December 01, 2005

Engineering an engineer

Yesterday my mom told me about the death of a second year student at IITK. I was more than shocked to hear this as I knew him personally through a few meetings in Kanpur. Also he was from Nagpur and I had taken some help from him regarding JEE books etc for my brother. It feels sad to see a budding engineer end his life like this. Newspapers carry articles about his suicide due to academic pressure, while his family rubbishes their claim. Whatever caused his death, the fact would remain that we lost a good engineer in the making.
One point that has yet again come to light is the academic burden on a student in IITs. The IITs are the most reverred engineering institutes in India are recognized in the world as well. The entrance exam JEE is supposed to be one of the toughest and most competitive exams in the world (this year 198,000 students appeared for 4,935 seats). Undoubtedly the people who clear this represent the creme la creme of India. Once in IIT they have a rigorous schedule of assignments, night -outs, sessionsals, etc. The competetion within the most competitive brains is all the more intense. All this leads to stress and probably depression amongst people who face failure in IIT, especially so because all of them are generally used to topping in their respective classes until now. This underlines another fact - Is the academic pressure so much that a normal student is not able to cope it ? Do we need to do something about it ? Also do we need more such reverred institutes in India so as to lessen the burden on a student writing the entrance exam ?Have a look at this figures - India's population 1,027,015,247++ and number of students clearing JEE - a few thousand - Dont we need more good engineers ? Dont tell me the number of engineering colleges in India - I know there are lots of footpath institutes but what I am talking about is great engineering institutes like IITs and good ones like NITs. Also after getting into an engineering college, should we do away with written and oral exams and instead evaluate the student throughout the semester only based upon his attendance, classwork, practicals etc ? Help out the weaker students through extra classes, etc and ensure that everybody is able to perform decently. We can even have a very flexible course work schedule and give students a greater degree of freedom in the number of years they take to complete a degree. A counter argument could be that it would result in diluting the high standards of an institute. But isnt it better than losing lives ?


Slimshady said...

My heartfelt condolences to the family ... and its a matter of grief ...

On a seperate note, will creating more iit's help ... i guess not ... i think the problem lies with parent's outlook .... if weak kids are exposed to taunts by parents such as "padh le beta" .. "sharma ji ka beta itna hoshiyar hai .. tu kyun nahi hai" .. "usko dekho wo kitna padhta hai aur ek tu hai" .... and for the stronger kids taunt get modified to "theek hai half yearly mein first aaya hai final mein aayega to baat hogi" .. "jyada khush na ho aur padh" ... "second kyun aaya first kyun nahi" ... n all .. puts a burden / pressure on already worked out and (peer pressured) minds

It happened with me too ... i came 4th in some fitjee test with some 99.96%tile and my dad said make it 100 next time ... i dint say nything but vowed to get it 0 next time .. that's my way of doing things ... not everybody are alike .. some are papa's true beta (unlike me) ...

anyhow my gut says creating more iit's is not gonna solve problem ... it will crumble the situation and iitans prestige abroad ... only thing which can help is sprite ... dikhawe pe na jao .. pio aur mast raho

Eliza said...

Yea parental pressure is one thing - but at the same time I do believe we need more good places . Dont you think the parental pressure arises because they know if their ward doesnt slog like the neighboring kid he will not make it to an institute of good repute.

I reteirate my figures -
India's population : 1,027,015,247++
People graduating from all IITs : 4,935
Doesnt that speak for itself ?

Having more IITs does not necessarily mean diluting their higher than sky scraper standard. On the contrary we should nurture more institues to become potential IITs. Have lucrative options for proffessors in such institutes so that teaching in India is also considered as one of the career options by bright youngsters.

Nishit said...

creatings more IITs is not a solution. Maintaining seven IITs to the standard where they are costs a lot. Well, I am not saying money is bigger than an individual but still this is one important aspect I think. On the other side, Do we have enough professors to maintain higher standards of high profile institutes. Barring IITs and few NITs, India doesn't have good faculties. Lot many factors behind these though, which in itself is a big issue and we (me, Shady and few others) had biig argument on this. And in case of such competition pressure is bound to be there. There are better ways then creating more IITs.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for the tragic death of an IITian ( not an engg) at IIT Kanpur.

I am writing a bit more since the discussion is on IIT. Some say academic pressure, some say more IITs.. blah blah.. above all the media gets its stuff for running their shop. The other group argues to improve PG programmes, R &D and yes attracting top quality faculty members.

my feelings:

1. The only way to improve IIT is to have no IIT.

2. Nobody goes to IIT to become an engineer. People go to IIT to become an IITian.

The general trend is IIT Btech ( Dabba/ Bijli ) > IIM ( marketing specialisation > First job : investment where is engg... engg education at IIT is a joke.

rest IITians: management + GRE+ software..

may be 10 % practising traditional engg.. building true nation :(

people now come thru JEE to join M.Sc in economics ( ex: IIT K) or integrated MBA ( Btech+ MBA in 5 yrs at IITKgp)..

3. PG programmes at IIT will never improve as long as the GRE option is there. They are just not enough attractive, not even comparable to a graduate programme in a decent univ abroad.

4. Attracting good faculty to IIT : agreed ...

5. Academic pressure : Yes, it may be high simply because people who claim themselves as the custodians of IIT are more concerned bout academic standards though they cann't do much about it. May be the grading system at IITK could be changed ( like 10, 9, 8 ,7 and so on).. that may give some relief and security.

IITs don't need small changes here and there.. rather they need reforms.


Eliza said...

Thanks Nishit and Shishir for putting forth your opinions. All said and done we cannot dispute the fact that India needs more world standard engineering institutes. Yea Nishit cost is a factor which a not so rich country like India cannot overlook. But they say the quality of education in a country is a barometer for the country's progress. Now do we want a compromise on that ?
And yes Shishir, I completely agree with you that IITs need reforms infact I say the entire educational system badly needs reforms. I know IITians are lured by the lucrative opportunities abroad and also in management. But that does not give us a reason to abandon IITs and have only mediocre engineering institutes.
Also if people look for options abroad, does that not mean the system is not able to offer them satisfaction (both in terms of their monetary expectations and quality of work as a fodder to their calibre and training). Good researsh labs are coming up in India and we need to have many more of them. About management, dont just wash away the training that you get in your BTech. IIT does not only help in making an engineer but also helps in grooming a person on the whole - you get opportunities to explore so many avenues. That ways I can bet that tough maths or physics JEE problems do not find direct applications under normal circumstances in life!
Yes PG program needs improvement but not by closing the GRE option. More industrial funding can help bag good research projects.
I say reduce the disparity between IITs and many other colleges and reduce the mad rat race within.

Bala said...

I think what we need to is to get away from this crazy system of ranking and marks/grades and possibly away from the "colonial education system"!! .. I joined a REC expecting some amount of flexibility in doing what i want to do.. but that was just a pipe dream .. no freedom to choose one's subjects.. its just an extension of ur school.. thankfully the world outside the classes have me that much needed "college-touch"!! That was more coz an REC/NIT has all kindsa people, from the "Ultra-fundoo" to the "Ultra-Bindaas".. that kinda gives u a comfort zone .. unlike probably an IIT where almost everyone has spent a year in Kota/Brilliants/Hyderabad and sheer pressure to be among ur peers can drive people desperate..

My sympathies with the bereaved family