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Sunday, May 14, 2006

IITs: Myths and Miseries

Indian Institute of Technology is considered a brand name and the stamp of IIT is known to give access to better opportunities in both job and higher studies. The recent debate about increasing reservations at IIT and IIM has generated a lot of press. I have had written a few blogs expressing my strong opposition to the move, and the crux of the argument was that one must impart the capability to compete, the knowledge and aptitude to do well and select only the most meritorious irrespective of caste and religion. I realize now that one of the reasons why people think getting an IIT degree through reservations means anything is because they do not perceive a reality that most of us IITians know and agree upon. This reality is that the most important contribution of IIT system is having a Joint Entrance Examination, which helps them to select students who have good grasp of basic sciences and excellent speed and accuracy in solving mathematical problems.

IITs are not the best schools in the world in terms of either infrastructure or research or teaching resources. They cannot be, given the severe financial handicap imposed on them, primarily due to the huge dependence on government, and secondly because the system of both industrial and government funding is not as evolved as in the developed countries. We IITians know it for a fact that our most bankable attribute is not the education we received at IITs (even though it is perhaps the best we can get in India, though might be substandard compared to the world's best schools). Our most important quality is not what we learnt at IITs, but the fact that we are coming into the institutes through one of the toughest entrance examinations in the world. The brotherhood that prevails in IIT alumni is due to the recoginition of the fact that each one came through his toil and intellect. All the respect foreign universities and companies as well as the Indian industry has for an IIT engineer is based on the belief that these students represent the best of the lot. There is a self-confidence and belief in his intellectual ability propels an IITian to succeed in achieving his career goals. This belief is the reason why so many IITians have turned into successful enterprenuars.

Being an IITian helps one because people associate a certain minimum intellect with the graduates. But after coming to US, I realize how backward our laboratories (most of them) are compared to the facilities available here. In fact, IITs cannot even compete with the universities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and China in terms of both the research fundings and equipments available. For first few decades the IITs were primarily undergraduate institutions, but in recent years the number of seats for M. Techs and PhDs have been increased disproportionately in comparision to the resources available. Hence while undergraduates continue to garner the best jobs available, the PhDs from IITs are considered no good, just because they do their research work under severe handicaps in terms of facilities. IITians are often accused of leaving the country for greener pastuares, and one big reason for that (till recently) was a lack of equivalent opportunities in the country.

IITs are in severe need of good faculty. But given the amount of money available for a starting researcher, and the pay scale which cannot compete with any private sector job (its factor of four to five times lower even in Indian company comparison) means that people like me cannot rationalize moving back to India and teaching there. This is a serious issue, for without recruiting the best researchers and teachers, IITs cannot progress to become better research universities and their PhDs will be considered sub-standard even in comparison to other Asian countries. It is well-known that being government servants, the payscales of professors will remain dismal. For some of us who are willing to overlook the payscales, the absence of assured research funding and lack of world class resources make IITs as schools we would love to teach at, but will perhaps never teach at.

The IIT system still sells, as it procures the best product at the age of seventeen and eighteen, and provides these selected people four years of good grounding. This grounding is actually most useful in terms of non-academic changes that it brings to the individual. Since parents and society already recognize that you are brilliant, IITs allow us nerds to discover our artistic, altruistic and creative selves. The competition in anything we do is severe, and keeps the students driven to become the achievers in their fields. Only they who come to IIT on their own merit can profit from the extracurricular scene, the competitive edge and the respect reserved for they who know how to do exceptionally well. Since the calibre of students is good, teachers can afford to teach almost anything, or just give it as an assignment to figure on your own. So eventhough the resources are bad, in terms of what is taught, the level remains pretty good, but it is nothing compared to the grilling one undergoes just to get in.

The best engineers don't necessarily graduate from IITs. After graduation from engineering, the hierarchy of merit does not have IITians at the top, though in a distribution, they might still turn out to predominate list of the smartest (if exit exams are conducted, and of course, criterion of merit, howsoever flawed, is some examination, like JEE). The ones who are not as good as the non-IIT counterparts soon face stiff competition in real world, where again your ability and intellect is the only attribute that means anything. There is an astounding amount of peer pressure on every IITian, and this can be handled well by only those who possess the requisite determination, motivation and mathematical prowess as their counterparts. So be it DASA students (who come through SAT) or the quota students (who may be admitted even though they are lower on merit), they are traumatized more than they are benefitted here. IITians are always against a huge expectation from family, their research advisors in schools, their bosses in companies and their peers, and believe me this requires students who have come this far based on certain work ethic, certain intellectual stamina, certain ability, certain confidence that is achieved only by them who succeed in JEE. Of course, anyone with right combinations of these abilities, will rise to the top, irrespective of whether he studied what and where. In debates like these, we talk about averages and not exceptions and please base your comments on the generalized apects of "meritocracy" and elitism of IITs.

So while the current IITs suffer from both lack of infrastructure and hardships in hiring world class faculty, it is ridiculous to upgrade other universities and brand them as IIT. An astute management recognizes the need to maintain and upgrade quality, our government that lives off political powerplay panders more to its vote banks than to rational thinking, and hence the talk of renaming many other schools as IITs. It is hard for me to understand how our so called highly educated ministers and the bureaucracy that prides itself on their intellectual ability fail to see the real problems with our IIT system, and on a broader scale with the whole education system. If India really wants to become a developed nation, we need to improve the facilities at our temples of higher education. Neither reservation, nor renaming colleges nor diminishing research grants is going to help us. Rather these pose threat to the very brandname that they want to exploit.

Another aspect of IITs is that they need to evolve out of the initial organizational hiearchy that was established fifty years ago. This involves both the way in which government controls these centers of learning and how the promotions, recruiting and workload of professors is assigned and managed. A recent issue is of hiring inbred faculty, i.e. PhDs from IIT itself being hired into the same department. This is contrary to what most advanced schools practice, and the simple reason is that it is by hiring faculty with rich and diverse backgrounds that a school can get fresh ideas and be dynamic and progressive. Of course, hiring real quality people requires a plethora of changes in the system.

I think as the alumni of these esteemed intitutes, we owe the responsibility to our alma mater to maintain their standards. A few alumni have donated large sums to schools to build new labs and departments. I believe we need to have a board of alumni who work with the board of directors of IITs to rationalize alumni funding and spending. For years I have faught against the charges of brain drain, and I sincerely want each alumni to pay off the IIT system whatever the government has spent on our education. This will allow the current IITs a constant source of funding, and improve facilities, etc. A special fund needs to be set up to encourage world class researchers to settle and work at IITs. This, in fact, would be done best with industry giants start a series of sponsored chair positions of research in different IITs.

