IIT students' quality getting worse: Murthy - Hindustan Times
New York, October 03, 2011
Voicing his displeasure over the quality of engineers that pass out of the IITs, Infosys chairman emeritus N R Narayana Murthy has said there is a need to overhaul the selection criteria for students seeking admission to the prestigious technology institutions. Addressing a gathering of hundreds of former IITians at a 'Pan IIT' summit, Murthy said the quality of students entering Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has deteriorated over the years due to the coaching classes that prepare engineering aspirants.
He said the majority of the students fare poorly at jobs and global institutions of higher education.
"Thanks to the coaching classes today, the quality of students entering IITs has gone lower and lower," Murthy said, receiving a thundering applause from his audience.
He said apart from the top 20 per cent of students who crack the tough IIT entrance examination and can "stand among the best anywhere in the world," quality of the remaining 80 per cent of students leave much to be desired.
Coaching classes teach aspirants limited sets of problems, out of which a few are asked in the examinations.
"They somehow get through the joint entrance examination. But their performance in IITs, at jobs or when they come for higher education in institutes in the US is not as good as it used to be.
"This has to be corrected. A new method of selection of students to IITs has to be arrived at."
Drawing a road map to put IITs among the top engineering institutes in the world, Murthy said it has to be ensured that IITs "transcend from being just teaching institutions to reasonably good research institutes" at par with Harvard and MIT in the next 10-20 years.
"Few IITs have done well in producing PhDs but in reality when we compare ourselves to institutions in this country, we have a long way to go," he said.
More emphasis has to be given to research at the undergraduate level and examinations should test independent thinking of students rather than their ability to solve problems.
Murthy said in order to produce good research at IITs, the Indian government has to be persuaded to create institutions that fund research projects.
In addition, faculty members should also be evaluated annually on their research performance by an independent committee, Murthy said adding that India must shift from the tenure system for its faculty to a five year contractual appointment system.
The Infosys mentor also lamented the poor English speaking and social skills of a majority of IIT students, saying with Indian politicians "rooting against English", the task of getting good English speaking students at IITs gets more difficult.
"An IITian has to be a global citizen and must understand where the globe is going," he added.
Murthy also stressed the need to have the governing council of IITs made up of its alumni.
The only way IITs can become better is if 80-90 per cent of members on their governing council are alumni.
"Nobody is bothered about an institution more than its alumni. We must somehow persuade the government of India to let go of its control and make sure majority of the council members is the IIT alumni."
Murthy urged IITians spread across the globe to work with their alma mater to ensure that IITs are among the top 10 engineering schools of the world.
He said while only a couple of IITs feature in the top 50, there should be at least five IITs in the top 10 engineering schools in the world in the next 10-20 years, he added.
That does not help. To get an award, one has to have his/her research funded. How many in India can get their research funded well ?
The big problem I find with the Infosys-kind of model is that it kills research. Top people who could otherwise contribute to research become "body" shoppers. Consider my case:
While I can work in the US --- today an H-1 B visa takes just 3 weeks and I have an open invite from a Boeing company right now --- I have decided against it, because I dont want to leave India. What do I do here --- same as what Infosys does. I tried for ten years to develop products --- didnt get any funding and now I am doing outsourcing work because that is what helps me make some money.
We have got branded as the outsourcing shop of the world and no serious investor who wants to develop top class technology looks at India. They are not wrong in their decision.
A small group of ten who really love technology is not easy to put together here. Here, a person when he becomes 25 wants to become a manager. May be there are exceptions like Tenet. But they are just that, exceptions.
The one question that gets asked in social circles here is --- how many people report to you? Our society fails to understand or rather does not want to understand that developing good technology takes years and is not an easy job. I wonder how many of us can communicate to our spouses/close relatives about the work we are doing. People are just not interested in things like research. Our role models are the billionaires who have made money by hook or crook, or even politicians.
My big question is --- will you get top class people doing phd in India unless you really give them an eco-system that supports it? Murthy's son himself is doing a phd at Harvard.
I don't agree with Mr. NRN's statement. The coaching centres for IITs exist because our school system has failed to provide quality basic education to majority of the children of our country. In fact, many IITians themselves are running coaching institutions and are great teachers.
