IITs: Depleting Brand

Very soon perhaps every state of the country will have an IIT and may be an IIM too, with establishment of IIT becoming a political decision. With this large a number it will be really difficult to maintain the brand image that the older IITs have earned after decades of hard work from the academicians and students at the institutes and their contribution in the industry and status in the society. It will become tougher for the directors to excel against the interferences from the bureaucrats in the operations of newer IITs.

Crumbling infrastructure at IITs will affect the potential of the students. If Golu, a simple young boy from a small town can find the facilities much below his expatiations, what will be the reactions of those coming from the first class private public schools with the world class facilities? Golu is shore about the three students occupying a small room of the hostel. Golu’s father with all his financial problems had rented a separate room with bath attached for him so that he could have his privacy and concentrate on his studies during his higher secondary schooling. At IIT, even if Golu’s father manages the finances to meet the expenses for a single room accommodation, he can’t get it for Golu. I wonder why IITs can’t outsource the hostel facilities to private entrepreneurs or some willing alumni as was done in IIT, Mumbai, if the IITs can’t do that itself. I am sure the IITs have hardly a problem of land scarcity.

Golu couldn’t get even his expectations of high-tech class rooms satisfied. The class rooms of IIT still have black boards where the teachers use chalks. Today even some of DU colleges have air-conditioned class rooms with digital interactive boards and other digital gadgets that are pretty common in the educational institutes and colleges in US and even in China.

Unfortunately, even the quality of teaching and its teachers at IIT, Delhi as narrated by Golu is far from the best that I expected to have changed over the last fifty years. Golu did attend some classes and practical that perhaps was perhaps in workshop practices and electrical lab. As I could guess with what Golu described, the instructors hardly explained the manufacturing process the group of ten carried out or the purpose of the experiments they carried. The practice hardly make individual student learn and understand anything. The institute and its instructors must see that every individual student gets opportunity to work by his own hand. The class room must teach the engineering sciences and mathematics behind the technologies of every stream of engineering branches. The shop practices and lab experiments must make the students confident in handling the equipment and appliances by their own hands. Unfortunately, Indian lacks the skill of working by hand. With the real involvement in practice, the students get interested in the subject; otherwise they carry on the studies mechanically just for scoring good grades.

Reservation policies of the government and the way IITs are being forced to handle it will certainly affect IITs’ brand image. It’s certainly demoralizing the students of general categories. OBC perhaps does need any reservation. Even the performance data prove this. The fall in cutoff marks for the entry of SC/ST students will certainly affect the overall standard of education at IITs. The solution is in the strengthening of free education and other supports of those students at the pre-entrance stage with best possible facilities and teachers to bring them up to a common standard.

If IITs don’t review its working and take the corrective measures fast, it will gradually lose its attraction and the students will get disenchanted. The report of many students shunning IITs this year must be taken as warning. With easy financing from banks, the best students from the emerging middle class today can also join the best institutes in the world who are more than willing to accept them with less rigorous entry barriers.

Some news emanating from IITs such as one about nano satellite from IIT, Kanpur may be exciting but let us not forget that the Indian engineering graduates are not considered the best in handling hardware. The IITs must see that the graduates get ready to take up assignments in the enterprises they join without further training for months there. That is really an irritant for the industrialists.

Sibal must work with CII to bring IITs nearer to the industrial sectors and make them mutually benefit from their problems and potentials to solve them with its synergies.

However, the main task before Sibal will be to provide the autonomy to IITs to operate freely integrating the latest innovations in teaching and researches.

I wish IITs retain its brand image.

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