Some of the existing departments need to be revamped. In response to the research focus and problems, all Chemical Engineering schools in US have hired lot of faculty in bioengineering research and renamed their departments as Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Similarly in United States, Metallurgy has become less important, so Material Science and Engineering programs have emerged, and rather than Textile Technology, most programs have transformed into Polymer and Textile Technology. Since most people are employed by software industries, we need to increase seats in Computer Science and perhaps allow more and more students to do dual degrees in say software. Similarly, many students who join IITs do so as they love Physics and Mathematics and Chemistry. This aspect makes them the best suited students who can be encouraged to study these basic sciences, something essential to help them compete better in global research initiatives in nanotechnology, software and communications. The world is witnessing revolutionary growth in these areas, and IITs have so far lagged behind due to lack of serious initiatives and of course lack of suitable funding and right people.

To summarize, I believe an IIT degree is not a passport to success, and hence distributing it to people who don't deserve it on merit is meaningless. IITs suffer from the lack of world class facilities, depleting faculty standards and cash crunch: problems that need to be addressed before any more new schools are named as IITs. Perhaps the IITs need to come out of government control and then attract funding from everywhere to transform themselves into schools that really produce the best engineers and researchers. Lastly, as alumni we owe it to our alma mater to guide its policy changes, and help IITs become leaders in research and development of the world.

21 comments:

Rakesh said...

very well written...

hope the decission makers have someone by the side atleast to drill some sense into them !

Rajagopal said...

isn't the job of quality higher education better left to the private sector?

Atrakasya said...

Private sector - how many private sector colleges have managed to reach a brand-identity that equals the IITs?

You must recognize this unique feat by the Govt -the most unparalleled example of a succesful brand in education has come from the Govt, an entity that we tend to sneer at. How this has happened, in this jungle of bureaucracy, I have no clue - it boggles the mind to see how the creationg and maintenance of the IITs could have possibly emerged in the midst of the chaos that typifies governmental administration in India.

Why not give the govt its due for once?

Secondly - something that is not very well known (and is probably deliberately underpublicized) - a lot of top-end colleges in the US are funded by the military, to the extents of 80% of funds coming from the defense sector. Thats how the facilities are created, my friend.
Now, trace that thread, and you will see a lot of things in a different light.
A lot of high-profile projects are not really funded by US industry. Like, the genome project was funded purely by the department of energy (I mean, what is the connection? Why would the DoE fund a project to map the human genome?? I have no clue, but thats how it is. Perhaps the question of ownership of the data influenced the place from where the funding came?).

I would presume that funding of educational institutes and research projects in the US is a complex subject, and not as simple, nor as upfront as it appears.

In summary - India cannot follow the model of US funding of educational institutions in toto. A different model should be considered.

Pose this question -
Who will fight tooth and nail to maintain the brand equity of IITs, while being progressive about it, and at the same time has money, and at the same time will directly and professionally benefit from the high-end-students that will emerge from the IITs in the future?

You got it, my friend. No one fits the bill more than IIT alumni.
They must organize the funding for running the IITs, in a give and take relationship (am not talking of charitable donations here).
There is no-one else better qualified from any angle to maintain the sanctity of their alma maters.
The IIT alumni must sit down, and organize a model to create this funding, and what they would generate in return, for the entities that bring the funding. A core group of alumni that generates funding needs to be created, which will assure the creation of x amount of funds per annum.
This group will be intensely loyal to its alma mater's interest, like a child protecting its mother - make no mistake.

Vivek said...

Atra, Your points are well taken:)

I just want the government control to be reduced, more assured funding from all quarters, and as we both recognize, more alumni initiatives.

Atrakasya said...

Yes, I do hear of Govt. controls being reduced substantially, along with corresponding reduction in funding, too, naturally. But I do not have access to exact figures to substantiate that.
Even the simple polytechnic colleges are being given autonomy and are being expected to generate their own money.

Alto said...

duniya aap ki jebh mein, toh why ask opinion?

Jo aap kahenge, logh usee ko manenge.



but still i will write contradiction in your argument.

1. if iits on one hand are surviving only becuase of their projected image and the students of these institutes are draining themselves out to USA and after few years are feeling ashamed to teach in the very institute from where they graduated, not because those institutes do not serve the purpose of teaching and researchign any more, but only because, the brain drained itt ian has become US citizen and imagines himself or herself to be larger than life and therefore wants to be paid just as in USA, then the problem is NOT with iit or government or they remaining in public.

Problem is that high headedness of that brain drained iitian who is ashamed of teaching in the very institute where he is graduated from.

2.If those migrated away are presumably worried about quality education for few upper class rich indians, then why don't they start the private institutes and gobble up the money like they have one management institute in hyd where harvard fellows come and teach and rich parents too pay lakhs and lakhs as investment to get back profit in crores.

When that option is available why should IIT ilumni decieve Indian government into believing that they really care and the only way they care is to make IITs and IIMs two milking machines and, only if control is transfered to this alumni of iits they will milk it better.

Is that what you are asking?

3. I think there is more to it.....

---It is NOT about infrastructure....

---It is not about iit- ians ashamed of teaching when they chose to come back to India..
If that is the case, there are private management institutes like in Hyderabad where you can teach on the pay scale of harvard professor and enjoy consumer life to its extreme.

----It is NOT about concern for quality education.

--It is NOT about privatisation of public institutes where people like me have atleast hope of getting in, if I work hard,but don't have money to pay high fees once they are privatised, but it is about some thing else?

That something else is:

Breaking the back bone of the talent from where it orignates

IITs and IIMs can be lacking infrastructure compared to wealth of defence institutes of research in USA, but these are centres of Indian government research.

If you privatise them, there are no more secrets for country, and no more indigenous research. ( I wonder if any still is left with the kind of corruption and immorality of even the professors who are so political minded. Even if you don't privatise, they sell the research for small amounts of money and this has been the case with many institutes until now )

Imagining there is no corruption and bribing of professors who are willing to sell their research fine tuned to the needs of US industry,let us presume all research is nationalistic minded and for defence and indigenous.


Then There is no more security...for defence research.

But all defence research until now, even in USA has been a motivating factor to increase the consumerism and gain profits.

If that is the case, is not India supposed to guard its own research in its institutes of high research and learning which are supposedly IIT or IIM

Haan! But if you are planning to make India and its technical/defence research needs fine tuned to needs of US defence and want to make India into US subsidiary ( in defence or consumerism ), I think you should blatantly state this fact and give this choice to Indian Public, through referendum, instead of camouflaging it as worry for infrastructure of IIT institutes and "talented" IIT alumni being ashamed of teaching on their own mother land, at wages comparitively lower than what their masters pay in US defence institutes.


4. If you think, you have started this discussion only to see what kind of hurdles you might face in the process of what you already planned to do......

then here it is...

But you will get resistence from unknown quarters to such camouflaged intentions..

May be it will be from none other than yourself ;)

Cheerios!

Bahuth din huwa kisee se jhagada karke. Dil ki tamanna puree (aur aloo hogayi) :)

Vivek said...

comments from sulekha.com


Parthiban Siva comments:
on May 14 2006 8:37PM

The brotherhood that prevails in IIT alumni is due to the recoginition of the fact that each one came through his toil and intellect.

Why can't you show the same brotherhood to someone who toils hard without exposure ?

There is a self-confidence and belief in his intellectual ability propels an IITian to succeed in achieving his career goals.

