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IISWBM IAS Study Centre - A review

NOTE: I am not certain, but I strongly suspect that [as of August 2007] IISWBM IAS Coaching Centre in Kolkata has been wrapped up.

A little known fact about IISWBM is that it is India's first Management Training (MBA) institute, founded in the year 1953. I was rather fortunate to be a member of the institute during its Golden Jubilee celebrations, and I fondly remember the big birthday bash of IISWBM held at the Science City on the 25th of April 2003. Situated behind the famous Calcutta University and Presidency College in the prestigious College Street area, it is a stone's throw from Hindu Hostel which prominently proclaims in its main-gate that Rajendra Prasad, the first President of independent India, had spent a part of his student life there.

I first saw and met IISWBM in early August 2002, during a rain washed afternoon of the monsoons, which had lavishly filled two shallow rooftop pools. As I spent some time at that charming spot, milling with a handsome crowd, I fell in love with the institute and promised myself that I shall come here for IAS training. Thereafter we met the Director1, after some waiting, and who gave us a lot of time. We were impressed with the infrastructure, and after talking with the director, we were impressed with the 'human capital'. A few more months, and I found myself a member of this old institution.

So, what are the good points of this institution:

  • Being a management institute, it will enamour you with its looks, and when you compare it with other academic environs, it will surely strike you. The floors are clean, the walls are white washed, the chairs are not broken, the toilets are squeaky, and there is no shortage of water.

  • On paper, you can opt for any subject as an optional. So, unlike most institutes which only gives a few subjects, it offers a larger basket of choice.

  • And the most important factor is that it has a large section in the library for civil services- the collection of books is really large.

If you are already starry eyed, let me help you come back to earth. The institute, being a management institute, is really well maintained- it is really clean - no complaints. Let's take the case of choice of subjects.

All reputed institutes offer only a few subjects because they have expertise in only those subjects- a blind foray into unexplored options might bring down their brand equity, about which they should be very jealous. Through the years they have gained priceless experience in those subjects, and hence they feel confident about advertising about those subjects. If an upstart institute advertises mindless choice of optionals as its USP, it better maintain its claim. Now, let us see how this institute manages its faculty. Every year it acquires a new faculty from various colleges and universities. Also, a few of the faculty are former civil servants. Some of the faculty are from reputed colleges- for example, last year they had someone from Presidency College, and the year before that they had someone from Jadavpur University. But the IAS syllabus is not the university syllabus, nor they exams conducted the same way. They call for different sort of practice, answering, merit. Someone from a university, without any initiation into the competitive exam regime (and mind you, this is the most difficult competitive exam), no matter how renowned he might be in the university fora, might not be a good choice. But someone, even with a modest degree, can be a genuinely good teacher if he has thought about the syllabus, studied it properly, collected material and teaches properly, inspiring the students to succeed. Motivation management should come instinctively, interaction should be maximum, and the teacher should lead the students to practice more and more- the only road to civil service success. About IISWBM, I can only say- alas! And as they keep changing the faculty from year to year, the teaching gets no experience. According to a newspaper article, the institute, which has been running for the last decade or so, has churned out a measly number of about half a dozen successful candidates. Last year there was only one who succeeded at the Prelims level.

Yes, the library has a good section on civil services. Unfortunately, a large amount of shelf space is occupied with outdated books, which are totally useless. There are  a lot of really good books, most of them costly, but totally superfluous so far as the syllabi is concerned. A very large number of books have never been issued! A very large number of books which could be of use are rendered useless by being disallowed for issue- so they rot in the library shelves, unread, unappreciated. And while books are bought, they do not reach the library shelves. For example, the department bought the 2003 GS Prelims Manual back in January; it reached the shelf in October, months after the Prelims was over, and just days before the batch was to retire. From the books that the department keeps buying, it is obvious that there is no lack of finances. Only if they could use the money to buy proper books, and get them to the students who could benefit from them! (You can issue two books for a period of two weeks from the library).

Tests are held seldom. Only one full fledged GS test was organised before the Prelims. No full fledged optional test was held! The status with the Mains preparations is even more pitiable.

Thus, unless the institute arranges for worthy permanent faculty, arranges for good material and makes them available to the students, and regularly tests them on the skills acquired, the institute is moribund. I cannot recommend this institute to anyone, unfortunately.

A few facts: There are two batches in a year, one in the month of December, on in the month of June-July. The course fee last year was Rs.8000, plus Rs.2000 refundable library deposit. For reserved candidates, the course fee is half of that (in fact, last year the full course fee was returned to the reserved candidates).

Written: 4th and 5th of December, 2003.



1. February 2007, right after my Bharat Darshan [I had become an IAS by this time] I was in the locality and thought I would pay a visit to the centre. I enquired about the Director and I was told that while the centre has been wrapped up, the Director of the centre still takes management classes. I tried to seek him out and was fortunate to find him right in front of me. I called out after him and accosted the gentleman. It was one of the coldest receptions I received. I told him that I had finally made it. He said that he knows, that he had read my name in some list in some newspaper, or something. He showed a terrible hurry for a class he said he needed to take. Probably I was one among the two or three successful candidates that this centre could pretend to have 'produced', and this was the reception I receive in that place. I was thankful that the centre had wrapped up. This centre and its organizers need no more torture the hopes and aspirations of gullible students...
[Updated: August 2007]



IAS 2007 - Mains Final Results


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Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ
Various Civil Services in India
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Mistakes I Made
Prelims - Choice of Subjects
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Social Background of IAS Officers
Limited Usefulness of Coaching Institutes
Nation Civil Service - A Critical Review
Good Governance - A Distant Dream
IAS as Career Option for IITians
What Ails Civil Services?


IISWBM Coaching Centre - A review
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