Education: Autonomy, Sibal, and Suicide News from IIT

This was a bad morning. I went through a bad news from my IIT, Kharagpur on the website of Telegraph, Kolkata. “Yogendra Kumar Singh, 18, a resident of Noida, a first-year student of IIT Kharagpur, committed suicide. According to the report, Yogendra wanted to study in IIT Delhi but had not got admission there and was dejected.” It is really horrible news. Can this be a reason for such an extreme step such suicide? On the criteria fixed by the IITs, Yogendra could not get admission in IIT, Delhi. Should the IITs be a little more flexible or find some way out to provide what the child wishes? Do the successful IIT-aspirants need some intensive orientation by IITs demystifying many wrong perceptions?

The candidates for higher education get all the information through various sources, peers, seniors, parents, relatives, and from media or websites of the institutes. The decision making is pretty difficult. But mostly, the branches and institutes matter very little in real life. I know many instances. Mohit got admission in IIT, Mumbai. But then he left it, and went for MBA in Xavier’s Labour Institute, Jamshedpur, known popularly as XLRI. And today, he has a coaching institute in Kolkata and pretty well off. Soni, Mohit’s younger brother was the topper in computer science department at BIT, Mesra. He went abroad for MS in computer science and then he decided to shift to international law. As soon as his father came to know of Soni’s decision, he came running to me. I asked him to let Soni do what he wants. Soni is running a law firm in US today. Baba did his MBBS, wished to do MD in surgery, but could get only biochemistry. On insistence of his mother, I advised him to go ahead. Today, Baba is in New York and busy in research. There are many examples.I wish the school and parents guide the children rightly. As it seems, the parents require better orientation so that they don’t keep pestering the children for an outdated profession, course and laggard institute.

I wonder if I did rightly advise Golu to join IITs at Kanpur or Delhi, though he had preferred Mumbai. His information was based on his seniors from the school. I shall know about it only on July 18, when he will be with me for getting admitted into IIT, Delhi with his father.

Sibal, the HRD minister gave his definition of autonomy yesterday while replying to the debate on budget for education. The autonomy in the context of education meant giving choices to a child. “Give a child the right to decide and not let the results of examinations decide his or her future. A child is the recipient of knowledge and for the past 60 years no choices have been given,”

Sibal may be right politically and very impressive with his new ideas for multi-dimensional reforms in education. I wish him success. Unfortunately, Sibal carefully avoided giving a time frame for the reforms in his mind. Does Sibal realize that the establishment of 1500 universities and thousands of institutes of higher education is not mechanical and can’t be attained only with physical resources? It requires long time taking learning, innovating, and maturing for each institute to create a name. There are many things that require change at the grassroots levels, particularly respectability for the knowledge and knowledge seekers in the society. The government can encourage agencies spreading right information and knowledge to keep the people at large updated through technological aids. It requires a change in mindsets at various level of the society.

But nothing justifies the suicide of Yogendra. We must take lesson and try to make the education stress free. It is not a battle to be won or loose. It is a way of life to keep on improving the quality of living.

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