Further, the IITs, like all the elite universities in the world, have gone beyond being mere technical institutes. The students of IITs nowadays focus more on entrepreneurship, consulting and finance sectors rather than the core technical sectors because the need for technical manpower is being fulfilled by lower rung institutes.
In fact, Mr. NRN's Infosys is one of the least preferred employers of IIT graduates since the last decade and a half. Maybe he is upset about this.
Further, I believe that great institutions are those who mould their students into great leaders and professionals. The mark of greatness of an institution is less of how difficult it is to get in but more of how good a person emerges after undergoing his education in it.
One of my uncles, an average student and a second divisoner throughout his academic career, was admitted into the Harvard Medical School on the strength of his persistence and Statement of Purpose in 1966.
The 4 years which he spent there changed his life. He was made to work hard but was never ever made to feel bad about his poor academic record, rather, he was encouraged at every step to go the extra mile because as the then Dean of the Harvard Medical School told him 'Son, we selected you because you have potential. We will ensure that you emerge as a doctor as per the Harvard standard.' The result being that he had a global career in Medical Research and Health Policy spanning more than four decades.
That is why I believe that the selection criteria for IITs should be broader rather than based on performance in one single exam.
About Mr. Murthy's assertion on contract-based faculty positions and evaluation based on publications, I would like to say that academics requires stability for the faculty to produce meaningful outputs. Also, the publications based promotion criteria introduced in the IITs has deprived many excellent teachers of promotions because they seldom publish and are content teaching their students.
For example, Prof. Pawan Kumar, Associate Professor in Mathematics Department at IIT-Kharagpur. He is a B.Tech. & PhD in Computer Science from IIT-Kanpur and is perhaps the most popular teacher in IIT-Kharagpur. But since he is obsessed with teaching and considers publications a waste of time he is still stuck at Associate Professor.
Even the Nobel Laureate Dr. Hargobind Khurana was turned down a lecturership at the Panjab University in the early '60s because he was a throughout second divisioner.
According to me, the real problem in India is that we are afraid of making exceptions to the rule for really exceptional people and are obsessed with making binding universal 'one size fits all' rules in all areas of life. We forget that real geniuses are almost always exceptions to the rule.
Achintya Nath Sexen
|Research inherently involves risk, and Indians are risk-averse.|
No one wants to fund a project where results are not guaranteed.
Indeed, if UIDAI had to tell the truth and give the real facts of the project ---- things like biometrics may not work, or de-duplication is untested --- it would not get funded.
So, what does UIDAI do ? It fudges, obfuscates, hides the fact, gives a lot of PR
and then everyone is happy.
This way we cant go far and already the chicken are coming home to roost. The chinese are all over the place; they have hacked into all our networks, and now our critical telecom testing infrastructure is funded by Huawei itself !
Petrol is Rs. 75/- and India imports 80% of its petrol. I remember doing a seminar on non-conventional sources of energy during my BTech in the year 1981 or 82What did we do in the last thirty years ?
We are busy funding UIDAI where all we do is give big orders to foreign companies.
Every IITian is busy developing sales skills because that is what pays!
Coaching classes are so much a home made Indian answer to the question of quality..
In the same league: when you cannot improve the quality, just upgrade the name.. now we have more IITs named as IITs than most can remember. An Indian way to devalue a brand in the name of "equity" or was it improving quality by giving it a branded name?
Give Unique ID to people: they will still not be able to solve any challenges they face but in their name the smart alecs would have taken Rs 150,000 crores out of the public funds.. A day light robbery, shall we say??
A $35 laptop that is "India's answer to MIT's $100 laptop" roared India's "Human Resource Development" minister 16 moths ago.. Then announced that for 100,000 laptops they wanted Rs 60 crores as bank guarantee (that is Rs 6000 per laptop? what was that? cost? price? why would you want a Rs 6000 bank guarantee for something that you claim to sell for Rs 1500?? what are we missing??) We never craeted any technology but by saying so we got the attention of the world and have been misleading them for a few years and going by the social networking comments, is anyone really fooled? Tomorrow is the next last date for its launch and let us hope its not a farce..