Ofcourse ! IITians are smart and brilliant but lack common sense. Some kind of "real world" essense should be added to their curriculum.

A recent issue is of hiring inbred faculty, i.e. PhDs from IIT itself being hired into the same department.

Ofcourse ! This would infact undermine the academic quality of the department. But, dont IITs have a policy of 3 years(minimum) of post-doc or industrial experience for hiring ? BTW, how many undergraduate IITians are willing to join the faculty as assistant professors ?

For first few decades the IITs were primarily undergraduate institutions, but in recent years the number of seats for M. Techs and PhDs have been increased disproportionately in comparision to the resources available.

I was speaking to a retired IITM faculty. He feels that IITs should not run undergraduate courses. Instead these institution should do only research and train only M.Techs and PhDs like IISc, Bangalore. He also told me that the IITs improve the overall standard of engineering education not by training undergraduates but by training these M.Techs and PhDs. He used this phrase: "these PhD are messengers of good-quality engineering education".

To summarize, I believe an IIT degree is not a passport to success, and hence distributing it to people who don't deserve it on merit is meaningless.

All you say is this: A four-year undergraduate education is nothing and does not mold you into a successful graduate engineer. All that matters for you is the entrance exam. Am I right ? That is the problem with you guys. You think that you are smarter than your professors. If so, you can succeed without your IIT degree. Please leave the way for someone who needs it. Those professors dedicate their life for research and education. They sacrifice lucrative careers in the industry and abroad. All they expect, in turn, is to use them as a ladder for others. They would be happy to train non-merit people who are willing to learn. The successfull IIT entrants should trash their "vanity horns" first before entering into the classrooms.

PS.


Vivek Sharma comments:
on May 15 2006 12:18AM
Parthivan

Your every comment is similar: neither you appreciate the value of merit or intellegence, nor you recognize that irrespective of whatever facilities people may have, performance in certain exams requires hard work and motivation and intelligence that can neither be inherited nor enforced.

I stated clearly that IITs provide the best education IN INDIA but not in the world, and I stated clearly the reasons why. You are free to believe whatever you wish to, but you must recognize that irrespective of how you state it, neither your support of reservations is justified in a competitive world nor your misinterpreting other peoples blogs will disprove or dismantle their arguments.


I have highest regards for most of my IIT professors, most of them are idealists who are there for the love of teaching and the love of motherland. At the same time, they as well as I agree on this that IIT system can be made better if the facilities and pay checks in IITs are rationalized.


Haragopal Nallan comments:
on May 16 2006 8:50AM

Why can't you show the same brotherhood to someone who toils hard without exposure ?

Has the author said IITiams hate others? He has merely said that the brotherhood is more because of the toil they have put together. And what does that have to do with the central point of your argument?

Ofcourse ! IITians are smart and brilliant but lack common sense. Some kind of "real world" essense should be added to their curriculum.

What makes you think so? If you have some valid evidence to prove it, give that here. Else, don't jump into conclusions that show no trace of reason before them

All you say is this: A four-year undergraduate education is nothing and does not mold you into a successful graduate engineer. All that matters for you is the entrance exam. Am I right ? That is the problem with you guys. You think that you are smarter than your professors. If so, you can succeed without your IIT degree. Please leave the way for someone who needs it. Those professors dedicate their life for research and education. They sacrifice lucrative careers in the industry and abroad. All they expect, in turn, is to use them as a ladder for others. They would be happy to train non-merit people who are willing to learn. The successfull IIT entrants should trash their "vanity horns" first before entering into the classrooms.

Again, a whole tank of vitriol. No reason in the argument. The author has clearly stated the reasons why IITs cannot work like universities abroad, given their structure.

I have asked this question elsewhere in this site and am repeating that here:

What, in your opinion is the right way to judge the worthiness of someone in joining an educational institution. If you have a valid, logical answer we will listen. If you again get back into the centuries of oppression/denial thing , it will be sent to recycle bin

Vivek said...

more from sulekha.com


sanchan comments:
on May 16 2006 10:57AM
I hate to say it but Parthivan's comments reflect some sort of frustration with the IIT system and, thus, lose objectivity. Being an IIT Delhi B Tech myself, albeit from a long time ago, I can attest to a lot of things that Vivek has said. Without going into specific endorsements and rebuttals, I will agree that IIT facilities are behind some of the others in Asia, and even in India. I will also say that if we use intellect and ability as a criteria, many deserving students are unable to get into these institutions while many underserving ones do. In spite of that, the product of IIT betrays a certain confidence, drive and determination that sets him apart from his peers.

I agree with Vivek that the entrance examination bestows upon you a certain brotherhood, like it or not. Having achieved that success gives you a clubby, elite feeling, and even humbling in many ways when you look at your deserving friends who could not make it. But it does not end there. As Parthivan asks, "is entrance examination all there is to it?". No, not at all. It is the system that the student goes through for the 4 years that sets him apart. Top-notch faculty, spiffy grounds, timely well-managed classes and examinations, deep financial resources for non-academic activities, the grueling testing system, minimal or no student politics--all of these, and I may have missed a few, serve to chisel and hone the student from all ends into a well-rounded personality resulting in the confidence and swagger that we know as "IITian".

It is the entire 4-year experience, the camaraderie, the collective baptism through the crucibles of academic requirements, and very importanly, in my opinion, the campus life with its varied and top-class cultural activites and sports activities that make an IITian look back and cherish the 4 years.

In the end, it is the branding. Don't students at some other colleges go through similar enriching experiences? Sure they do. But it was not at IIT. Does that make one superior or technically more qualified? Probably not. There are numerous friends of mine who could be labeled as highly successful, more so than I am perhaps, and none of them are IITians. None of them are even from other top engineering colleges. If there is one thing IIT guarantees, it is perhaps a good start in life. After that, the playing field is level.

In the end, at a social gathering, "I went to Princeton" generates a more admiring look than a "I went to University Of Tennessee at Knoxville". But it ends there and it should. That is just the way it is.

Vivek said...

lot more from sulekha.com


Parthiban Siva comments:
on May 16 2006 11:19AM

If there is one thing IIT guarantees, it is perhaps a good start in life. After that, the playing field is level.

Then why bother about reservation ? If this is the case, let IITs train the disadvantaged class and enable them to compete with super-smart guys like you.

We all know that IITs have financial crunch, lack of adequate facilities and so on. I am not against giving financial autonomy to IITs. Infact, the professors should be made responsible in bringing research funds to ensure financial autonomy. If so, they need more and more post-graduates to do the job. All these are happening today but in a smaller magnitude. I am aware of the fact that IIT Madras has something called ICSR (Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research). I am also aware of the shortcomings in their functioning.

If IITs are given full autonomy, they should be entrusted with a social purpose. Should we run IITs as business units, then we talk about full utility of IIT graduates and cost-benefit ratio. After all, these institutions were built with public money and everybody has a say - not just IIT undergraduates.

PS.



Maria S comments:
on May 16 2006 11:27AM

"Indian Institute of Technology is considered a brand name and the stamp of IIT is known to give access to better opportunities in both job and higher studies."

