Published: 04th January 2019
Shankar IAS Academy ensures that civil services aspirants are well-equipped to crack the exams
More than 900 of Shankar IAS Academy's students are IAS or IPS officers in all states and IFS officers in 27 countries
What does it take to serve the country? What does it take to serve as a civil servant? Shankar IAS Academy, one of the most reputed popular coaching institutes in India, seems to have the answers to these questions. Why else do you reckon they have expanded from Tamil Nadu to other states and have more than 3,000 students in their various classes. So, we sat down for a chat with Dr Vaishnavi Shankar during TNIE’s Indian Education Fair 2018 in Dubai to speak to her about how the late Shankar Devarajan started the academy, about embracing digital technology and why people will continue to aspire for civil services. Excerpts:
Could you tell us how Shankar IAS Academy began and how far you have come?
Shankar appeared for the Civil Service exams from 2001 onwards. He attempted the Mains three times, which is when he thought of starting the academy. He was a very passionate teacher who used to teach Geography particularly well. So, we started this academy in our home state of Tamil Nadu in 2004. Today, we have 3,000 students and we are stepping into our 15th year of existence. We also offer coaching for TNPSC, banking exams and the staff selection commission. The subjects have diversified with the programmes and the strength of the institution has also grown. We have around 50 faculty members and we have our own infrastructure like video conferencing facilities and two-way interactive classes. So right now, we are going in the direction of online classes. We are also present in Karnataka, Kerala and have branches in Tamil Nadu, in cities like Salem, Madurai, Tiruchy and Coimbatore. Slowly, we are expanding. The Andhra Pradesh Government is sending students to us and so is the Central Government from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
More than 900 of their students are IAS or IPS officers in all states and IFS officers in 27 countries
How are you going digital?
We have websites exclusively for current affairs called iasparliament.com and there is tnpscthervupettagam.com for TNPSC as well. We have a YouTube channel running separately. There is also Civilspedia, a video journal for civil services aspirants which is on YouTube. We have a mobile app through which students receive schedules, events, question papers and they can even take up online tests. We have tied up with Brainvalley, an online testing platform, so once the course is over, we offer about 25 tests through it.
Do you think that the prestige that was attached to UPSC is still intact?
Today, if you look at our classrooms, there are several students from rural backgrounds which means the awareness has been created. Also, there are several engineers, doctors and lawyers as well. Even these students still think that there is power and prestige attached to it. In some of the centres, like at Adyar, Chennai, some students join us because they are bored with their IT jobs and really need a change. Money doesn’t matter to them, it’s about power and prestige. Like Anu Kumari, last year’s second rank holder, she was working for ten years and then, she got into civil services.
Do you also have counselling?
We offer mentorship, wherein, individual attention will be given to students and all the doubts they have will be answered. Also, the peer group is strong and supportive. We hand-hold them through the test services and we make sure that they remain motivated. Also, there are options like state services and bank exams which they can try if UPSC doesn’t work out.
Dr Vaishnavi says that one needs to have a complete understanding of subjects rather than treating them as mere facts
What are the pre-requisites for a job in civil services?
It is about understanding the place and the world where you are. Overall, the examination tests all your skills. At the preliminary level, it tests your precise knowledge. At the Mains level, if you don’t understand the question, you won’t be able to answer, which brings in the analytics ability. Then, there are essay questions as well. So, it completely tests your knowledge, understanding, rationality and more. So, the exam tests all that a bureaucrat needs to have.
What is your advice for aspirants?
Shankar would always say that anybody who wants to prepare for the examination should have common sense, which is not very common. Along with this, if you are down to Earth and can understand a subject in its totality, that’s when you are ready. It’s not about getting the highest marks or a gold medal in your university. Even an average student from a rural background can clear the examinations but only if they have the right strategy to approach the exams. Be rational, use your common sense and you should be fine.
For more on them, click on shankariasacademy.com