I sincerely wish Narayan Murthy had given it a little more thought.. Likely that he would have come to conclude that you cannot build castles of excellence of IITs on bamboo scaffoldings of primary education.. There is an urgent need to address the foundation of learning in India. The children has have as much potential as Narayan Murthy realized but their social and governance framework keeps them from even getting started out on that path..
Its unthinkable that in a country of 1200 billion people we cannot send 5000 bright students to IITs every year.. But as long as our education is what it is- 90% are groomed to be unskilled or low skilled, forget about educated or thinking people, there is little hope of reaping "demographic dividend".
Can educationists rise up and create a People's Shadow Cabinet and talk MHRD down to a path that makes sense for India over the next 20 years?
I am surprised to see a statement supposed to have been made by Mr. Narayana Murthy that 80% of IIT students are of poor quality. The coaching classes for IIT-JEE, which is being said to be responsible for the so called sad state of affairs has been in vogue for decades now and is not a new thing.
Yes, IITs would certainly like to get students who have made it through IIT-JEE without going through coaching classes. But let us not forget that for almost all entrance examinations whether for NIT or any other ( including the IIMs after IIT), the students who qualify would have attended coaching classes.
Indeed coaching classes are now very common even for board examinations. Students who get very high scores at School Boards are also able to do so because of tuition and coaching, where rote memory is emphasized over understanding the subject.
Facts being so, how far is Mr.Murthy justified in saying that 80% of those who enter IITs are of poor quality? Has there been no deterioration of quality of students entering other institutions like NITs etc. and State Govt. Colleges etc. who also have attended coaching classes preparing for entrance examinations for these colleges ?
True, Tamilnadu is admitting students on their School Board performance but is this also not something boosted through tuition and coaching?
I also find it difficult to believe that the majority of the IIT students fare poorly at jobs and global institutions of higher education these days as Mr.Murthy is supposed to have said. Is there not a line up of companies, including some from overseas, interested in recruiting from IIT campuses each year?
Why is there this line up if the students are of 'poor quality'? Do the IIT students who try for admissions abroad these days find any difficulty in getting admissions?
Is the number of IIT graduates being selected by IIMs showing a decline? Are there any reports from any employer or any University or Institution where the students had gone for internship or for higher studies that there is a deterioration of the quality of IIT students? These are questions that the IITs may like to answer by way of a rejoinder.
The bulk recruiters who speak of poor quality of IIT students pick up hundreds from self-financing colleges, where students enter after paying donation or capitation fee. Most of these students would have failed to get in through merit at the IITs, NITs and many such Institutions including the Govt. Colleges. Is it that these colleges produce better graduates than the IITs? The private self-financing Institutions which are affiliated to some University go to any extent for getting good results.
The entire teaching process is to prepare the students to score high marks at the exams. by rote memory of expected questions and answers. If they are Private Deemed Universities, everything is within their hands. These institutions even coach the students to face selection processes of companies and take over part of the post recruitment 'training' of the fresh recruits by companies at the campus when students are in their rolls. Good placements and good results are important for them as only then they can continue to attract many students to join them.
No wonder why they are frustrated during their pursuit of academics at the IITs. Their objective is not entirely studies at the IITs , but what happens thereafter.
JEE should have a mechanism to weed out such misfits. Spending lakhs at the training schools does not entitle them automatically for any kind of higher studies.
Otherwise how will one explain the Poor Man's coaching classes in Bihar ( conducted by a few good smaritans) where successful IITians are produced?
These latter variants are fully aware of the need to be diligent and be useful to the society unlike some whose objectives are highly questionable.
Ravi Kumar Baskaran
I cannot talk of numbers, but talking to Roorkee students, I feel that they are at times discouraged. Each one of them is smart enough to be as successful as Narayan Murthy. However, in early years of their joining Roorkee, the administration kills their aspiration and inspiration. To pass out from there their challenge turns out to be to follow the rut and not think with their own mind.
Instead of support, they end up in trivial struggles with the system.
These students are not able to become good followers. Once their confidence is questioned, they end up short of becoming good leaders. Certainly very few are able to maintain their expectations where they started when they got admission. In spite of all the faults in admission process, we are still admitting future of India.
Do you think an American student is smarter than an IITian graduate? The difference is in teaching. India teaches. America learns!
This is like comparing apples with oranges, though both are fruits.
