How could IITs produce a Steve Jobs or a second CP Raman?

Since NR Narayana Murthy and Jairam Ramesh raised the issue of the falling quality of the graduates coming out of IITs, there had been many columnists who have referred to their comments. But the deterioration is almost widespread in every institution.

However, all these years I have pondered why Indian engineers have not proved themselves as great technocrats, great designers of products the world need in millions, why have they not set up their own private laboratories and design firms. A question just haunts me: How could IITs produce a Steve Jobs or a second CP Raman? Here are my observations on actions to be taken by IITs.

1. Set questions for entrance examinations where the coaching centres are not much of assistance and lose its ground. Discourage multiple attempts. Don’t insist for a minimum marks in every subject if a student is exceptionally brilliant in any subject of his interest. Insist on aptitude for science and technology. Let the system select real talented stuffs rather than marks scorers.

2. Take a bond from the students joining engineering courses that makes them to pursue the MBA only after at least five years of experience of working in industry and not straight from the college of engineering. Discourage the technocrats from preparing for UPS examination. Let that be for those from general humanity and science streams.

3. Provide either research or teaching assistantships to at least 30% deserving and willing students so that they start appreciating the importance of teaching and research. Emphasize on the industrial applications of the theoretical education of the subjects taught through design, manufacturing and quality control management in every branch of engineering.

4. Encourage, assist and keep the laboratories open 24 hours for the talented students who wish to experiment, innovate or create something new.

5. Make the student select final project selection in third year and encourage him to seriously pursue it to make the project a worthwhile research and some sort of innovation.

6. Tie up students with some companies of his interest and let him spend time in that. Discourage the engineering students with intense aptitude in technology and scientific work from joining certain unrelated industries just for a lucrative pay package, particularly the financial institutions.

7. Encourage those in industry with academic interest to visit, interact, even work with the institutions and if found really suitable encourage them to join the faculty even at higher grades.

8. However, most importantly the faculty must be encouraged to keep constantly building its quality level through research, and interactions with the latest trends in the industry and research labs. Appraise the faculty members on basis of the students’ ratings, research papers, and innovations or entrepreneurships.

One may agree or not with my views. But the country needs to make IITs contribute in technology in significant manner. It must act in that direction with no excuses.

Unfortunately, main weakness or the parameters of low quality of these new graduate engineers are related to their inability to communicate in English in desired manner and to take up the responsibility of corporate jobs assigned straight out of the college. While the former is due to the very poor standard of teaching of English in 12 years of schooling and the engineering college not taking up the task of making up the deficiency through special extra classes, the later can’t be overcome unless the industry participates extensively with the institutes. All the years the industry used to have a training period extending to two years for making the graduates learn what he is expected to do in the specific industry.

However, I am not concerned with that. The students when once enter an engineering college; they must learn the subjects of his branch of engineering well. That is the responsibility of the college. It’s hardly happening. Without the basic knowledge and the urge for knowing more and more of the subject, one can hardly contribute with innovations.

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