Published: 28th April 2021
Here's how Jobin Kottaram is helping out IAS aspirants take the exams in their own languages
In 2010, Jobin Kottaram set up Absolute IAS Academy to help students from financially backward areas get guidance in their own languages in order to get a fair chance
Jobin S Kottaram was an aspirant himself when he had his first run-in with the civil services. In 2008, the streets of Kochi were not lined with IAS coaching centres as they are now. And he believes that it was that lack of guidance that cost him the two marks that he missed clearing it by. It was not easy to pick himself up but when he did, he decided to lift a segment of struggling students along with him by setting up Absolute IAS Academy (as it is known now) just two years later.
He says, “We all come into the social services with a hope to help society in some way or the other. Even while I was preparing for the exams, I would take classes for other students on the side. Initially, it started as a hobby where I would teach Malayalam, the optional subject. It was through the positive response of my students that I learnt that this was my actual calling.”
Keeping it regional
While students have had the option to attempt the exams in their regional languages since 1964, most students are unaware of the option. At the beginning of his career, Jobin would devote hours away from his studies to develop a translated alternative to the guidebooks that were almost always in English. So he wrote a guidebook in the optional Malayalam subject for those students who had lost out on opportunities because of the language barrier.
CLASS ACT: Jobin's classes are available on YouTube
“I had met some of the most brilliant minds who had come from rural parts of the state,” says Jobin, “While they had impeccable talent, one of the problems they faced was language. Yes, they spoke English but how could you pit that against a student from a private school in Delhi? What are their chances going to be like? It just isn't a level playing field to begin with. And what made it worse was that even if they knew they could attempt the exams in Malayalam, all the guidebooks we have available are in English.”
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One book in, Jobin knew that he had a golden opportunity in front of him — to make the civil services more accessible to deserving students. He decided to take it slow and every day, he would dedicate at least ten hours to understanding each topic and translating it into the regional language with the meaning intact. By 2018, he had developed 25 learning materials for the civil services in Malayalam. He also offers simplified videos on various concepts on his YouTube channel and via Telegram.
The Butterfly Effect
Jobin says, “One major issue plaguing the student community is that they don't know enough about what they deserve. There is almost no awareness about benefits like scholarship programmes. So I began explaining such programmes and their eligibility criteria so that more students could avail them.”
He continues, “During one of these sessions, I also mentioned how differently-abled students can also attempt the civil services. One particular student, who was wheelchair-bound, called me to ask about it. He had wandered government offices in search of a scholarship programme for students like him only to be told that none were available. Here, I discovered another glaring gap and so, I worked towards changing that as well.”
ALL IN: The academy has been training students in all subjects since 2018
Under the Chitrashalabham (Butterfly) programme, Jobin conducts civil services training classes that would ordinarily cost more than a lakh, for free. Currently, he has chosen 25 students as part of the programme. And much to his own surprise, the students emerged as toppers in his classes. More recently, he has also introduced the One Rupee IAS Project that offers training services for just a rupee. Why the cost at all? “I just don’t want anyone to think this is charity,” he clarifies.
Since 2018, Absolute IAS Academy has been training students in all subjects, in addition to the additional subject. More than 100 students have passed out of his classroom so far. Jobin says, “Even though I never got into the civil services myself, it all makes sense to me now. Yes, it hurt then that I lost out by such a small margin. But I have learnt from whatever mistakes I had made then. And knowing that has helped me guide so many other students who have deserved that rank more than anything.”