Recently IISc Bangalore Professor Arindam Ghosh highlighted the importance of school education and how the recent structure is destroying the minds of the students. He said that students leave schooling to prepare for IITs ‘Destroys Fabric of Education’.
I basically agree with this statement about students spending 4-5 years in coaching to prepare for one exam is distorting the learning process. They do very targeted learning during this period focused on “cracking” an exam. We do lose a very important part of students’ life where creativity and exploration would have been important. Being able to ask questions is more important learning than trying to learn what is the “correct answer”. We make the students “convergent thinkers” rather than “Divergent thinkers” needed for an innovative mind.
Many justify students effectively dropping out of school to be part of coaching by saying IIT pass-outs get Crores of package. First of all most of these “Crores” are foreign jobs and conversion to rupees does not give a good basis for comparison. Average packages in IITs typically vary between Rs 8-20 Lakhs per annum(maybe a few older IITs get slightly higher than this). The coaching industry also spends 100s of Crores of Rupees to promote the “IIT myth” among millions of youth for their “business interest”. Similar “IIM myths” are propagated. There is a popular perception that IIT-IIM tag is best for successful life to the extent that IIT-IIM tag is used for matrimonial sites e.g. https://www.iitiimshaadi.com/
A famous author and a good friend of mine, Rashmi Bansal, was commissioned by IIM Ahmedabad to write a book focusing on 25 successful entrepreneurs from IIMA. Her book “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish” was a roaring success. After that, she received a lot of requests to write a similar book covering similar stories of those successful entrepreneurs, who did not have MBAs. This came out in the form of the book “Connect the Dots”. So the jury is out on whether an MBA is needed for a successful entrepreneur or not!
We had access to a study during the early phase of DA-IICT. Gandhinagar that showed that the coaching industry was flourishing due to the fact that while the quality of students dropped very slowly (say among the top 50,000 students in a entry year), the “perceived quality” of seats dropped very fast. So too many good-quality students try to chase too few of these seats. Add to this, the continuous advertisements by the coaching industry and Govt itself promoting IITs and other Govt institutions. Parents are made to feel that if their child does not get into IITs, his or her life is doomed.
“Perceived” quality here means here popular belief among the general population based on advertisements, govt promotions etc. Not on basis of any formal quality check. Unfortunately even most serious efforts in ranking of institutions fail since focus of institutions is on “cracking” the ranking system.
When one of the new IITs was formed, it was running out of a temporary campus, and probably the first two batches did not have much opportunity to do labs. Many faculty from a nearby good quality private University used to go and teach there. So while in reality, the private university was of much better quality in terms of teaching, resources, etc but most would assume that the new IIT was better based on the “IIT” brand.
When I was in DA-IICT, Gandhinagar and had to handle PG programs, I used to share our faculty and infrastructure information on various websites frequented by prospective students. I used to compare them with some of the top NITs. I used to be abused frequently on such forums by accusing me of spreading lies! In one case the forum admin banned me too. However it still led to doubling of applications and admission of good quality students.
Even recently an IIT Director(from the top 7) visited my University (DYPIU) and said that he could not procure similar facilities compared to what I had due to Govt purchase processes etc.
I believe that if Govt of India gives a level playing field to Private Univ, it would help all by making sure that the “perceived” quality of seats becomes much larger and students do not feel the need to focus on one exam for 4-5 years. Having served and been educated in a variety of institutions, I have had the opportunity to watch closely a variety of situations.
One of the key issues in providing a level playing field to Private institutions if the Govt audit system. It is built into the system that if a Govt organization is provided fund and they do not do a good job of it, they are overlooked. However if the same is done by a Private institutions, even the funding agency is taken to task. In my personal experience as head of TIFAC, I always found the funds being utilized efficiently by Private institutions and delivery was much better. Even currently as Chairman of National Steering Committee of AICTE IDEA Lab, we have had an uphill task to get Govt institutions to apply for it. We have gone to extra length to ensure this in the second round of application process and have been successful to some extent in getting State Technical Univ to apply. We hope they meet the expectations we have from the by spreading the thought behind the scheme among 100s of affiliated colleges.
It would be good for the country and for the students too. if the Govt systems changed to provide level playing field to all institutions based on merit This would hopefully lead to my desired goal of broadening of number of “quality” seats commensurate with the quality of students and less focus on”cracking” exams. It would lead to a more innovative mind and hopefully move India towards an innovation and manufacturing hub of the world.