Vivek,

Obviously, IIT seems to listed and percieved as an institution (globally, these days) of excellent higher academic learning (in the fields of engineering, technology..etc).

In general, the IIT alumni that I have known..seem to be intelligent, technologically very knowledgeable and cute(!)

But....most of them also seem to have this 'aura' of superiority about themselves..which I seldom even see these days in those educated in Harvard, Yale, Stanford etc (US Ivy leagues)..

Just curious...are there any basic courses offered at the IITs on 'interpersonal skills' *(and associated life skills)?If not, I would recommend that as alumni, you should suggest that!

Maria


Parthiban Siva comments:
on May 16 2006 12:17PM

If you carefully analyze the comments made by IIT alumni, they emphasize one point again and again i.e. Brotherhood and camaraderie... They have built up a strong network or group over a period of years. Should I call their brotherhood a new caste - Caste of Geeks ? Is this the reason for their stiff opposition ?

Just because someone has graduated from an institution does not give them the right to dictate institutional and policy changes. What does they contribute to these institutions ? Passing JEE ? Hey ! these IIT profs would convert even donkeys into intellectuals.

There are only two options for administering IITs. One, the government should provide funding. If so, the government dictates the policies. Another option is autonomy. If IITs mobilize funds through research and consultancy, they need Masters and PhDs to do their job. In either case, I dont see the utility of undergraduates. I am not talking about social or centuries of oppression/denial thing or any trash.. I am taking business and cost-benefit ratio... What is the use of these IIT undergraduates for IITs or this society or the GOI ? So why should we care about their brotherhood ? Why should we allow these guys (IIT alumni) to dictate ? We should first scrap the special syllabus for JEE and make it simple and relevant to higher secondary syllabus.

PS.

Vivek said...

more and more from sulekha.com


sara Boji comments:
on May 16 2006 1:08PM

"Hey ! these IIT profs would convert even donkeys into intellectuals."





====> Not true.

George Bush went to Yale and Harvard. The professors there could not make him an intellectual!

Parthiban Siva wants anyone belonging to a caste which was socially oppressed in the past to be let into IIT regardless of test scores. This will create only sense of inferiority among the backward and sc/st students.

I know a gentleman who belongs to backward caste. His daughter is bright. She got into Anna University in Chennai. This man brags that she got in because of merit. I think in the back of his mind he feels that people wonder whether she got into engineering course under reservation category.

A Black kid with just 980 on SAT was admitted to Brown university. He had a hard time coping with rigorous school work. When the English professor gave him an assignment to write an essay, this kid wrote a rap song.

But there are Black kids who score more than 1550 on SAT. It is an insult to them to admit other Black kids with mediocre scores.

I did not go to IIT. But I truly believe they have created a good image for India. India needs at least 50 more IITs.



sanchan comments:
on May 16 2006 1:25PM
To Partibhan:

Sadly, you seem to have a very low view of brotherhood and camaraderie. Nonetheless, it exists at every level. Look beyond IITs and you will find it in specialty schools like architecture and merchant navy, women's colleges and a host of other engineering and management institutions such as BITS, XLRI and IIMs. Heck, it even exists at my high school level! I bet it even exists within your own college alumni network.


There seems to be two issues here: IITians and IIT functioning. To me they are separate and unrelated. You seem to be a faculty of some sort, which means that you probably have inside knowledge of the functioning aspect. I was a mere small-time student at IIT. So my perspective is different. I would like to debate without mixing the two issues and will write more later.
Regards


gunno comments:
on May 16 2006 1:28PM

PS,

You say:

They have built up a strong network or group over a period of years. Should I call their brotherhood a new caste - Caste of Geeks ? Is this the reason for their stiff opposition ?

It is not just a phenomenon of the IITs. A lot of colleges or institutions have this kind of brotherhood or camaraderie. In fact, a lot of people go to B-schools just for the networking and the tremendous opportunities/doors it opens for them. What is wrong with this? Also, why does everything have to boil down to caste? When will we ever get over this obsession and focus on moving forward?

Just because someone has graduated from an institution does not give them the right to dictate institutional and policy changes. What does they contribute to these institutions ? Passing JEE ? Hey ! these IIT profs would convert even donkeys into intellectuals.

Well, people who do graduate from an institution may not necessarily have a right to dictate changes, however, as an alumnus, we do have a certain sense of responsibility and concern towards the institutions that made us. What do the IIT alums contribute to the institutions? We donate money and resources towards different projects/facilities and other causes for our Alma Mater and hence to that extent we do have some say. Passing JEE has nothing to do with the IIT profs as you should be well aware by now that passing JEE is a prerequisite to even sitting in one of these prof's classes. Your comment about IIT profs turning donkeys into intellectuals is totally meaningless and just reeks of pure vitriol and sour grapes. I hate to say all this, but I have consistently seen this kind of theme on all your comments.

Alto said...

kya toh bhi woh discussion.

kaam nahin hai so hajaam, bandar ka sar mundwaya..aisa suna hai..

sulekha, indian nri s in america most probably unemployed house wives forum who are quickly joined by their husbands to contribute to discussion.

if such opinion is criteria, for policy making in India, India is gone case and is really in bad hands.

aap ko ithna time kaise aur kahan se miltha hai?

is it your job to obtain opinions?

just asking...?

by the way! what is the point in discussing with people who have computers and have no other work like me except commenting while casually passing through blogs.

I bet none of the comment makers of your discussion are affected or shall be affected by what you are talking about..naturally people just pour out their emotions..as if only they know the solutions..waise me too..i cross that line...but today i was just taking pangaa..becoz i was bored.

u shd seek opinion of those who are presumably affected by such policy..don't you think? and not these computer and laptop owners.

Vivek said...

much more from sulekha:

Vivek Sharma comments:
on May 16 2006 2:13PM delete this comment block this user
PS: I am always amazed at your arguments, not because they are so shallow or so hollow, but just because they are hurled with a kind of fervor, a kind of enthusiasm, that explains how and why casteism, mediocracy, regionalism, naxalism, communism and communalism survive and prosper in our country. I realize that I will never be able to convince you about anything, for you are possessed by these beliefs that will vindicate "upper caste intellectuals" for anything bad that happens in our country.

On a lighter vein, converting donkeys into intellectuals was a brilliant argument, but I am sure my IIT professors will denounce the claim that they possess any miraculous powers.

Maria S: Society takes care of the arrogance;) No special courses required there. The fact of the matter is everyone who does ooh and aah at mention of IIT, MIT, Harvard, IIM or Princeton is equally a "culprit" in making alumni of these people feel good about where they come from. I prize modesty too, but modesty does not mean that we bend our backs claiming that we are really mediocre, normal people. If the fire that rages in our hearts to do better appears as arrogance, it cannot be helped. If it is based on false pride, it will go sooner or later. I already mentioned in my blog how in real world, the best are recognized sooner or later, and being an IITian gives a burden of expectation that requires more than average effort to meet.

