Preparing for the Olympiad is no easy task. For one thing, the syllabus is not very well defined; and second, the problems can be extremely hard to crack at times. All this calls for a very different approach than what a student might adopt for conventional competitive exams. This means not only being in the right mindset and maintaining the right temperament from day one, but also picking your resources with extreme care. Because the amount of time you spend drilling has not much to do with your chances of success, a deep, intuitive understanding is what the exam calls for.
This applies to the books as well. If you are not careful, you could end up spending a lot of time with no returns. This is the reason why we bring to you some pointers on selecting the right book for your Olympiad exam.
- Wide coverage: The book should cover a wide range of topics, and not just one or two of those required. The reason for this is simple: you don’t win the Olympiad by being very good in only one area. It is only by casting your net wider and studying all the areas involved, that you can hope for success.
- Depth of topics covered: As crucial as covering the full range of topics is, it is also very important that the subject matter is not given a shallow treatment. The reason is that the Olympiad depends fully on the extent of the student’s understanding of the topic, and that can be achieved only when the subject has been studied deeply.
- Reviews: What are the other students saying about the book? Check out the reviews and see what the strong and weak points of the book are. Read not only the good reviews, but also the bad ones, as these sometimes offer truly helpful insight. However, always take things with a pinch of salt, as most of the negative reviews are emotionally charged and devoid of sound reasoning.
There’s no better way than checking out the book yourself. Go to a bookstore and see what the book is like. Check if you like the writing style and approach of the authors, as these will have a lot of say in your interest-levels and success. To make things easier for you, we have come up with a special range of books directed at students preparing for the Olympiad. Don’t forget to have a look!
The education system in India though widespread, is not really as effective as we or even the government would want it to be. Many of our students seek admissions in institutions outside the country. And of course, more and more students seek admission in non-government schools. The ailments are many, as are the solutions. Lack of effective and trained teachers has been a perpetual pet peeve of many. Similarly, most of us keep complaining about lack of innovation in our schooling system or from the government bodies.
But, there are some exceptions. Just before visiting Delhi one time, I sent out emails to publishers that we wanted to tie up with so that we could fix meetings. One of those emails was sent to the workshop department of NCERT to locate and learn more about what they call school kits. One Mr Hari Gupta (head of the workshop department) wrote back mentioning that he was happy to meet.
After some logistics related conversations, we landed up to see Mr. Gupta a quarter hour late for the appointed time at 5.45pm on the particular day. We reached his office on time, but were told by the hangers on "Gupta sahab to bahut pehle ghar gaye" (Mr. Gupta has left for home long back). We were a bit disappointed, but still did call him on his cell phone. To our delight Mr. Gupta informed us that he will be back in his office in 10 minutes. We walked into his large almost typical government office and waited. The large desk had a PC, a printer and bunch of files, sheets of paper and all that you would expect. That is where the similarity with a babu's office ended. The other side of the large room had cupboards, and there were large desks with boxes, and laboratory equipment. Just that the laboratory equipment (pipettes, burettes, test tubes etc) seemed from liliputland. While we waited curious, Mr. Gupta showed up.
We spent time explaining what KOOLSKOOL was about and what we were setting out to do. Mr. Gupta's team designs, prototypes and manufactures (on a very small scale) Mathematics, and different science kits for schools. These include laboratory in a box which caters to four students at a time, molecular structure kits, advanced kits for higher classes. The chemistry kits have miniaturized equipment, made of readily available and cheaper material. e.g. the pipette is small soft transparent plastic affair. All the kits are based on experiments or concepts from the NCERT text books and ingeniously and simply implemented.
What surprised us pleasantly was that Mr. Gupta came back from home (in the NCERT campus) to meet us, and the amount of delight and pride that he took showing us what his lab was creating. The sheer childlike delight was heartening, as was his conversation (which we could not help over hearing) with an associate who got lectured about not being confident about pushing these kits. Mr. Hari Gupta truly does believe that he is serving the nation and it is his duty (being in the position that he is) to be ingenious and help education in our country. He believes, and wants all that is lab produces to follow the "3 H Principle". The Hs as Hand, "Hurt"(that is how Mr. Gupta pronounces Heart) and Head. Mr. Gupta says - "my kits should help a student use his hands, make education practical...should delight his heart, and get him to use his head"! Simple, and beautiful isn't it?
Mr. Gupta will launch an expression of interest type request, for manufacturers to come forward (from different parts of the country) to manufacture at scale what his laboratory prototypes. This man, does not want to patent his creations so as not to restrict free production. Though we feel not patenting will permit manufacturers to produce and deliver sub-standard product quality. But, that is a different discussion.
We just wish, there were many more Mr. Guptas in this country, and all related to education!
PS: Couple of related links