Some students of IITs feel that there is a general deterioration in the academic atmosphere in these modern temples. But is the situation that bad?

The doyen of Indian software industry, N.R. Narayana Murthy, caused quite a flutter in academic circles by stating that the quality of students coming out of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) is on a steady decline. But is it true?

Educationalist Chukka Ramaiah believes that the quality of students has indeed gone down. The octogenarian, who has guided many students into the IITs since 1985, feels that the change in the IIT entrance exams has a major share in the deterioration of the situation. “Before the year 2000, students had to attempt descriptive questions where the method in which they attempted a question was also examined, apart from the answers. This resulted in IITs enrolling students with better understanding and creative thought process. But after 2000, the exam pattern was changed and Multiple Choice Questions were introduced where it was important for a student to come up with a correct answer rather than knowing the process of solving the given problem.”

Rote knowledge

“IITs are not engineering colleges but are educational institutions where a student is expected to gain skills rather than just information. But present-day students are joining IITs on the basis of rote knowledge,” Mr. Ramaiah said.

In an age where technologies are changing very frequently, the need for the creativity and the ability to adapt as well as contribute qualitatively towards the developments is crucial, he opined. Mr. Narayana Murthy's statement points out this very aspect where present-day students are unable to maintain the quality that their seniors could achieve, he said.

Some students of IITs also feel that there is a general deterioration in the academic atmosphere inside these modern temples. “Many students only dream of getting into an IIT and once they enter any of these institutes they lose interest in studies,” a student of IIT-Chennai said.

“During their preparation for the IIT entrance exams, students get used to a regime where they only have to remember an answer to a particular question. But in IITs a student is expected to understand the process and come up with creative answers. People are pushed to think here and that is where most students are found wanting,” he said. Students are interested in gaining marks and are not interested in understanding the concepts; this is reflected in the recent trend in placements. While students clear the written tests during the placement exams, they fail to clear the interview.

But is the situation in IITs that bad? No, there are some very diligent students who try and excel in academics but since not all are in the same boat the general standards are falling.

The spark is missing

“Our professors usually say that earlier an IIT used to have a very vigorous academic atmosphere which used to goad a student to perform well. But as the students are taking the easier path by maintaining just an acceptable Cumulative General Point Average (CGPA), the eagerness to out-perform each other and come up with innovative ideas is not there,” he lamented.

So, what could be done in this scenario? Mr. Ramaiah says that students in IITs are expected to create the systems and not just maintain them. “To inculcate the habit of coming up with out-of-box solutions the practice of holding discussions in a classroom should be encouraged. The students, particularly those in the intermediate levels, should be engaged in discussions where they can put questions and explore newer ways of solving a given problem,” he said.

“The present trend of putting a student through a full day of rote work in corporate colleges will only produce a student with lots of information and not a candidate who can solve a variety of problems. A serious preparation for two hours everyday is enough for clearing the IIT entrance exams. The main thrust should be on assisting a student in expanding his understanding. This will equip him with tools to tackle diverse problems in and outside IITs, and excel in his/her career.”

Staff reporter

The eagerness to come up with innovative ideas is missing