IITians are certainly the best of Indian Students - the cre'me de la cre'me. How can you compare them with an average American Student - no doubt an IITian is smarter than "an American Student"
- and best of IITian grad would compete with the best of American grad student.
In general terms, IITians do well in graduate schools competing against their American counterparts. Others like NITians or from RECs, when they do get admissions to graduate schools (post-graduation as we call it here) do find the going difficult, until they fit into the system with time.
All said, I guess an average American Engg student would be smarter/better than an average Indian Engg student.
Somehow, Indians learn to learn inspite of having been taught.
Chandra k Jain
Spot on. More like “Indians Teach at Uni’s through spoon feeding while the Rest of the world Learns while having fun at universities”.
Now imagine force fed children who are fat and dull as compared with the happy go lucky that eat when they are hungry.
Hunger for knowledge is what is lacking in the system in IITs, which are more a process line for dummies ( meaning all creativity killed off )
My true education started at Sydney University as I enjoyed what I did at the Uni and was not studying for grades or competing with another chap. IIT was just torture and that will always be the way I will remember IITM. The only break was when we had a handful of truly inspiring Profs who made us enjoy the subject and learn with enthusiasm. The majority you could cut classes and cram classnotes and score high marks without learning anything. Of course I am talking about what happened 45 years ago. Could IITs have improved since my days in their teaching methods ? I have my doubts. This needs a cultural shift..
Indian schools are no better. My nephew studied at Padma Seshadri school in Chennai. In year ten they threw him out saying he was not good enough and went to Santhome High school in Chennai. I brought him over to Sydney and he did his computer science degree and works for Google and has completed his masters and now doing his PhD while still working.
At an age when I was starting afresh in OZ he is manager Asia Pacific...and No IIT degree either. In fact one day I should publish an article so Padma seshadri Principal knows that they in fact do not know students true potential
Chetan Bhagat ne DUKHATI NAS PE HAATH RAKHA DIYA.
Now that Mr. Narayan Murthy has chosen to criticise IITs, they need to publicly declare,
1. What % of their staff is from IIT
2. Which all colleges they recruit from
3. What % of their revenue comes from real engineering/technology/science work
Even if what Mr. Narayan Murthy says is true the IITians are still better than other engineering institutes which have in the country.
Infosys has so much of money Mr. Murthy can start at least one real world class institute(as perceived by him) in India.
Vinay S Panchanadikar
Why are we giving any importance to this guy who earned his money by body shopping and various other means? what is the big deal?
He should be asked to shut up. If the competition has increased, the way the present generation wants to secure their future in the absence of quality parental guidance of our times, what is wrong in getting that extra coaching form some organised schools; move on men and women
Mr Naryan Murthy has the habit of saying something, because of the space and time press gives to him for his acquired accent and well paid speech writers. Is he also not a culprit of coaching because he has some money to spend by cashing in his stock in Infosys.
to me just ignore him, that would do lots of justice to the civil society.
I have been quite on the group, but too much waste of time by this one guy.
That poses the more important question: why does PAN IIT invite such people? Are they so desperate for big names? Who will they invite next? Katrina Kaif? And then hang on to every word she says?
kumar - Another victim of Socialist India
Even Amir Khan attended Anna Hazare street show...did he not ?
All these ideas of who to invite as speakers come from marketing and event managers to attract more sponsors and Bhamy will tell you about his objection to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar speaking at PanIIT Delhi meet and How many of us blocked the DOW chemical CEO from being a key note speaker at a Pan IIT meet in USA.
$$$$ speaks my friend and chaps like Narayanamoorthy and Nandn Nilekani have oodles of it. So every one every where gives them an award an an opportunity to speak only to suck up to these billionaires.
Kumar tomorrow if you become a billionaire you too will be on the speakers circuit :-0
Nandan Nilekani stepped out of Infosys and took up Aadhaar and now he has been made to realise he is no genius he claims to be.
Narayanamurthy took his money out and invested in SKS finance that was meant to be a not for profit which later went Public made oodles of money over night and then collapsed too as fast as it came up.
Micro Finance company SKS was charging poor farmers interest rates as high as 29% ( more than credit card rates ). The explanation offered was that it was much lower than 100% interest charged by lone sharks....To me it is Blood Money and NM should be ashamed of getting involved..
