What the coaching centres are churning out are zombies who will find it extremely difficult to adjust to life on an IIT campus and beyond
NOW THAT the hype regarding the innocuous changes made in the IIT entrance tests have died down, it's time to take a serious look at what getting admitted into the IITs is all about. All that the IITs did was to insist that any student getting admitted into the institutes should have secured at least 60 per cent marks in the board exams.
It's not a very big deal, considering that students have high scoring subjects such as Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Computers in their 12th class and that if they cannot score these marks in the relatively easier boards, they will find it simply impossible to clear even the first semester at any IIT.
Secondly, they felt that a student can appear for the entrance exams on not more than two occasions — and rightly so — for it's a shame to waste academic years merely to get into the IITs. It would be understandable if there were no other engineering institutes available in the country; but with hundreds of very good engineering colleges including the NITs, it seems a shame to waste years of mindless studying just to crack the IIT entrance tests.
Thirdly, the preliminary exams were scrapped and only the six hour exam, testing the student's skills in Maths, Physics and Chemistry, was retained. Fair enough, for an aspirant may have been unwell on the day of the preliminary exam and hence would have been needlessly barred from appearing for the final exams, thereby denying him/her a chance of participating in the examination process. Finally, if a student has been admitted into any course at an IIT, he/she will not be allowed to appear for the entrance test again with a view to improving his ranking.
And yet for these seemingly justified changes in the Entrance Exam procedures, there were days of protests and demonstrations and road blockages, culminating in a dharna and audience with the President. As a result, the changes have been deferred for a year.
Now, why is there such a ruckus created against these simple changes? First, it's not the students who are creating the commotion — for they are far too young and inexperienced in such matters — but the parents of the aspirants, the media, society and the unscrupulous coaching centres. Getting admitted into any IIT, into any stream, seems to give the student the proverbial Midas touch. He is automatically branded as a huge success — no matter how he does in the four years spent in the institute and with his life later on. If merely getting admitted into the IITs means pots of gold, then every aspirant and their parents should necessarily read the book Five Point Someone... by Chetan Bhagat which gives a first hand account of life within the campus and how strenuous it is for the four years spent there, for a very large number of students.
But how do students and their parents know of all this — most of them are not alumni and have no knowledge of life within the institutes. All that they are fed on are the media reports of the golden boys of these institutes. Well for every Nandan Nilekani, Rajat Gupta and Narayana Murthy, there are literally hundreds of IIT engineers leading ordinary lives in ordinary jobs. On the other hand, there are hundreds of non IITians from other engineering institutes who are highly successful but do we know much about them?
And finally the coaching centres — well they are necessary evils. But the pressure put by some of them on the aspirants to clear the exams is tremendous. There are a number of centres which prescribe weird rules for the students — no movies, no TV, no entertainment and horror of horrors: no regular schooling; only studying and more studying. What they are churning out are zombies, boys and girls, who will find it extremely difficult to adjust to life on an IIT campus and beyond.
For the two or more years spent at these coaching institutes, students will be leading a life like a frog in a well, a narrowed down life or no life at all beyond studying. What is required is to teach the aspirants the basics of science and to ensure that all the concepts are clear — rather than merely studying without comprehending. Any aspirant who studies all the time, to the exclusion of all things else, is sure to be a misfit at these institutes.
If an aspirant is unable to clear the 12th class exam, how is he/she expected to cope with the numerous tests and exams conducted by the IITs each year. I know for sure that IIT Chennai has three sets of exams each semester, a quiz, a mid semester and an end semester exam, which makes it six sets of exams each year; so 24 sets at the end of four years. Now multiply this by the number of papers a student has and the sum total amounts to a staggering 140+ papers at the end of the 4th year.
The coaching centres naturally want a high success rate, to enhance the prestige of the institute, which is directly co-related to their increase in profits. But it is the students and their parents who should be wary and enter into the fray of the IITJEE with their eyes wide open.