Gaining entry into elite IITs
THE STATE, TEACHERS, PARENTS AND SOCIETY IN GENERAL HAVE TO CREATE CONDUCIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR STUDENTS TO EXCEL, WRITES ASHOK OGRA
I read with interest an excellent commentary on ‘Higher Education’ by Dr. Haseeb Drabu, published in this paper on April 11. It reminded me of what late P.N.Haksar- one of the leading scholar and thinker of post-independent India - told me when asked ‘what is the meaning of education’. He referred me to his extempore convocation address delivered at Kashmir University in 1975:
“ I cannot help observing, as I look at you, and as you are now seated, your back are turned towards the majestic ranges of the mountains which I see from where I stand. Shouldn’t you be facing them? ……..would you have the curiosity to explore not only the foothills of the mountains but also its peaks? Would you be satisfied only by exploring the ranges, or would you be led to explore what lies beyond? Would you be looking at life with unending curiosity or would you be happy being a caged bird- secure and fed by others? On the answers you give would depend whether you prefer the life of a bird in a cage or fly and flutter in open skies and face its hazards”.
There can be no disagreement that education in general and higher education in particular need a total re-look. That is a debate that has been going on for decades. My purpose through this article is to deal with the existing reality so that our younger generation seizes the opportunities as they exist now.
By the time this article appears the fate of over 5,00,000 (approx) aspiring students including some from the state of Jammu and Kashmir would have been sealed for admission to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology ( The Joint Entrance Test - JEE - for admission to these institutes was held on April 11,2010).
While students would heave a sigh of relief from grueling hours of study, the interviewing period till the final result is announced on May 26 is going to be no less tense. That day India’s most talented students would not just celebrate the entry to the elite education brand in the field of engineering in the world but also ‘future successes’ that the admission to IIT brings - at least in the beginning of ones career.
And for those students interested in pursuing higher studies abroad, the IIT tag also ensures less questioning at the time of seeking a visa and easy admission to prestigious universities such as MIT, Stanford, Columbia, Princeton etc.
Such is the reputation IITs enjoy in the world that in a rare gesture the US House of Representatives passed a resolution in 2005 “praising the contribution of Indians in general, and IIT graduates in particular for their economic innovation and for helping to advance and enrich American society”.
Speaking at the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of IIT,
Bill Gates of Microsoft described them as “world class institute, the computer industry has benefited greatly from the tradition of the IITs”.
Books too have been written on the success story of these institutes. The IIT alumni comprises distinguished personalities including politicians Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Rajat Gupta, formerly worldwide CEO of Mckinsey, entrepreneurs Nanadan Nilenkani and Narayan Murthy, noted journalist Sandipan Deb, our own Kashmiri Jai Hakhu currently working with Intel Corp.,USA as Sr. Vice President, Vinod Dhan who
co-founded Pentium, Arun Sarin, formerly CEO Vodafone worldwide, Krishan Bharat credited with creating ‘Google News’ and many more. These institutes were set up by the government of India as ‘Institutions of National Importance’. This was part of the Nehru’s dream of making independent India self-reliant in areas such as science and technology.
While the steel and power plants became the ‘new temples of India’, these institutes became the ‘new temples of higher learning and research.’
Initially, there were only five IITs established across the country: Kharaqpur in 1951 with Swiss help, Bombay in 1958 with the then USSR aid, Chennai in 1959 with German assistance, Kanpur in 1959 with technical assistance from a consortium including MIT and Princeton University and Delhi in 1961 with UK aid.
Later, one more IIT was established in Guwahati in 1994. (This was the 1st IIT that came up without any assistance from a foreign government or institute). And in 2001, the reputed Roorkee- based Engineering College established in 1847 was included in the IIT family.
As part of the expansion plan to meet the growing needs of the expanding economy, the Central Government recently decided to set up eight more IITs across the country and also upgrade the existing Engineering College of Banaras Hindu University the Indian School of Mines to the status of IIT, bringing the total number of such institutes to 17.
Going by past experience, I find the number of valley-based students who finally crack JEE almost negligible. On the contrary and without sounding chauvinistic, the Pandit students have done exceedingly well – both before and after migration – in making it to IITs and similar other top institutes in the country.
The challenge, therefore, is how to equip students of both the valley and those belonging to Jammu region to successfully compete in this and similar other tests. This calls for creating an environment in which an aspiring student finds going to a school enriching and rewarding, and loves engaging in creative and other productive activities outside of school hours. The responsibility for creating such an environment rests as much with teachers and parents as with the government and society in general. Excellence flourishes somewhat easily in societies that encourage what noted psychologist Edward De Bono calls ‘Lateral Thinking’.
In this article, however, I would like to focus on JEE examination. It consists of three sections: Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics and some common topics from 11th and 12th class of the state boards.
The question every parent wants an answer to is: how should their ward go about preparing for JEE and when is the best time to start preparing?
There are no easy answers to these queries as it would vary from child to child. Also, preparation depends on focus, concentration, ability to grasp concepts, understanding and accuracy. However, what counselors who specialize in preparing students for these institutes recommend is to start early. Aspiring students have to hone their analytical and comprehension abilities and to also acquire relevant knowledge. That takes time and effort.
It is too much to expect young children to suddenly acquire these thinking abilities as they enter class 11 or 12. Nevertheless, to improve the chances of getting into these institutes, students must ideally start preparation at the beginning of 11th class. Students are fresh after the Board examinations and hence a lot more can be learnt. They should first master the fundamentals of 11th and 12th syllabus, followed by attempts to get into the depth of the subject by solving relevant short but twisted problems from various text books.
Having said that, it is important the schools concerned play their role in inculcating these skills among its students at an early age. The schools must create a competitive but healthy environment so that a child finds learning ‘enjoyable’. The teachers must assist students in understanding the formulae and encourage him or her to start applying it in problem-solving.
Memorizing the lessons and formulae is a sure shot recipe for failure. The challenge before the teachers is ‘how to develop analytical skills and solution- solving abilities in students under their custody’.
The state government on its part must continuously upgrade the knowledge base and skills of school teachers- particularly those teaching science subjects in class 11th and 12th by organizing special workshops and training programmes. The learning methodology and delivery mechanism have undergone major shift in recent years, and it continues to evolve as we grapple with new challenges. The learning objectives must define the syllabus and teaching methodology and not the other way round.
Last but not the least, the society in general has to become more conscious of the fact that children learn better in a multi-discipline and multi-cultural ambience. Thus it is equally important that the society and parents do not come in the way those who want to join schools outside of the state, and support those children who show inclination towards disciplines other than engineering, medicine, management and civil services.
It is also important to remember that failure to get into the JEE merit list does not mean that the preparation and hard work has gone waste. It will in fact help such student to crack AIEEE and other examinations for admission to other top engineering colleges in the country including the prestigious BITS, Pilani. It is not always desirable to measure the knowledge gained in terms of the examinations passed. Some of the leading Nobel Prize winners have been ordinary students. But what made them great was their un-ending curiosity and determination to find the answers to the problems that engaged them.
(The author, a native of Kashmir, is a noted Management and Media educator and is currently Founding Director of the Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication. He was until recently Vice President, Discovery Channel & Animal Planet in South Asia. Feedback at email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Thu, 29 Apr 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 29 Apr 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 30 Apr 2010 00:00:00 IST
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