Anand Kumar and Super 30 – Changing lives through education

I am not very rich but from a middle class family but still I want to be involved in making a change in this world. There has been time when my family has had its brushes with poverty so this is personal. What would bring a person out of poverty?

My answer and inspiration was Anand Kumar and his Super 30.

Anand Kumar, an Indian mathematician and educator, is recognized not only for his academic achievement but also for his efforts to give poor Indian students the opportunity to learn and attend school. Although Anand came from a simple family, he was a talented student, and was offered admission to study at Cambridge but could not attend due to finances. Despite this, he started teaching in 1992, gaining over 500 students within 3 years, but most of his students coming from families that could afford the tuition. However, his own humble background gave him an understanding of the need to provide education to those living in poverty, so that they would have the same chance as their more affluent peers.

Video: Documentary on Anand Kumar and Super 30

To address this problem, in 2002 he founded the Super 30 as part of his own institute, the Ramanujan School of Mathematics. The school is a family affair, his mother cooks food for the students and his brother provides management while Anand does the tutoring. The students live at the school and prepare to take college entrance exams that will open the doors to a brighter future. But this reward does not come easily as a student at the school may spend as many as 15 hours a day studying and attending class. For many of these students, it will be their only chance to receive a quality education and the opportunity for a better life.

It is a simple concept, but the Super 30 has gained international notoriety. Each year, the school holds a competition in mathematics to determine the top 30 potential students who have economic need and scholastic ability, and then grants them full tuition, materials and lodging for a year at the school. What makes this program so unique is that Anand Kumar funds the students entirely from earnings through the Ramanujan Institute, which charges full tuition to other students. Although various agencies have offered to assist he always refused money from government or private sources, preferring to fund it through his own efforts. He also provides personal tutoring and test preparation for the Super 30 to ensure a high pass rate on entrance examinations, which he has achieved with over 280 students passing since the program’s inception.

However, even after passing the exam some poorer students will not share their success, preferring to keep it a secret. In some Indian communities the social structure does not encourage success from the poorest segments, and others may give them a hard time. Nonetheless, the opportunity is so great that very few are deterred, and each year thousands of Indian students take the test to become one of the Super 30. Simply by gaining access to Anand and his school, a student has a very high probability of passing the entrance exam to one of India’s most prestigious schools, the Indian Institute of Technology.

The personal effort and sacrifice by Anand Kumar have paid off well in terms of the Super 30 student success. For example, from 2008-2010 all 30 of Anand’s students passed the IIT-JEE, considered one of the hardest college entrance exams in the world. This rate of success attracted the attention of media outlets, celebrities and world leaders, all of whom praise his work to give educational opportunity to the economically challenged, but very talented students from his school. In addition to his work with students, Anand Kumar is a recognized mathematician, recently winning the Ramanujan Mathematics Award in 2014 and publishing various papers in international journals.

In 2011, Monocle a magazine published in England, named him one of the top 20 pioneering teachers in the world. The same year, Focus magazine in Europe recognized Anand as one of the global personalities who have the ability to shape talented people. He has stated that he never dreamed that his work with underprivileged but talented children would win him awards. He was ‘just happy to help them chase their dreams.’

There are many articles written about Anand Kumar and his Super 30 and he has been featured on BBC and Discovery programs detailing his work with the Super 30. Many people find inspiration from his work and as Success magazine noted in 2012, ‘Charity isn’t only about providing money to the needy, it is more about enlightening people with your knowledge and your skills.’ This is perhaps the greatest contribution that the humble mathematician will make; to motivate others to give of their passion and efforts to improve the lives of those living in poverty.

I don’t need to be a billionaire.
All I need to do is show some compassion and take action.
Do what I can in any small way I can.

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Super 30