Ask school leavers opting for Engineering degrees overseas on the reason why they didn’t consider IITs, the answer will be that their regular schooling prepared them for life but did not allow time to attend to the coaching factories.
Thank God that there is going to be a change. However before I reach the announced change, lets look at the problem first.
Students who really wanted to crack the IITs in today’s times are more or less forced to cut themselves away from regular schooling after the 10th grade and opt to instead study (often) by traveling to the hot and sultry Rajasthan town of Kota where a full industry flourished that fed concentrates suited to clearing the entrance tests. These boys and girls hence considered being away from regular schooling as the “sacrifice”. The Kota factories often organized for admission with local schools for these students where their attendances are “managed” and they continue to mug the lessons that guaranteed admission into the desired colleges. The Year 12 results didn’t matter till 2012 and hence there was no need for regular schooling. Not any more…
Being away from regular schooling had its own problems… This excerpt from an article (Time to Kota-Proof IITs?/Asha Rai/Education Times) highlights the concern…
A few years ago, two freshly minted IIT graduates walked into the CEO’s office on their first day of work. To put the 20-somethings at ease and break the ice, the CEO turned the conversation to the day’s headlines and, to his utter astonishment, drew blank stares from the duo.
Then there are guys like Shantanu Jha, a Doon School alumnus and IIT Kanpur graduate, who felicitiously quotes Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ poem In My Craft or Sullen Art to make the point that engineering is as much craft and art as it is about mathematics and intelligence. Jha, 46, a senior executive at a Bangalore firm and an expert in microelectronics, had, as an 18-year-old, seriously weighed reading English at St Stephen’s before opting for engineering. Less than three decades down the line, one can assume with a fair degree of certainty that not one of the 4. 68 lakh who took the entrance exam to the IITs this year even remotely considered English as an alternative to engineering.
Coaching centres, which intensely drill IIT aspirants, are back in the news because of the storm kicked up by Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy’s recent comments about the declining quality of IIT engineers.
But coaching centres are only part of the problem. They are market responses to a highly skewed higher education system. While the demand for quality engineering colleges has exploded, the supply has only incrementally enhanced. This means today nearly five lakh students vie for 9, 600 IIT seats. Such an extraordinarily narrow funnel fuels the demand for intensive coaching, a model that the city of Kota in Rajasthan seems to have perfected.
The named Santanu Jha, was a few years senior to me at the school and was idolized by many of us. To the best of my knowledge, he never attended a coaching system as that was just not possible at the residential school. However that was 80s. Now in this era, none of the Doon boys really consider IIT too as they just would prefer to give time to their all-round education than entering the mugging factories in Kota.
Thank God there is going to be a change and that too soon…
CARAVAN published an article by Dilip D’souza this month (Get to the Top). It is one of the must-reads for any on this topic… The article details as to what happens to the school education and how it is completed simultaneously to the coaching imparted at the centres.
When students come to Kota to work towards the IIT exam, they still have to sit for their 12th Standard board exams. For that, you can enroll in a school at home, or in one of several Kota schools. Rushika, for example, was officially a student at A’s Saint Steward Morris Convent School in her hometown, Bhilwara. Her two friends were enrolled in two Kota schools, but neither could tell me their names.
Puzzled by this stuff—that Rushika was enrolled in a school hundreds of miles away, that her pals could not remember their schools’ names—I walked one morning into one such school, in Talwandi. A man ushered me straight into the principal’s narrow office. From behind a desk that seemed to fill the room, he told me all I needed to know: annual fees 35,000, admission guaranteed as long as you are admitted to one of the coaching institutes, attendance required once a week.
“Once a week?” I asked. “But even once in two weeks is OK with us,” he replied (“chalega” was the word he used).
“Dummy” schools, of course: everyone in Kota knows about them. Kids enroll not to attend, but only so they can take their board exam. At dinner one evening, a friend told me that the Talwandi school I had visited has 40 or 50 students per class until the 10th. In the 11th, enrollment suddenly swells to 500 per class. Dummy students, too.
This has been known to be the menace for some time. Not just taking away the regular schooling advantage but also damaging the psyche of the students. I found one of the comments from a student who studied at Kota on the Caravan article to be very poignant.
My own experience in an IIT was that many of the students who made it in were so exhausted by the process of getting in that they studiously avoided learning anything that these wonderful institutes had to offer. That, unfortunately, might be the best case scenario. At worst, the institutes might go to rot and nobody will even notice. This seems like the making of a classic bubble.
Kapil Sibal pushed pushed and pushed to “break this classic bubble” and seems to have finally succeeded in getting the school education counted. From 2013 there is going to be a new system in place and of its many features is the requirement for students to do well in year 12 school boards too. Hence the students will have to also attend school and not just the mugging factories. The new system is detailed on this link.
And from next year the Class XII exams results will matter a whole lot more since 50 percentile weightage will be given to them for entrance to IITs.
“Another serious problem with the present system is the neglect of the Class XII examination process while admitting students to engineering institutions. This has led to the almost complete disregard to the secondary school system and neglect of education imparted in schools impacting quality and access,” explained Mr Sibal.
The Telegraph has printed a summary of the change in an article by Basant Mohanti. While the article can be found on this link, the summary is below. The highlighting of disadvantage for the Bengal students since the marking in the state board being tougher is possibly a bit misplaced since a percentile system is proposed which will balance out the differences between the examination boards. The summary also points out that it will no longer be the marks only of PCM but even the languages attempted that will be taken into consideration. Fantastic move indeed…
However, will the Kota-Raj come to an end? Will the IITs become Kota-proof?