What makes the IITs different? Why is there a clamour for getting into these institutes of technology? Why do companies prefer to hire from IIT? Let’s find out!

The IITs produce world-class engineers through a curriculum which is rigorous. According to a documentary on CBS 60 minutes, less than two per cent of the exam-takers on an average get into the IITs, while 10 per cent of the exam-takers get into Harvard. Hence, the IIT JEE is considered to be one of world’s toughest exams. So, what is IIT? Why do students undergo such hardship to enter an IIT?

“IIT is a philosophy, not simply an educational programme,” says Padmashri Dr. M. Anandakrishnan, Chairman of IIT Kanpur. With a number of engineering colleges offering engineering education, the focus of the IITs was to bring a substantial amount of science and humanities content and create engineers of the future.

Pedagogy matters

The “teaching-learning process” at the IITs are fundamentally different from most other institutions. Here, the senior most professor is assigned to take classes for the junior most students — the first-year students.

This is to ensure that the senior most professors and icons of specific subjects are easily accessible to the beginner at IIT. This helps in building a healthy teacher-student interaction. Also “there is no finality of the syllabus” says Dr. Anandakrishan and goes on to explain that the faculty has the flexibility to deliver the latest, updated and dynamic content for the prescribed syllabus.

“IIT transforms life,” says Srinivasan Viswanathan, an IIT Madras and IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, executive director of TiE and member of the executive council of IIT-M Alumni Association. For him it was a great experience making it to IIT-M from small town Palayamcottai in the southern district of Tamil Nadu with schooling in the Tamil medium. His biggest takeaway from the IIT is the ecosystem that nurtures confidence, problem-solving and team building skills. “What we learnt outside the classroom was as important as what we learnt inside the classroom,” he says.

Vivek Khandewal, alumnus of IIT Bombay feels that the kind of people he met gave him an opportunity to look at things from various perspectives. The life of an IITian is what he or she makes of it. The campus provides numerous facilities and opportunities be it mountaineering, yoga, the 24-hour open tinkering lab, horse riding or music.

The emotional bondage between the students and the faculty is also strong, because at IIT, everyone lives within the campus — be it the student or the faculty.

Prof. Anandakrishnan feels that it is imperative that exposure be large, wide and deep. It is with this view that IITs go a long way in helping the students get into their dream companies, research labs and universities within or outside the country to do their projects. IITs have one of the best alumni networks which focus on nation-building efforts besides helping each other.

The IITs have an excellent track record of placements. Some of the world’s largest corporations and most of the Fortune 500 companies go after an IITian . Besides, most of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are from the IITs. “Mindless cramming despite good scores and a seat at one of the IITs leaves the student totally unequipped to face the academic rigour of the IITs,” says Prof Anandakrishnan.

“Aspiring for an IIT education is not enough, it is extremely important to be committed to the academic achievements such as the scores and strike the right balance. If you succeed it is fine, if you don’t its still fine because there are so many more opportunities opening up,” says Visawanathan. “If you don’t make it at the undergraduate level, try getting into an IIT for the postgraduate courses,” says Prof Anandakrishnan.

The writing on the wall very clearly is ‘IIT is a big dream.’ And big dreams are built on strong fundamentals. After all, it is the attitude that decides the altitude.