Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The JEE Controversy

Some thoughts on the JEE controversy (disclosure: I received my bachelor's degree from IIT Madras):
  1. There is merit to the argument that IITs have not fulfilled their mission of making India a science and technology powerhouse. There is a big disconnect between the quality of the undergraduate students (leaving aside the dilution of the standards in recent years) and the quality of the engineering and R&D output produced. Also, a very small fraction of the undergrads take up careers related to their majors (I too am guilty of this). However, this argument is orthogonal to the problem of determining the best way to admit students to engineering colleges in India.

  2. Having each IIT conduct its own entrance examination is not the answer. Subjecting a high school student to, say, 15 entrance examinations borders on child abuse.

  3. The UPA government seems hell-bent on wreaking havoc with the IITs. First it was the increase in the number of IITs, now this. There is a strong lobby of bureaucrats and other elites who want their wards to go to prestigious institutions like the IITs, but are stymied by pesky things like the JEE. The more enterprising of them wangle admissions from top American universities using their connections -- don't even get me started on the backdoor alumni recommendation route that gets somebody like Bush Junior into Yale; god forbid the day such a thing becomes reality in India. The reservation for other backward classes is also an attempt by the elites in this direction. If you can't beat 'em, dilute 'em.

  4. One of the charter goals of the alumni associations should be to protect the IIT brand. I have not been recently involved in the goings-on of the IITM alumni association, so I don't know if this is being taken up. If things continue to progress at this rate, there may come a time when degrees from the IITs are accorded the same respect as those from some of the more infamous colleges in Chennai (one would be surprised to know of the esteem those degrees were held in two or three generations ago).