted authors of Concept of Physics professor HC Verma, founder of Super 30 Anand Kumar, Google Boy Kautilya Pandit and also experts from other countries. We did everything possible during the lockdown to keep our students motivated.

What is your opinion on students of Odisha?

Well, I noticed that students from Odisha are well-mannered. As compared to other states, I personally found that students of Odisha are more hardworking, disciplined and cultured. Earlier most of the students of the state thought of clearing entrance examination only at Odisha level. But now we are encouraging them to compete at national level. Now we give them more exposure to do well in national level competitions like JIMPER, AIIMS and JEE. In fact, we have produced All India first rank holder in JIMPER, 4th and 6th rank in AIIMS from Odisha. Also, three of our students have secured top 100 in JEE Mains. Aakash Institute has created a platform for students so that they can receive proper education and guidance to compete in national level. Now, students are getting opportunities to study in reputed educational institutes, even abroad.

The competition is getting tougher, what is your advice for aspiring students?

No goal is tough if you keep working on it with proper guidance and focus. As competition is getting tough, we continue to upgrade our study material and course curriculum to keep students ready for challenges. Also, our teachers make sure that students focus on learning and mastering the subject rather than worrying too much about the competition. At Aakash Institute, we always focus on making the concept clear to students so that they completely understand the topic and are reading to answer any twisted questions. If students understand the topic well, they can face any tough competition.

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