IIM grad reacts: 'No doubt students are world-class'
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh recently stirred the hornet's nest when he suggested that the faculty members of IITs and IIMs were not 'world class' and that the institutes were 'excellent' because of the quality of students. We invited you to share your views with us.
Siddhesh Joglekar an IIM-C alumnus reacts:
Earlier this week, Hon. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh made a few remarks about the faculty/students at IITs and IIMs, which have created a huge controversy. Are those remarks justified? Is there one correct answer to this question? We try to look at both sides of the coin here:
For those unaware of the exact quotes by Mr. Ramesh, here we quote the minister again from an earlier article from Rediff.com.
"There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs. The faculty in the IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class. So the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institute of Management) are excellent because of the quality of students not because of quality of research or faculty."
The issue of worthwhile research at IITs:
Clearly, for worthwhile research to happen, the ecosystem provided to the Professors has to be conducive for research.
The leading technical colleges in countries like Europe and US have a teacher student ratio in between 1:4 and 1:7, and the facilities, remuneration and the general ecosystem available for professors greatly reduces the attrition rates. In India however, the teacher student ratio in leading institutes is way above 1:7, in some cases, as high as 1:10 or more.
With this being the case, professors cannot pay proper attention to students and have to take up more number of teaching hours. Further, are professors indeed encouraged to take up ambitious projects, requiring significant investments upfront? Is there too much bureaucracy involved? These are questions for self-introspection, rather than anything else.
'The faculty at IITs and IIMs is not world class':
I believe this is an extremely generalised statement. Having studied at an IIM myself, I can vouch for some professors truly giving amazing insights into the subjects they taught. What is unique about the IIMs is that professors are extremely approachable and I have never heard of a case where a professor refused to help a student if asked.
Students quoted as world class:
For one, when you hold entrance exams -- more than 500,000 students appear for IIT-JEE and 300,000 students appear for CAT -- and then select only 7000 (IIT) and 3500 (CAT) from among those, the students are bound to be of amazing capability.
To come in the top 1 percentile of this huge number of students is only for the extremely hardworking and bright students. So, on paper, these students ought to be world-class. But yet, there has been criticism about the selection through the IIT-JEE, for which coaching classes at centers like Kota and Hyderabad give students who afford this coaching an unfair edge.
There definitely are truly world-class students that the IITs are missing out on, because of the current selection system. On the other hand, the IIM selection system, though long, is comparatively more just because of the personal interview phase, where professors give candidates a fair chance to prove themselves, irrespective of their prior backgrounds.
Quality of research by faculty:
To quote the Chairman of the Board of Directors at IIM Calcutta, Ajit Balakrishnan from his convocation speech made at IIM Calcutta last month, "This has been another year of outstanding intellectual output at IIM Calcutta and I am filled with pride as I stand before you to describe some of the high quality work that is being done here. Our faculty published around 40 research papers in peer reviewed journals and presented 25 years in international conferences during this past year. They have enquired into a wide range of topics."
I don't know about the 'world-class' standards, but this is great work collectively in my opinion.
Does that mean there is little scope to improve? There definitely is. But the push for improvement has to come from all stakeholders.
The students have to enthusiastically and proactively help their faculty with their research projects. The faculty has to go ahead and make the world take note of their research, finding time from their teaching commitments. And most importantly, the government has to take visionary steps to inculcate the spirit of research and scientific thought through timely funding for promising researchers.
Siddhesh Joglekar is an alumnus from IIM Calcutta, Batch of 2009. He is an internet professional with two years of work-experience at Rediff.com and is currently experimenting with newer ways of creating web-based products that can make a difference in the lives of people in the 21st century India.
Your say: Do you agree with Jairam Ramesh's statements or do you think the minister was being out of line? Share with us your opinion.Write in to us at email@example.com (subject line: Jairam Ramesh) and we will publish the best responses right here on rediff.com!
Image: When you crack an exam like CAT or JEE, you ought to be world class says Siddhesh Joglekar
Is an IITian on par with a Stanford grad?
Raghu Addanki, Head IT and Infrastructure, Evoke Technologies writes in:
I believe the strength of any technical institute lies both in the faculty and the intellectual capacity of the students.
Firstly, IIT has a way of selecting this intellectual cream by Creative Entrance Examination.
So definitely the Faculty at IIT has a clear gauge on picking the best from student community. As each year passes, the student community gains more insight into IIT exam patterns and they develop solution techniques to succeed in the entrance tests. And this challenge goes on year by year.
Secondly, most regular academy programmes at IITs are known to be undergraduate programmes involving lot of Applied Science.
When we say Applied Science there is no scope for Research.
We are just applying known techniques to understand technology and the principles underlying.
Since most students are already masters of basic math and science, transitioning themselves to quickly understand the New Engineering Principles is swifter than average Engineering Aspirants.
The research begins in many post-graduation programmes and now the question is how many UG students are staying back to pursue PGs at IIT's.
Let us compare this with the flux of UG's migrating to other World Universities away from IITs and India.
Yes, it clearly marks the inclination these IIT qualified undergrads show.
Don't they have belief in IIT research programs and facilities? Do they really think western universities are better than IITs? And lot of such questions will arise.
A straight question is: How many of them are willing to stay back in India and join Indian Research Institutes.
So where is the problem.
As Jeeva said "Most of my teachers have been my source of inspiration". And they taught him that '"learning is a continuous process; they taught us that there is no harm in learning from someone younger to you; they taught us that whatever you do, put your heart and soul in it and give it your best shot'.
Come on Jeeva these teachings are part of any teacher in the world.
Since you put your heart and soul in the IIT entrance examination, you sailed through.
Then what is it you learnt new?
Try to project a mature show to make readers understand the tech ability of IIT's rather than general teacher qualities.
Now coming to Mr. Jairam's remarks that "There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs."
Yes! It's a true introspect to why IITians swim away from Indian shores and touch foreign institutes.
Perhaps the IIT intellectual cream itself doesn't believe in their campus strength, comprising faculty, facilities and recognition.
Jeeva should mark the comparison between an IIT Masters and a Stanford Masters.
If the IITian is on par with such Masters offered elsewhere, please do a research and publish results to our readers.
Once we are convinced about UG "Stay Backs in India" let us all do another research on why IITs are unable to invent and discover new things in this universe.
Lastly, I should appreciate IIT Creative Ability on their Entrance Tests that are much tougher and have better filtering capability than most other Institutes in the World.
And yes they are creatively bent in this area and do best research on the exam patterns.