Gunno, Sanchan, Sara, Hargopal: Much thanks for your comments. I believe that we always need to voice our opinions, for even if we don't get the point across rightaway, it trickles down into the thought process of those who oppose it, and those who haven't encountered it in their thoughts before.


more:

Parthiban Siva comments:
on May 16 2006 2:55PM delete this comment block this user

On a lighter vein, converting donkeys into intellectuals was a brilliant argument, but I am sure my IIT professors will denounce the claim that they possess any miraculous powers.

Well ! I forgot to mention the source of the above donkey analogy. This comment was made by a IIT professor when I happened to meet him in his office for business reasons. That is how I know a little about IITs.

I am always amazed at your arguments, not because they are so shallow or so hollow, but just because they are hurled with a kind of fervor, a kind of enthusiasm, that explains how and why casteism, mediocracy, regionalism, naxalism, communism and communalism survive and prosper in our country.

I will take this comment as a compliment. All those isms would not have existed if IIT graduates have stayed back in this country and worked for India's development through better research and education. BTW, the most celebrated scientist Dr.Kalam is not from IIT. I do have another story about IITians where the DRDO refused to recruit an IITian (though he was genuinely interested) just because he wont stay.

Sadly, you seem to have a very low view of brotherhood and camaraderie. Nonetheless, it exists at every level.

There is nothing wrong about brotherhood as long as it has an open mind. What does brotherhood got to do with the issues of reservation or upgrading IIT facilities ?

There seems to be two issues here: IITians and IIT functioning. To me they are separate and unrelated.

Better direct this question to Mr.Vivek Sharma.

Passing JEE has nothing to do with the IIT profs as you should be well aware by now that passing JEE is a prerequisite to even sitting in one of these prof's classes.

A Profesor would not demand a JEE pass. All that he expects from his students is interest, hardwork and willingness to learn.

BTW, my dear smart brains, I dont believe in caste system. What I believe is a fair opportunity for all. The whole IIT JEE system is a big scam going on for decades. It should be changed. First of all, why should we have an exam curriculum that is so different from higher secondary school syllabus ?

PS.

Maria S comments:
on May 16 2006 2:56PM delete this comment block this user

"Maria S: Society takes care of the arrogance;) No special courses required there. The fact of the matter is everyone who does ooh and aah at mention of IIT, MIT, Harvard, IIM or Princeton is equally a "culprit" in making alumni of these people feel good about where they come from. I prize modesty too, but modesty does not mean that we bend our backs claiming that we are really mediocre, normal people. If the fire that rages in our hearts to do better appears as arrogance, it cannot be helped. If it is based on false pride, it will go sooner or later. I already mentioned in my blog how in real world, the best are recognized sooner or later, and being an IITian gives a burden of expectation that requires more than average effort to meet."

Vivek,

Interesting response..that was a fast slap down! And who said that 'interpersonal skill courses' are meant to just to deal with 'arrogance'? Life skills (communication skills) are something very important these days for all undergrad students (no matter which field of study) they may be involved in! It is about how to 'connect with others' and will enhance the well being of anyone.

So, you are not 'normal' people?! Are you super human beings?

I like the line "fire in our hearts" (poetic!) My reco for the life skills course, was precisely for this reason..to bring some self-awarenss..have realistic expectations and not let the the fire burn-out the IIT graduate!

Maria

Vivek said...

The debate goes on in sulekha.com


Black Beak comments:
on May 16 2006 4:00PM delete this comment block this user

We need more IITs to come up for sure. I just dont think that the Government should fund the IITs. The students should take out loans and fund their education. After all there is a good job that is guaranteed at the end of the 4 year degree. I disagree with the foxes ranting against the sour grapes IIT. the IITs are a good institution but they should be not be the be all and end all of all discussions. There are equally good people who go to other engineering colleges, pharmacy, biotechnology, medicine and other courses.

Also I do think that the IITs and the IIMs need a balance between the urban middle class and students from small town and rural india especially the dalits and the OBCs. that is why i support reservations in the IITs.



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IITs: Myths and miseries
by: Vivek Sharma on May 14 2006 5:25PM in Current Affairs
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Parthiban Siva comments:
on May 16 2006 7:14PM delete this comment block this user

Vivek:

You have addressed important issues about the quality of IITs. There was one glaring concern - reservation issue. What irked me was the tie-up between the reservation system and the worsening quality of research and education.

In any educational institution, the most basic aspect is the relationship between a student and a teacher. What makes IITs best in India ? the quality of education - or the interaction between students and a teacher. I don't deny the fact that it is very hard to compete in JEE exam. If there is a meaning for the hardwork you do for JEE, there should be equally good dividends in four years of life. So the greatness of IIT does not stop with JEE. People have to think about the quality of engineering education provided to these students. It solely lies with the Professors.

The basic difference in the quality of engineering education between IITs and other academic institutions is the research. Without research, you cant update yourselves with new knowledge. That is what makes IIT Profs greater than other institutions (this is an over-all assessment - nowadays there are people who do research even in private engineering colleges). That is what makes IITs every attractive.

But there is something else. My friends were there in IIT Chennai doing their MEs. They used to invite me for college fests. They have one of best minds in the country. I am not bluffing because they are my friends. I know their dedication, fire and urge to come up in life. For their brilliance, they should be in MIT or Stanford.

You know what ? We never knew that there is an institution called IIT and an exam called JEE until we began our prep for entrance exams. You know why ? We are hailing from the freaking rural background. We had nobody to tell us about IITs. Even now we had no means to attend entrance coaching classes. We had no money for special coaching classes. We paid our college fees getting loans from the bank. Do you know how difficult it is to get a loan from a village bank ? We paid freaking 12.5 percent interest rates (almost our credit card APR)- forget about the collateral. That means in four years, we paid half the loan amount as interest. While I started to earn money, they were repaying the loan using their scholarship funds. This is our story.

Today many in TN got education like this because of the reservation system and bankloans. Your marksheet is not a direct outcome of your brilliance. It depends on opportunties, social background, economic background and so on. All our parents knew was our marksheet and repeated advices to study. They did not know how to guide us or plan our career.

Reservation system is not about caste or mobcracy. I agree that there are some loopholes and few unqualified people misuse this opportunity. You cant ask everybody to be honest. It could be a crude way of balancing inequality in opportunities. Without reservation system, I could hardly imagine our situation. It brought light in our lives. That is why we (atleast some of us) are still revering Periyar and Kamaraj.

Let me tell you something. I got benefitted out of this reservation system. I belong to a socially backward class and still eligible for quota. Do my children need this reservation system ? Definitely not. I am not fighting for me or my kids or my caste or my ideology. I am fighting for someone who missed the bus like my IIT friends. There are thousands of brilliant guys like this in India. We are not trying to take shortcuts. We dont intend to cheat you. We are fighting for them. That is why I wrote that IIT profs could even mold donkeys into engineers.

There is a similar story with everyone of us. You got to be one to understand it. :)

PS.

