The malaise of persistent government interference in India’s elite IITs has been brilliantly highlighted in your cover story (EW July). The recent attempt of Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal to abolish the time-tested and rigorous IIT-JEE in favour of a common entrance test was a bad idea as it would have dumbed down academic standards in these excellent institutions. Luckily for the nation, Sibal’s populist proposal was bravely resisted by the IIT faculty and he had to back down.
You have done well to put this recent incident in a historical context by pointing out how many times in the past Union HRD ministers have tried to undermine the autonomy of IITs. Murli Manohar Joshi tried his best to pack the boards of IITs with his acolytes and Arjun Singh successfully imposed a 22.5 percent OBC quota in these premier institutions. This history suggests the IITs are extremely vulnerable to interference from the Union HRD ministry and the Central government which funds them.
It’s time the government lets go of the IITs and invested complete adminis-trative, academic and financial autonomy in their managements. The IIT faculty, which fiercely protested and led the battle against the proposed common entrance test, should not rest on their laurels and ensure this happens.
Congratulations to summiya Yasmeen and Vimal Joshi for writing a balanced and comprehensive special report on ICT in education (EW July). It would have been easy to be influenced by the marketing blitzkrieg of ICT education companies which makes us believe that computers, interactive boards and digital content are widely used in India’s schools, colleges and universities. As the authors write, this is far from the truth. ICT in Indian education is yet a distant dream.
It was shocking to read that com-puters bought with taxpayers’ money are locked up unused in government schools. It’s plainly obvious that politicians and burea-ucrats want to enrich the mushrooming education technology companies rather than offer students the benefits of ICT educ-ation. What will gover-nment schools with-out electricity and adequately trained teachers do with comp-uters? Such a waste of scarce resources!
The ICT scene in private schools is also not jumping. Teacher inertia and unwillingness to embrace new technologies results in under-utilisation of ICT equipment in private schools as well. The moral of the story is that the ground must be fully prepared — in terms of teacher training and curriculum revision — before introducing new digital technologies in classrooms.
Re your cover story ‘Another close shave for Brand IIT’ (EW July), I fail to see how the IITs will be adversely affected if it’s ensured that high quality is maintained and controlled in the proposed common entrance test for all engineering colleges. If there are flaws in the proposed test, the IITs can accordingly iron them out to maintain their high quality of education. From a broader perspective, a common entrance exam for all engineering students is beneficial to the country.
There’s something inherently unfair about a system which allows OBC quota students to obtain admission into Delhi University’s top colleges — where cut-offs range from 85-99 percent — with a 35 percent average (Education News ‘Quota complexities’, EW July). Implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgement stipulating that the cut-offs for OBC candidates can be 10 percent below the minimum eligibility criterion (in the case of DU it’s 45 percent) will play havoc with academic standards. Though it may be easy to fill up the 27 percent OBC quota seats in DU’s affiliated colleges, what happens once these students are admitted? Can they cope with the superior teaching-learning standards and English-medium education?
In India everything is done in an ad hoc manner without due diligence and preparation. The OBC quota will also be implemented without paying much attention to these problems. But since it’s inevitable, DU colleges must try their best to integrate OBC students in mainstream classrooms by offering remedial education and counseling. Otherwise these students will either drop out or suffer severe stress.
I was happy to read the June 2012 cover story ‘50 leaders changing Indian education’ and commend you for including Dr. Augustine and Mme Grace Pinto, founders of the Ryan International Group of Institutions, in this list. Both of them have worked selflessly for the cause of education.
I have had the privilege of working with them for the past ten years and it has been a true learning experience. Their dedication towards realising children’s full potential has touched me deeply. They have mentored each and every member of the Ryan family and instilled human values and fear of God in them.
Congratulations for this excellent cover story!
Principal, Ryan International School, Goregaon
Your june cover story ‘50 leaders changing Indian education’ provided excellent and inspiring information for all educators.
It was a great pleasure reading through the profiles of high-performing change leaders in Indian education.
Dr. Dheeraj Mehrotra on e-mail
Thanks for the excellent profile on Madras Christian College (EW June). You’ve given a historical perspective which is rare. Congrats!
Nandini on e-mail