The Times Of India has an article “Being The Best” – something about IIT and a meeting amongst the bureaucrats who run those institutions . I can’t help making anything but snide comments about how very “best” these institutes are . But mind you , my view is also colored by my experience in a department which had more cases of files being flung , notorious grading , students being yelled at and summer extensions being handed out like parting gifts to students after their final year.
It is unfortunate that some of our Indian newspapers have some random piece of reporting on one of the IIXs almost every day . One of the nice things which happened in our country after 1990 is that not only did the modified laws make things easier for those who wanted to run businesses – but it also invited private participation in the education sector . Recognition , affiliation and deemed university status became easier . A lot of colleges came up . Many were rotten but some turned out to be excellent [ ISB , IIIT etc. ] . Their students and pass outs are fine . The best companies are willing to recruit them .
And yes , I mean the very best companies . What matters more in the end is – how competent you are as an engineer or a student and not where you got that degree from . I know for instance , Facebook recruited about half a dozen students over the past 2 years for their HQ ( from India 0 . Only one of them is from an IIT .
It would be nice if the Times Of India occasionally covered one of the new colleges . It might give parents a better idea of the options available to their kids . It would be even nicer if newspapers made parents aware of other career options now available to their kids – creative things like marketing , advertising , design , writing and so on .
In the current situation a paranoid parent gets the impression that IIT is the only place worth going to after completing High School . I have read in a number of places that many kids have even been enrolled for 3-4 year courses in remote places like Kota . Can you imagine , a 13-14 year old sent away from the comforts of home to some random corner with no family or friends around him , no Internet , etc ? I used to think we had a very rigorous dose ( a decade ago ) – that used to be 1.5 to 2 years of preparation , with a training session to attend every week or 10 days or so .
If you are a reporter looking for insider information for what happens inside an IIT , the three letter word which you guys sell to paranoid parents and 16 year olds about to write their school leaving exams , just like how you sell semiclad models to everyone ; here’s a piece of insider information which you can make a spicy and gossipy article about .
IIT is a very mediocre and overrated institution with a needlessly rigid curriculum . You are bombarded with so many compulsory subjects every semester that there isn’t much time left to do the stuff you like . Why else is it that top ranked American Universities with just 4 subjects a semester have outclassed this system in every aspect of creativity and innovation , while IIT has about 5-6 pre-decided subjects .
There is a lot of unnecessary stuff from the eighties ( For instance , Engineering Drawing in an era when all that design stuff happens in bits and bytes ). Add to that a sixties mode of education – making students function as mindlessly as Xerox copiers and printers and are forced to blindly draw a whole lot of diagrams related to equally mindless experiments with involve no creativity or design ; where they simply stand and jot down observations like robots . I often got the feeling that to truly excel in a system that like you needed to turn off your brains more than you needed to use them .
While some professors were very good , motivating and pleasant , I remember a large number of them as vultures and vampires with dripping fangs waiting to feast on a caracass . Just imagine a sixteen-seventeen year old entering college and facing these people .
Rigid academic systems do not leave you with much room to explore much of your own . They make most people hate their subjects if they had any liking for them to begin with . Every time the HRD ministry seeks IIT ‘s “expertise and opinion” in helping to develop the curriculum at upcoming Indian Universities I think of how a kind of academic cancer is being spread . The technical skills I picked up there were mostly on my own or from like minded people in my hostel wing . I did manage to get some cool courses at the end when I could pick and choose stuff – and managed sufficient Time Table manipulation without people finding out 🙂 . But by that time a) I already knew that stuff anyway b) I had enough of the institute and had that feeling that I had way overstayed my invite there .
An immediate problem for many of us was being dumped into a branch on the basis of the entry rank and starting GPA . I personally wouldn’t grumble about that aspect since I managed to sign up for pretty much all the courses I was interested in . Also , in hindsight , if your life is such that you end up in front of the computer for a career , it is possibly nice to check out something else in college . Plus , I can understand the logic why allocation needs to be done , otherwise all but 2-3 of the departments in the institute would shut down . However , in that case it is very essential not to force a student to opt for a branch . It is necessary to have some kind of a general course where one could take 4-5 courses from three or four different areas . Also , most importantly , regardless of the branch , apart from 6-7 compulsory subjects a student should be able to decide the rest on his own . But who in the administration would really care .
While IIT might not be any good as a factory its stamp is pretty good ( in India ) – like a kind of ISO 9001 certification of pre-processed polished diamonds many of which are rendered useless in the stamping process due to high combustion at every stage . Everytime I hear someone refer to IIT as the “best four years” of life , I feel we are on an entirely different page and feel sorry that their lives haven’t had anything more interesting to offer them .