Infosys is nothing but a Body shopping company. Period. I believe I said this in 2004 and many IITians wanted to chop my head off.
But the truth is Infosys is no different to JEE Coaching schools. Infosys made money catering to a demand for Programmers at the rate of 5 Indians plus 100% mark up for the price of One American.
In Oz we call this scab labour as thousands of New Zealanders come to Australia during the shearing season as tourists and take away jobs from Aussies at half price :-)
IITs and IIMs were started in india by central funds to create some good facilities as catalysts for development of technical education in India.A reasonable level of autonomy was given to them so they could create large pool of technocrats and managers in India, a competent faculty that could develop to research and consultancy and promote higher learning in country and create new technologies
Huge funds are being made available to them
In india the moment talks started of liberalisation all people in power liberated themselves to loot. Politcians, babus, industrialist and professors of these so called centres of excellence.
Salaries and perks were raised several times blindly aping western salaries forgetting that income level in India is 100th part of that in USA.
It is out rightly foolish act and word liberalisation is being misused for loot and giving to self huge money packets by those in power.That is only contribution of fraudulent expert Singh who is also a stooge of political mafia who appointed him as a cover on political filth,
Coming back to IITs from this macro environment. IITs developed as scarcity based brands. Still they are better than IIMs who are mostly snobbish guys.
First we should realise that IITs are no different from other colleges and syllabus is same and has to be same.You cant teach something that is not existing in IIT. Same books and technology is taught every where. The manner in which IITs grill their students with tests bring them close to brake down. This is no education.
The problem is that IITs are used or misused as brand and creating a superiority cadre by IIT alumni and professors who have no interest in cause of technology or public service.
Like IAS they invariably write Mr XYZ IIT Delhi or Mumbai. Ideas is to try to impose themselves on public that they are special because they managed to enter in these colleges by leaving behind crowds of competing students.And that is end of it.
The entrance system in India is so faulty that muggers and sloggers get into the system . of course IQ level of these students is better compared to average students of other Institutes. But that is hardly case to rejoice.
With general fall in education standards and rise in seats the overall quality of students has gone down everywhere.
That applies to IITs as well.The professors in IITs and IIMs are more interested now a days in working as director of private mushrooming institutes to make fast bucks and to give guest lecturers at heavy honorarium. The studies and research in IITs suffer due to that.
The R*D record of IIT and IIMs is virtually near Zero.
When students enter IITs they have only limited goals. To use IIT as a brand with their name and try to be more than equal with others in profession and society, get plum postings in MNCs or to go abroad to USA and settle there in pursuit of glamour and dollars.
Hence with all this background it is time IITs and IIMs sit down and rethink everything ,shed their arrogance and critically review their admission process, their products relevance and the system for research.
The only thing professors have done after so called Singh brand of growth is salary growth. Professors getting for themselves package of Rs 50 lacs is ridiculous and crime with society where per capita income is just rs 40000 PA.What kind of growth it conveys?
In name of globalisation and growth every one is looting the country in one way or other. It is strange that salary hikes are considered growth of economy.
WE should deglamorise IITs and IIMs, make the salaries of staff in line with other institutes, the admission process should be changed and more PG programs should be run by them along with concrete R&D results.
WE should also get rid of illusion that doctorate degree means some one is great scientist or inventor. It is simply a higher research degree of university and the quality is even worse than Masters courses. Just because some one carries PhD degree does not mean he is genius, capable and expert.It is already proven by MM Singh, Ahluwalia, and so many other experts in central government and ministers making mess of ethics, morality, economy and social fiber of country in recent years of fraudulent development and globalisation.Loot is not globalisation. Blindly and half heartedly aping US systems is not development.
Every one knows that with delicensing and more production casts should have come down. But the price rise has touched 300% since Singh took over and 900% in property. What kind of development is this ? We dont want such development. If Singh says that resources are not available hence prices are going up then why has he started fast development policies?
Have our so called economists and Management experts in IIMs able to create a proper growth model and low cost economy or are we simply dancing to tunes of world bank. MNCs and american investing banks, and blindly aping westren glamor and consumerism and salaries like we always did?
So what is role of IITs and IIMs in national development? and what cost?
Prof R K Gupta