Vivek Sharma comments:
on May 16 2006 5:57PM delete this comment block this user
PS: For the first time so far, I agree with almost every recommendation you have regarding imrpoving IITs:) Thanks man!:)

Vivek Sharma comments:
on May 16 2006 5:55PM delete this comment block this user
Excellent points Bhaskaran: Exactly the reason why people like me and you cannot justify moving back to teach at IITs. After BTech from IIT, PhD from top US university, how can one rationalize a paycheck lower than his every other engineer peer in country working for a private sector company? That too when he cannot even do the research he really wishes to sacrifice all other comforts for.

BB: The number of IITs should be increased only after problems with funding and infrastructure as well as attracting good faculty is concerned. IISc was set-up primarily as research institute, and IIT as undergraduate degree college: so obviously their outcomes reflect that. By increasing number of MTech and PhDs in IITs, without correponding increase in facilities and without emphasis on quality research, the expectation of getting good Post-graduation education is running into cold water !

Maria: I recognize development of interpersonal skills will help, and some changes are underway in IITs to stress this aspect. For example participation in management and humanity courses, organization of cultural fests, etc are helpful, but bottomline is that you will expect a qualified engineer to know his trade first and not necessarily be a social butterfly:) Modesty comes with age and experience, as any soldier would testify. I know most IITians in twenties are guilty of being a little haughty about their abilities (and maybe the stress you incur to get into IITs has this as side effect), but that is true for every achiever. On a lighter note, it is glamorous for a young one winning a prize to walk with his head held high, but when an old man does it, the same act becomes show-off. No one in real world will rise unless he has good interpersonal skills, and given how many IITians have risen to top, I guess life teaches us how to behave nicely, socially.

Parthiban Siva comments:
on May 16 2006 5:54PM delete this comment block this user

If you are genuinely interested in improving the quality of IITs:

1. Increase pay scale. As an assistant professor, one would earn a monthly salary of only Rs.21000 (with apartment) and Rs.27000(with HRA).

2. Provide financial autonomy. Right now, IITs provide a scholarship of Rs.10000 for PhDs. All they do is paper based research. As long as you publish papers in conferences or some journal, you are safe. Make them to attract funds for research. Not everybody gets research funding. India is not yet ready for it. Make them do industrial consultancy and introduce what I call as "community based research". Anything that improves the quality of a common man's life could come under community based research eg. solar energy, waste management, energy efficiency etc.

3. Have tough selection criteria for recruitment and promotion.

4. There should be no compulsory retirement for Professors (who likes to attract funds or participate in collective research). Their guidance for young researchs is very valuable.

5. Cut down bureaucracy, red tapism, corruption and internal politics.

PS.

Black Beak comments:
on May 16 2006 5:33PM delete this comment block this user

bhaskaran - you bring out some relevant points. these are some relevant solutions

1. the IISc has a good Ph.d and Masters programs. wonder what is going on right there and wrong with the IITs?

2. the IITs need lot more faculty with very little hierarchy. pay scales should be increased but focus should be on cooperation with industy. in the US - the industry and government research grants drive projects. in india it is usually government monopolies and HRD funds that do this. private industry demands results. govt just doeles out cash

3. we need to get more profs with international exposure to teach at the IITs. classes should be staggered in a way to give the profs more time with their research.

rbhaskaran comments:
on May 16 2006 5:19PM delete this comment block this user
My dad being an IIT professor, I have spent a good part of my childhood in an IIT campus. I am an IIT BTech. myself, and now pursue higher studies with focus on cutting edge research in a top US university. I would not hesitate to claim that the quality of undergraduate education in the IITs is at par with if not superior to any of the top US schools. Post UG research (MTech, PhD) is an entirely different question.

It was recently being rumored that the IITs are contemplating increasing the retirement age for faculty to 65 from the current 62 years, due to lack of new quality faculty candidates. Often in discussion with my dad and other like minded (academically inclined) friends, this topic of returning back to one of the IITs to teach and do research comes up. Here is why I think it is not an attractive carrier option to go back to an IIT as a faculty:

1) Abysmal quality of research work. It is a shocking fact that there exist faculty in the IITs who have zero (yes, an absolute zero) publications. The incentive to do competitive research is probably lacking.

2) Poor pay scales. These days a class 12th pass with a reasonable command over the English language will earn more in a call center than an IIT professor.

3) This is not specific to the IITs, it is true of any institution in India. The old colonial mindset of hierarchy is still very strong. A junior faculty has to fight his way through the system to make a mark of his own, putting him under lot of mental stress.


Black Beak comments:
on May 16 2006 5:33PM delete this comment block this user

bhaskaran - you bring out some relevant points. these are some relevant solutions

1. the IISc has a good Ph.d and Masters programs. wonder what is going on right there and wrong with the IITs?

2. the IITs need lot more faculty with very little hierarchy. pay scales should be increased but focus should be on cooperation with industy. in the US - the industry and government research grants drive projects. in india it is usually government monopolies and HRD funds that do this. private industry demands results. govt just doeles out cash

3. we need to get more profs with international exposure to teach at the IITs. classes should be staggered in a way to give the profs more time with their research.

Vivek said...

Sulekha continues:

Parthiban Siva comments:
on May 16 2006 5:54PM delete this comment block this user

If you are genuinely interested in improving the quality of IITs:

1. Increase pay scale. As an assistant professor, one would earn a monthly salary of only Rs.21000 (with apartment) and Rs.27000(with HRA).

2. Provide financial autonomy. Right now, IITs provide a scholarship of Rs.10000 for PhDs. All they do is paper based research. As long as you publish papers in conferences or some journal, you are safe. Make them to attract funds for research. Not everybody gets research funding. India is not yet ready for it. Make them do industrial consultancy and introduce what I call as "community based research". Anything that improves the quality of a common man's life could come under community based research eg. solar energy, waste management, energy efficiency etc.

3. Have tough selection criteria for recruitment and promotion.

4. There should be no compulsory retirement for Professors (who likes to attract funds or participate in collective research). Their guidance for young researchs is very valuable.

5. Cut down bureaucracy, red tapism, corruption and internal politics.

PS.


Vivek Sharma comments:
on May 16 2006 5:55PM delete this comment block this user
Excellent points Bhaskaran: Exactly the reason why people like me and you cannot justify moving back to teach at IITs. After BTech from IIT, PhD from top US university, how can one rationalize a paycheck lower than his every other engineer peer in country working for a private sector company? That too when he cannot even do the research he really wishes to sacrifice all other comforts for.

BB: The number of IITs should be increased only after problems with funding and infrastructure as well as attracting good faculty is concerned. IISc was set-up primarily as research institute, and IIT as undergraduate degree college: so obviously their outcomes reflect that. By increasing number of MTech and PhDs in IITs, without correponding increase in facilities and without emphasis on quality research, the expectation of getting good Post-graduation education is running into cold water !

