I am a 16-year-old-student, about to begin class XII, and I'm preparing for
all the engineering entrance exams for 2013. I have been sure of my
career choice for nearly four years now, and have always enjoyed
learning and building my knowledge. Here is my opinion on the change in
the IIT entrance pattern, as well as the years that build up to taking
The Indian Institutes of Technology are India's pride, the apple of the
Indian eye. They are revered for the standards they have set for Indian
education. Respect is synonymous with IIT, because every Indian knows
the levels of effort put in, and knowledge attained, by individuals who
make it to the IITs.
Today, we are talking of changing the system of selecting students who
deserve to enter these institutes. We are debating and shouting and
screaming and slamming. Slamming each other, the government, the
ministries, the school education system, and the coaching classes. And
in a gigantic oversight, we have failed to analyse a major body of
individuals - us, the students.
The IITs were created to educate. Affordably and with high quality. And
they have accomplished this feat with remarkable success. We compare the
Indian Institutes of Technology with American universities like MIT.
That is an uneven playing field. The IITs were meant to give every
Indian, irrespective of his background, a fighting chance at success. By
providing him with an education. And this education would be provided
to the best, most hardworking students in India.
What kind of student deserves to get into an IIT? I don't think it's
unfair to say that an intelligent and hardworking student who knows his
subject will be welcome at an IIT. But in a country like ours, with a
population like ours, 'intelligence' is a far too commonly found trait.
And so, it falls on one criterion to determine the more worthy from the
less (I refuse to believe in 'unworthiness'). Hard work. And why
shouldn't it? What is rewarded in life? From a world-class musicians
like Pt. Zakir Hussain, to Infosys chairman Mr Narayan Murthy, to
cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. One thing stands true to all these
greats. They worked for hours and hours and days and days in their
chosen fields. They were passionate about what they did. And that is how
they became the best.
'Practice makes perfect' is an adage that will never lose its truth. We
start to familiarise ourselves with things, grasp them more quickly,
only through repetition. And so, the best students- whom we would like
for the IITs - are those who have practiced the most. In this case, that
becomes the ones who have studied the most. And that is where we start
adding all our negative associations with our education system to the
picture. To create a thunderstorm of confusion.
Today, we have touch-of-a-button convenience in so many aspects of our
lives that we want to extend it to everything. We want a convenient way
out of legal protocol, so we bribe. We want a convenient way out of
unpleasant situations, so we lie. That is the unfortunate truth about
the Indian psyche. We want a convenient way for our children to score
highly in school. So we want them to 'get the marks', irrespective of
the means to that end. So WE don't care if they have to go for
'tyooshuns' to 15 classes for their 3 subjects, even from the 1st
standard, if it means we can say "Mere beta ko 98 percent mila".
WE don't care if they never actually absorb anything in their 10 years
of school education. This is so deeply ingrained into children's minds
that they too, start to look for convenience. They now believe that they
need coaching, or they won't get 'good marks'. The tuitions have become
a parallel system, where students are told, plain and simple -
'by-heart this, it will come in exam'. In other words, ratta.
And if they still don't score well? The tuition teacher is not good, the
school teachers don't teach properly, the education system is bad, only
students who 'ratta maaro' can score well. The excuses emerge like rats leaving a sinking ship.
Ultimately, when the window to higher education opens in class 11, we
get a sudden wake-up call. Our kids haven't understood a single thing!
But they got 98%, right, so it's all dandy. Again, the fault is never on
US, oh no. We told our kids 'Get the marks', we never told them to 'ratta maaro'.
That is the school's fault. The board's fault. That Ramu who keeps
calling my son out to play, his fault. Anybody else's fault.
The point is, the vast majority of Indian students don't understand the
point of education. To too many of us, it is a burden that we must
shoulder merely to keep our parents happy. We don't have a clue what we
will do with algebra in the future, or why we need to know the capital
of Azerbaijan. And by focusing so much on 'the marks', we have just
encouraged this decay. We need to remember that the point of education
is to learn, not to study. Undoubtedly, studying is a vital part of
learning, but not the other way round. And us, the students, my
generation - need to learn this before it's too late.
Memorising things is a part of learning. And sometimes, some of those
things don't have a 'logical explanation' and a 'practical approach'.
Anybody who denies this should try teaching a 4-year old the 'logic'
behind the alphabet. "No, but WHY can't X be before B?" is a question
hardly likely to be entertained in any kindergarten.
And the same thing extends even to higher education. Granted, an
explanation often exists. But sometimes it doesn't. Doctors HAVE to know
what they learn like the back of their hands. Would any of us consult a
doctor who says "One minute, I'm not sure if you have a cold or
Hepatitis B, let me just check my book?" In the same way that Arts
majors just have to remember historical dates and mathematicians have to
remember their formulae for quick calculations.
The exceptions to these generalisations are many, especially with a huge
population like ours. But undoubtedly, we do need to address these
basic flaws in our mentality. They will come back to haunt us.
I believe that THIS is the real reason we see a drop in the quality of
our students. Not only the IITians, but majority of the students in
India. As we push to make the school level easier and easier, how are we
forgetting, that when our students enter college, 'easy' will be a word
they will never hear? Doesn't it make more sense to accustom our
students to the drill, to the pressure, that they will undoubtedly HAVE
to face later in life? A student is supposed to study. The word origin
speaks for itself. And it is highly desirable that he enjoy what he
inevitably has to do for at least 15 years. When will we stop trying to
reduce HOW MUCH our students must do, and start teaching them HOW to do
that much? And for how long will we baby them with unreal visions of an
I consider myself fortunate to have been through the Indian schooling
system - a system that has produced so many successful people in the
world and even the IITians of today. I think I can confidently say that
what I know today is because I extracted the best out of the system, and
made it work for me.
On the changes in the IIT admission. The Ministry is proposing a change
in the pattern of admission to the IITs. Technicalities of the change
aside, I firmly believe that the survival of the fittest will stand
The best students will STILL get into IIT. They will STILL do very well
in life. They are the ones who know their subject the best, and by
extension, worked the hardest. And that is what will always be rewarded.
And for the ones who don't make it to IIT, there is no shame at all.
There is nothing wrong with not being the best of them all, as long as
you are the best YOU can be, everyone will do well in life too.
To my generation - instead of focusing on the system and how it's
changing, we really need to just focus on what we are expected to. That
will take us through. Here is our chance to prove our worth.
The IITs have always been, and will continue to be India's pride, an
institute to be looked up to. I have immense faith in what the IITs have
created for India. So does every Indian. Maybe the skeptics need to
show a little more faith in the Indian youth. I look forward to the
challenge of the new entrance system, and whatever the conclusion, I
will work hard and take it in my stride.
Story first published:
June 20, 2012 01:10 IST