#Education #Society Opinion

Six Reasons Why IITs Need to Take a Backseat


First, I must assure you that this is not a rant on IITs or IITians. I have the utmost respect for them, perhaps more than you can imagine. Nevertheless, it is not enough to divert my attention from the sensitivity of the matter at hand.
Yes, IITs comprise the best brains in the country. Yes, they have the smartest students. Yes, they are a benchmark for the highest standards of education in India. But, why has the word ‘IIT’ lately become synonymous with ‘marketing and hype’? I agree, it’s a brand, and brand sells. But then, why has the vision of the Indian public become so myopic as to begin and end at IIT? It typifies what is wrong with the country—a mentality to huddle behind a common sense of purpose and undermine anything that attempts to deviate from it.

Hence, let me begin my argument: Why IITs need to take a backseat?

1) So that ministers and politicians can stop taking undue advantage: People like Kapil Sibal, who have absolutely nothing better to do, are hellbent on tweaking the JEE. Is it for the greater good, like he says? No way. If anything, it is to satiate the needs of a crazy old mindset of politicians to tinker with all that which need not be tinkered with.

2) So that overhyped folks like Chetan Bhagat can stop milking the reputation of being an IITian: I have nothing against Mr. Bhagat. But, he most definitely has had the upper hand in marketing, because of being an IIT alumnus. The Indian crowd really needs to look beyond reputations, and begin judging things purely on merit.

3) So that peer pressure reduces upon the aspirants: No one can deny the pressure experienced by the IIT aspirant. I experienced it, you must have, and so must have a million others! If the hype of getting into IITs is reduced on a whole-scale level, so will the pressure upon the competing students. A counter-argument is that even the quality of education will then decrease. But, isn’t sacrificing a little on the quality of education worth it to alleviate the youth of the colossal burden?

4) So that it isn’t considered a ‘stigma’ to not be in the merit list: Believe it or not, this line of thought is not inconsistent with the thinking of many parents in our country. Even the students themselves have this fear of being an ‘outcast’ if he/she fails in his/her bid for the JEE. Why not consider it to be just another exam?

5) So that students from other colleges get their due recognition: What about the NITs? The BITs? The Delhi University? AIIMS? What about the law colleges? Do these names get their due recognition in a country, where IITs are considered the “only decent college” for academics? When will that day come, when studying in any other college will not be considered a “compromise” by the consensus?

6) So that people could pursue their dreams: Just because everyone else is trying to, and because you are capable of, does not mean that you should end up in an IIT, as is often the case! If your dreams lay elsewhere, if your heart beckons you to pursue other careers, why should you continue to run in circles, just because the entire country is?

Like so many of you, I too wish to see an India, which is not bound by restriction of thoughts, lack of vision, and overhyped age-old benchmarks. I too wish to see an India, that dares to dream!

(Photo courtesy: GiveUp@IITB)


About the author

Kumar Pratik

Exorcist, Demonologist, and Master of the Dark Arts. Just kidding. Part of NTMN since May 2011 and Editor-in-Chief from 2013 to 2014.

20 Comments

  • Saale, reputed insti’s me apne college ka naam to daal hi deta…. that is indeed a world class university… 😛 …. Well, jokes apart… I agree to the fact that IITs are given the undue hype… which results in diminishing even the “obvious” values of other recognized insti’s …. No one would ever (at least at the time being) give the same respect to a NLS paasout or a NSD passout the same amount of respect he/she deserves….But then you would also agree to the fact that they are like the onlt “silver lining” when it comes to world rankings… except for DU….though IITs are not that much world recognized, other colleges fare far worse….

    • Hah, putting in the name of our college would have accounted for biased writing! ‘IITs are world recognized’ – I wonder what Vishwakamal would have to say to that 😛

  • I totally agree with you on the last point. Being an IITian myself, I opted out of placement this year and started my own company that offers design services. People should start pursuing careers in their own field of interest – only then India would grow faster and better!

    • IITs have to do absolutely nothing. The mindset of people needs to change, to downplay the importance and significance of IITs.

      • dude I agree with some of your points completely..
        But lets try to see this situation as a whole unbiased and with proper reasoning ..
        1. The lone example of Chetan Bhagat is not enough for formulating any new policies or changing your mindset. Moreover if your talking abt his novel he got what he got because he wrote on something that general public wanted to know about — Life at IIT.
        2.The no of engineers is rising at a very fast rate, we all know that. Now this creates a race to get into the top companies. The top companies will themselves look for some specific points in the region where they can recruit.Now since their past experience and the facts(World institution rankings) drag them into institutes like IITs there is naturally gonna be a race to get into them. So to finish peer pressure more jobs need to be created(and im talking abt nice paying ones cause thats what everyone likes). And one really can’t compromise with the current Indian Education System , given that it is already below the level desired or required for fast paced growth of the country.
        3.It is not true that the best brains reside at IITs. Infact many ppl are there not because of their intellectual level but many other factors like hard work,exam attitude(jee). Agreed that there are many people who have higher intellect than IITians but as i said earlier there are a limited no of top companies and so u gotta set some level or benchmark for recruits. And thats really when the global rankings,infrastructure,quality of education(all because of government funding),entrance criteria come in handy.. If you search how many iitians have been involved in top companies,their contributions,positions they have achieved,their reputation worldwide then you’ll get an idea y is whatever it is today.

        I agree that there are many gaping holes in the system like the entrance criteria (much debated) or the brain drain but you cant really blame the iitians for that. And talking about the mindset why do you think ‘Kolaveri Di’. We need to have an unbiased rational understanding and view of things and our views should not be based on grudges. Then only can the general opinion be free of all the criticism it currently attracts.