Maria: I recognize development of interpersonal skills will help, and some changes are underway in IITs to stress this aspect. For example participation in management and humanity courses, organization of cultural fests, etc are helpful, but bottomline is that you will expect a qualified engineer to know his trade first and not necessarily be a social butterfly:) Modesty comes with age and experience, as any soldier would testify. I know most IITians in twenties are guilty of being a little haughty about their abilities (and maybe the stress you incur to get into IITs has this as side effect), but that is true for every achiever. On a lighter note, it is glamorous for a young one winning a prize to walk with his head held high, but when an old man does it, the same act becomes show-off. No one in real world will rise unless he has good interpersonal skills, and given how many IITians have risen to top, I guess life teaches us how to behave nicely, socially.



Vivek Sharma comments:
on May 16 2006 5:57PM delete this comment block this user
PS: For the first time so far, I agree with almost every recommendation you have regarding imrpoving IITs:) Thanks man!:)


Parthiban Siva comments:
on May 16 2006 7:14PM delete this comment block this user

Vivek:

You have addressed important issues about the quality of IITs. There was one glaring concern - reservation issue. What irked me was the tie-up between the reservation system and the worsening quality of research and education.

In any educational institution, the most basic aspect is the relationship between a student and a teacher. What makes IITs best in India ? the quality of education - or the interaction between students and a teacher. I don't deny the fact that it is very hard to compete in JEE exam. If there is a meaning for the hardwork you do for JEE, there should be equally good dividends in four years of life. So the greatness of IIT does not stop with JEE. People have to think about the quality of engineering education provided to these students. It solely lies with the Professors.

The basic difference in the quality of engineering education between IITs and other academic institutions is the research. Without research, you cant update yourselves with new knowledge. That is what makes IIT Profs greater than other institutions (this is an over-all assessment - nowadays there are people who do research even in private engineering colleges). That is what makes IITs every attractive.

But there is something else. My friends were there in IIT Chennai doing their MEs. They used to invite me for college fests. They have one of best minds in the country. I am not bluffing because they are my friends. I know their dedication, fire and urge to come up in life. For their brilliance, they should be in MIT or Stanford.

You know what ? We never knew that there is an institution called IIT and an exam called JEE until we began our prep for entrance exams. You know why ? We are hailing from the freaking rural background. We had nobody to tell us about IITs. Even now we had no means to attend entrance coaching classes. We had no money for special coaching classes. We paid our college fees getting loans from the bank. Do you know how difficult it is to get a loan from a village bank ? We paid freaking 12.5 percent interest rates (almost our credit card APR)- forget about the collateral. That means in four years, we paid half the loan amount as interest. While I started to earn money, they were repaying the loan using their scholarship funds. This is our story.

Today many in TN got education like this because of the reservation system and bankloans. Your marksheet is not a direct outcome of your brilliance. It depends on opportunties, social background, economic background and so on. All our parents knew was our marksheet and repeated advices to study. They did not know how to guide us or plan our career.

Reservation system is not about caste or mobcracy. I agree that there are some loopholes and few unqualified people misuse this opportunity. You cant ask everybody to be honest. It could be a crude way of balancing inequality in opportunities. Without reservation system, I could hardly imagine our situation. It brought light in our lives. That is why we (atleast some of us) are still revering Periyar and Kamaraj.

Let me tell you something. I got benefitted out of this reservation system. I belong to a socially backward class and still eligible for quota. Do my children need this reservation system ? Definitely not. I am not fighting for me or my kids or my caste or my ideology. I am fighting for someone who missed the bus like my IIT friends. There are thousands of brilliant guys like this in India. We are not trying to take shortcuts. We dont intend to cheat you. We are fighting for them. That is why I wrote that IIT profs could even mold donkeys into engineers.

There is a similar story with everyone of us. You got to be one to understand it. :)

PS.

Atrakasya said...

My reaction to interpersonal skills of IITians and their "haughty attitude" -

I don't think I have met any IITians who are really haughty, but I know that all IITians are treated differently by non-IITians.
The moment they come to know that someone is from IIT they start perceiving that person as a different kind of animal. There are pros and cons to both - lets not get into that.

However, I would reiterate that if you treat a person differently, he will automatically behave like a person different from you.
Secondly, our society is so stratified on the basis of certificates and degrees that ir refuses to hear from someone unless his educational/social credentials are sound.
In such a situation, why blame someone who doesn't waste his breath convincing you of his/her arguments, when people will listen to him/her reverentially only because he is an IITian?
Face it - the problem is not of being an IITian - the problem is everyone looking at IITians as a different kind of a human being.

Vivek said...

Ok Guys, some more from sulekha.com

Black Beak comments:
on May 16 2006 9:12PM

Just as an FYI..The IIT entrance isnt just a function of coaching centers. Anyone who has taken the JEE should know that!! The coaching centers are a must to learn the fundamentals. But the JEE exam depends a lot on your thinking abilities. To use those fundamentals and tackle difficult problems.Many people here crib that I couldnt get into an IIT because I couldnt get to a coaching center. That is very very very untrue.

I dont support reservations just because of the coaching center agrument. I support them because I think they will make the IITs better. There are a lot of good people from rural backgrounds and usually from the backward classes who will not be able to compete in the JEE. But once they get in they will bring with them a good mix of honesty, common sense and values that will make the institutues much better.




Black Beak comments:
on May 16 2006 9:14PM

We had nobody to tell us about IITs

That is a load of bull. Atleast today it is. All villages (in the south atleast) have TVs and if you go to any "village". You must be bottled up like aladdins genie to have never heard of the IITs.


supriyad comments:
on May 16 2006 10:27PM
Vivek: An insightful and provoking analysis...


Vivek Sharma comments:
on May 17 2006 6:49AM
Parthiban, I agree in principle with some of the points you raised, and I apologise if my comments sound harsh at times though of course this is an impersonal debate, so no hard feelings must exist on either side. But the way reservation is implemented makes it a caste based resort for primarily richer SC/ST/OBC's to get the seats they don't deserve on merit and mustn't claim for they have all the facilities their poorer counterparts from every caste don't have, the competition and its results apply only to those who participate in it, and the IIT entrance is based on XII level stuff: only thing is it requires you to solve more intricate problems. A few decades back, there was lack of information, and it might still be a problem, but as Black Beak said these days information is available to most of them who seek it. I can tell you of several stories where an extremely poor upper caste brilliant student had to settle for less at each competition level, losing out his seat to the richer "lower caste" beneficiries. So when their kids grow up, the parents continuously program this into the kids, "With present policy of reservation, you have no option but to be on very top of the competition to get in. Else son you will suffer like me" Reservation, in this way, motivates people from unreserved classes to really fight for the seats, and those who succeed, reap benefits of their greater toil later. Most quota people unfortunately benefit generation after generation from this and well, you can chide but not blame them for their selfishness. Also I will ask you Parthiban to look at statistics from any IIT, (seek out your IITM Professoror or search on google for reports) and you will find that most people from quota have difficulty in completing their study at IIT in four years, most of them come from richer houses, most of them never get the posh job opportunities because there is only so much IIT professors can do and many end up as IAS officers or IIM graduates (using quota again). On a funnier vein, I don't know if IIT professors can convert "donkeys into intellectuals as you said" but they certainly cannot turn donkeys into horses.


