Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Part II - The decline and fall of the IIT's

This is the continuation of the previous post.

The theory in the previous post was that the education system is in a flux, and there is a constant desire to upgrade and upscale – SSC schools want to upgrade to CBSE or ICSE, ICSE schools want to upgrade to IB and GCSE. As far as SSC schools are concerned, this process has only just started while with ICSE schools this has been going on for quite a few years. In addition, there are several new schools that have been set up that offer IB/GCSE from the beginning. The Ambani School was set up in 2003, followed by Ecole Mondiale and then B D Somani. Today in Mumbai there are a few dozen IB schools and, in India, probably hundreds.

For the rich, getting admission for their children into school is easy, far easier than the time before these new schools were set up. Generally speaking, the academic standards of these IB/GCSE schools is superior to ICSE/CBSE and hugely superior to the SSC schools. The academics are such in IB/GCSE schools that students who graduate are prepped and prepared to immediately shift to colleges in the USA, Canada and the UK. Do keep in mind that parents of students of IB/GCSE schools are themselves generally well educated, often from abroad, and are reasonably wealthy. This means that the parents have on the one hand no qualms, and, on the other hand, the desire and ability to send the kids abroad post IB/GCSE graduation.

Now let us step back in time.

In the good old days, you did what was a classic education. School from Campion or Cathedral in Mumbai, or Doon, or any of the top-notch schools in India. Then you went to a top-notch college, say St Stephens or St Xaviers. If you were technically inclined, you went to an IIT. Except for the really very rich, not many went abroad. If they did, it was almost always for a post graduate education – an MS, or an MBA or similar. Going abroad for an under graduation was unheard of. Look at the resume of high level business executives aged 50+ and you will observe this.

Since going abroad was such a big deal in the good old days, it meant that our IIT’s and IIM’s were guaranteed to have a huge demand. Getting into one of these required serious brain power. You had to be really and I mean really bright. The number of IIT’s was few, first IIT was set up in Kharagpur in 1951, then in Bombay (1958), Madras (1959), Kanpur (1959) and Delhi (1963). The next IIT was set up 31 years later in 1994 in Guwahati. Today there are 23 IIT’s. As far as IIM’s are concerned the first was set up in 1961 with a very slow addition. Today there are 20 IIM’s.
Admission to the IIT is determined by several factors, including primarily, the marks you score in the Joint Entrance Exam [JEE]. The number of seats available is finite. So, obviously you would have to score well in the JEE to ensure that you get into the IIT of your choice in a course of your choice.

There was, however, trouble brewing on the horizon for the last ten odd years. This year, the bomb has exploded.

With the availability of internationally compatible education in schools and the desire and ability to send the students abroad, parents were simply bypassing the IITs and IIM,s. Students who were well prepped had the education and money to secure admission in universities abroad. They, obviously did, as however you look at it a college education from abroad is better than one here in India. So, you had a perfect storm. You had far fewer students who wanted to go to an IIT, coupled with the fact that the number of IIT’s has increased. This year, the admission board suddenly found that after tabulating the results of the JEE, they had not enough students to fill the seats in the IIT’s. Incredible.!

Now here is what the admission board did. They simply lowered the cut off marks thereby ensuring that about 10,000 to 15,000 students became eligible to apply for an IIT. They simply had to fill the seats.

If you like you could read the newspaper reports here:



Now here is the problem. The IIT courses are pretty academically challenging. If to put bums on seats you have increased your student body by lowering the admission qualification, you will have classes full of relatively not so smart students. What happens next? They fail, they drop out, they commit suicide, and, worst of all, they may have to be simply pushed to the next year to ensure that they do not repeat the year. How does this end? Simply by having masses of Dumbo’s, promoted year after year entering the workstream thoroughly unqualified. I shudder!

The admissions board has sought to justify the lowering of the admission mark by explaining that this year the JEE was unusually difficult, hence, students got lower marks! Really?

Mind you, this is the first time this has happened. The lowering of admission standards can only be deleterious for India. As it is we have lakhs of students who are educated but unemployable unless trained by the employer. With this lowering of standards, the consequences are truly scary.

The fact that a larger number of good students are going abroad has been known for some time. The graph has been rising every year. What has our government done? Nothing! Increased the seats offered when the takers are reducing. The consequence today? Lower the standards.

Did I not tell you, leave it to the Government to fuck it up?

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