While IIT professors and the Human Resource Development minister slug it out to rationalise the entrance process for the revered institutes, or rather satisfy their egos, students are a confused lot.
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Forget those who are due to write the Joint Entrance Examinations for the IITs next year, forget those who are shuttling between the coaching classes for Class XII and coaching for IIT-JEE.
Meet Suraj of Noida. Suraj is a proud son of ambitious parents because he is only in class IX but spends more than two hours daily at a coaching centre for IIT entrance exams. And Suraj is not worried. He is just curious to know what the pattern for IIT-JEE will be by the time it is his turn.
On Money Mantra, Professor Sanghi of IIT (Delhi), president of Faculty Forum, has some advice for Suraj. “Just study the fundamentals of pure science and math…by the time the exact nature of the exam is decided.”
But he is disheartened after meeting Neha (name changed), who starts her day at 6.30 a.m. for her school and finishes with her tuitions late in the evening. Sanghi only says: “My child is going through the same ... ." He probably wanted to call it "the same torture", but I stop him before he can say so.
"Don’t blame the child," I say, "blame her parents, blame yourself, but don’t blame the child."
Som Nath, meanwhile, is smiling. An ex-IITian and an attorney, he is now heading the powerful IIT Alumni Group. Som Nath wants to protect the brand of IITs and wants only the best to join them. No matter what these students do after IIT education, he believes, they would have acquired good analytical and critical thinking skills.
I agree, but I ask if that should have been the case with any other school? Why then do we need an IIT and an exam business to organize this selection process? He smiles again. So we agree that we are in a fix. In a fix because we like to invest in education, the best education, and the school, the tuition, the other college cannot give us the return we expect our money, our child to earn.
What do you want Professor Sanghi? Who is your IIT looking for? Students whom one can groom to grow as the best technician or entrepreneur, or do you want an army of robots who can shine like a metal piece burnt in your labs?
So much for an exam that can only select certain students to study on campus. A campus that is trying hard to keep its name on the international arena. A campus that is often complaining for amount it receives as grant for its average reputation in terms of research. Dinesh Mohan of IIT Delhi is honest to have written that they need not admit students who are there just to find a better MBA after IIT.
But all this is a matter less important before the differences that the HRD ministry, IIT faculty groups ( who don’t agree with their directors), alumni groups and parents (now preparing for litigation) are grappling with. The difference is over a route, a design and the time to implement it. A test that can select a few thousand from a few lakhs and promise them a career. These few lakhs are actually a confused crowd right now. As you read this line, most of them are busy preparing for their school or tuition, and are being billed by the hour for it.
The author is the anchor of the show Money Mantra, which is aired at 6 pm from Monday to Friday on NDTV Profit. To see all the episodes of Money Mantra, click here.