Vivek Sharma comments:
on May 17 2006 6:53AM
For Maria, my fellow blogger reexpresses what I stated earlier about people treating alumni from different colleges differently and creating a social stratrification (and this happens in all countries). See what Atra says:

"Atrakasya said...

Vivek said...

And some more

kingfisher_174 comments:
on May 17 2006 7:55AM

well analysed and written but i wonder if anyone will listen. I think it will be a good idea to write in some Indian newspaper or somother indian media.

cheers


ProudHindu92 comments:
on May 17 2006 8:27AM

The biggest mistake anti-reservationists make is to club quota for SC/ST with quota for OBCs.

SC/STs have faced and are still facing acute & systematic discrimination which stops them from progressing and catching up with the rest of the society. Afterall, evil practices like untouchability and carrying the night soil on head are still alive in India. So, reservation for dalits must continue.

But quota for OBCs is a different ballgame. Some of the castes in OBCs like yadavs are dominant in political as well as social arena. There is no discrimination against them. Infact, some of the OBC castes are more ruthless and violent in supressing dalits than so-called upper castes.

So, quota for dalits - yes, quota for OBCs - No.

But the moment agenda is set as 'quota vs merit', anti-reservationists lose. And author here is making the same mistake.

Vivek said...

well sulekha.com bloggers are on a roll:

sanchan comments:
on May 17 2006 11:18AM
Isn't it amazing that once we get into a discussion, more often than not, our initial veneers give way to a more understandable and real us? Partibhan, good to understand where you are coming from. You raise excellent points on the IIT functioning side.


wiw comments:
on May 17 2006 6:44PM

Vivek,



Your passion for upholding the “sanctity” of your alma mater and your hyperbolic arguments about brotherhood generating from “toiling together” are fascinating to say the least. As some one said in the comments section, it takes a lot more than toiling to get into an IIT as you know yourself much better. It takes a sharp intellect translating into rather lofty analytical skills and it truly is an exclusive club accessible to the truly gifted and talented.



As you rightly said, that may rightly be the reason for the high esteem at which IIT ians are held through out the world.



But ever heard of a thing called social justice? I agree reservation is a shibboleth for which you and me and all others who vehemently argue here have very different takes on. There is a cost our society is going to pay for implementing these schemes for achieving it. There is a price even America pays when it tries to implement affirmative actions. I for one paid the price for it too, belonging to an “upper class”, I always had to put in that much more work to get into trades of my liking, considering the reduced number of seats that were available for merit candidates.



If these schemes are not implemented, IITs will stay exclusive, far from accessible to those who may get admitted now. I am not an expert on how reservations work, but isn’t opening new pastures a way to get these under privileged folks an entry into new horizons?



Isn’t it rather petulant and insolent to say while reservations may be okay for other institutions but IITs should be considered so exclusive and they be kept out of any effort to ring in an equitable society?



Maria and vivkek, on the lighter side,



Do you guys read Dilbert?. Asok, the IIT graduate is hilariously portrayed by Scott Adams. Don’t you think?

axle_rose_slash comments:
on May 18 2006 1:53AM

Hi Vivek,
I read ur post and i very much agree with u, though not being an IIT-an. The reservation system will definitely gulp down all the meritorious students one day if it's not stopped on it's primary footsteps. The government is doing this simply b'cos it wants to retain its seat. So let us all hold hands together and fight against this reservation system, along with helping the backwards get their primary education without any hitch.

Vivek said...

and more (exceelent coment from Atra again):


atrakasya comments:
on May 18 2006 5:25AM
This is in response to allowing reservations at IIT -

What is IIT essentially?
Quite simply - it is an educational institution whose function is to produce students that have a high standard of academics.
If IIT cannot perform this function, it is no longer IIT. So, how does it achieve its function and hence, its raison d’être?

This is achieved by two interdependent and critical methods -

1. Firstly by making sure that the students who get into the college are also of a certain standard.
(This is critical because if the student is not of this minimum standard of academic intelligence, then obviously, superior educational facilities are not warranted for such a student. It is an absolutely gross mistake to admit a student who is academically sub-standard to the academic demands placed on him. This can make him feel inferior and cause other personality problems that only get compunded if the student is thrown out, or remains in the same class. Also, the problems of teaching an academically inferior student along with more academically intelligent students are immense, for the teachers and administrators of the college.)
Hence, it is vital that students who display this ability to achieve a high level of academics (by clearing the IIT JEE) are then admitted and educated in a fashion that is higher than other institutions.

2. By providing a superior standard of academics to such students who can do justice to them.
Basic fact - superior standards are only useful to someone who has the ability to do justice to them.
What is the point of someone gifting me the world's best tennis racket if I don't even know how to hold it properly? Certainly, to want to learn tennis might be great and should be encouraged. But to deserve the world's best racket, first display that you know some tennis.

Very clearly, a student must be only admitted to an institution that does justice to his academic level - it must not be above par, nor below par. This must be the sole criteria, nothing else. To say that a student be allowed into teaching facilities that he CANNOT really utilize is non sequitur. It is completely inconsequential whether the student got opportunities to study when he was a kid or not, or whether the student came from privileged background or non privileged or white or black.
If you disregard this, then tomorrow one must be prepared for Homer Simpsons who are in charge of running nuclear reactors.
It does not matter if Homer is the highest class Brahmin - if he cannot show that he can do justice to the educational opportunities provided by IIT, he cannot be admitted to an institution that offers high standards. Homer's caste or color cannot be the reason for letting him run the nuclear reactor.
And frankly - why would Homer Simpson want the IIT label, if he is not able to do justice to the educational standards at IIT? To seem cool to one's friends? To get higher salaries?

Like, chalti ka naam gaadi, IIT is an institution only so long it performs its function. Without its function, it is as good as any other institution with buildings and teachers and workshops and labs, isnt it?

If you violate any of the two ways (mentioned above) in which IIT performs its functions, then it will not work, and it will , quite simply, cease to be IIT anymore.
So, please maintain the sanctity of this meritorius institution, so that your children (if not you) can have a shot at it.

But do not kill the woman that you cannot get...



ddas15847 comments:
on May 18 2006 7:46AM

What you say is largely true. I am curious about a statement you make. You said the perceived quality of IITians is largely due to the JEE. Then you go on to say the faculty and infrastructure etc are not that great! How come they are able to maintain the quality of the JEE over so many years?

To the credit of IITians, though I used agree with people who blamed these boys of running away to greener pastures after our govt spent so much on them during their education, today I realise that the same boys were contributed to the build up of a brand India.

Vivek said...

I thank every blogger for the wonderful discussions on the blog, especially PS, Atra, Maria, BB. Alto, I was missing your presence here for a long while:)

qplearn said...

Well-written, but I have to disagree with you on one or two major issues. The labs in IITs are better than labs in many top-tier universities in the US. Also, IIT profs are well-paid. IIT profs don't do research, because (I think) they are not under any pressure to. Profs in the US with lesser infrastructure manage to do more!!