        • First thank you for being a responsible reader, and for not jumping to conclusions and condemning the article or the author just by the title.

          1. Chetan Bhagat reference was used as a metaphor towards the Godlike reputation of IITians in India. I liked his book myself.

          2. Agreed. But, there is a solution to this predicament. You have argued that good companies mostly recruit from IITs. The question is – Are other institutes really that far behind IITs? Is BITS too inferior? Do NITs not have a chance to bridge the gap? Let’s downplay the hype of IITs, let’s recognize other colleges, automatically the level of education will increase, it will become better distributed. And, as for employment, the companies will still recruit the best of the crop, from various different colleges!

          3. Yeah I know, because a brain like me isn’t in an IIT 😛

          We sure need to have a rational understanding! Wonderfully put last line.

  • All over the argument, the author does not say what he exactly means by ‘should take a backseat.’ He has just rephrased some problems in his own words without actually making any contribution, any solutions to the problem. Note that I do not agree with all the problems. But everyone already knows some or most of the problems. The questions raised by the above article that are unanswered by the author are: How should the IITs sacrifice quality of education if they want to (point 3)? What can an IIT do so that outside people can pursue their dreams (point 6)? How can the mindset of people be shifted towards meritocracy (point 2). How can we argue whether IITs need to take a backseat or not if we do not have a clear understanding of what ‘taking a backseat’ means?

    • The question I have tried to raise through the article is ~ Why has the word ‘IIT’ lately become synonymous with ‘marketing and hype’? Why has the vision of the Indian public become so myopic as to begin and end at IIT?
      I agree that most of us know these problems, but none of us are willing to admit it openly, and to rally other people around the subject.

      Like I have mentioned before in the comments, IITs need not sacrifice the quality of education. Even the point 3 mentions clearly that it is the hype of getting into an IIT that must reduce. Also, I mentioned that it might be a common mentality that quality of education will decrease in such as case. It is not my argument!

      Again, in point 6, IITs need not do anything. Anything they can do will not change the mindset of people to pursue their dreams.

      Okay, the solutions you ask for- Because, the problem is not of physical sense, let me propose the following solutions:
      1) For the authorities and the government to invest in improving the infrastructure, the curriculum and the faculty of NITs, BITs, IIITs, other AIEEE colleges.
      2) The key lies not in downgrading the status of IIT, but in upgrading the status of other colleges.
      3) For us as citizens of India to become morally responsible and spread awareness regarding the benefits of pursuing other careers, apart from engineering.
      4) To educate our peers and our juniors of advantages of not giving into the peer pressure and to make their own decisions.

      I hope by now, you understand what I imply by ‘taking a backseat’.

  • For point 2 in the original article, you can look at things upside down. Don’t you think that it was because IIT that an author got his due recognition? Believe me, a brand cannot ensure consistent sales of a book. Chetan Bhagat is good, and that is the only reason his books have been selling ‘for such a long time’. But because he went to IIT, he got the initial boost. I would say its a great thing the name IIT gave rise to an artist 🙂

    When I read your article, you had some questions which I had known, and by the time I finished, I couldn’t understand what the point of your article was. So I went back to the title, ‘take a backseat’. You would do awesome if these specific points you just gave me went into your article. (although I still feel 3 and 4 are quite general). Because it shouldn’t happen that people start with the argument, ‘take a backseat’, read you article, and then say, ‘yes IITs should take a backseat’. They should understand the valuable and concrete points you have.

    • Well, my friend, let me think it over, and then I will come up with ‘Ten ways how education system of India can be reorganized’ or something of the sort. Let us do it in stages- first we have presented the problem, next we will propose the solutions and then we will implement them. Cheers 🙂

  • Well yes i agree to the post upto a good level. The point where our thinking separates us is the causality.

    The IITs are hyped as a result of the so called mentality. The hype is the effect; the cause is the mentality in question.

    Even if we assume the IITs take a backseat, it would have no implication on the mentality in isolation.

    The approach you suggest us top-down, while the more efficient one [personal bias here] would be bottom-up.

    but again its just a mere thought 🙂

    • If you check out some of my earlier comments, I have explained that ‘IITs take a backseat’ is an ironic metaphor, because it isn’t in the power of IITs to take a backseat and affect the mentality of the people in society.
      As for your bottom-up approach, I have argued in the comments that ‘the key lies in not downgrading the IITs but upgrading the other institutes’. Glad that the message has not been lost, and was perceived in the right spirits by you. Soon enough, we shall come up with a revolutionary article on how to revamp the Indian education system.

  • dude don’t be so biased…
    1st of all complete it, IIT should take a backseat to?
    your 1st,and 2nd points where out of context…
    3rd and 4th are not at all sufficient reason…
    5th,thats what u think!

    6th was the best point… I totaly agree to that!

    dude,
    IITs are IITs…
    it doesnt mean other colleges are in anyway back then IIT…
    so if’ll write again—
    every college should take a frontseat with IITs!
    how that we’ll figure out…
    fuck sibbal…

    • Please check my comment just before yours (the reply to jasmeet) for ‘IIT backseat’ explanation.
      My 1st and 2nd points were the classic NTMN style satire/sarcasm genre.
      I beg to differ, my 3rd and 4th points are of colossal magnitude, because they highlight everything that is wrong with the current education system. As for 5th, maybe. But, I raised the point only because it had been suggested to me by some readers.

      I agree with your ‘frontseat’ comment. Like I have mentioned over and over again in my comments, ‘the key lies in not downgrading the IITs but upgrading the other institutes’. And as far as Sibbal is concerned, let’s not give the guy any more publicity than he deserves. He should be alone rotting on some god forsaken island rather than screwing up an entire generation of Indian students!

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