Sunday, April 22, 2007

Manufacturing "Merit" - Part 2

It was in the context of "reservations" and "merit"... Some months back, one of my posts on this blog/newsletter "Manufacturing Merit" had mentioned:

    "....to win in this Darwinian landscape, an entirely new industry has taken shape during last decade or so, which specialises in "Manufacturing Merit"...the "Coaching Institutes"...

...which help aspirants to "crack" the entrance tests for any of the premier engineering/business institutes - irrespective of their basic undestanding of the subject...

The post ended with my understanding of the scenario:

    "From a purely socio-historical point of view, the coaching institutes, in a very short period of time, have revolutionised two major changes in the societal texture of India:

    1. they have redefined and evangelised a new meaning of "merit", which is essentially based on the supply-demand gap of opportunities in the society, and

    2. they have successfully created a small but vocal new "social class" which owns the "merit" (and its definition) in the society."

Thanks to Abi's post about Bashing the JEE of IIT today, I accessed the Outlook aticle "Coaching Factories Are Dumbing Down The IITs"

... and it was heartening to see that this manufactured "merit" is loosing its shine...

The article starts thus...

  • Tata Steel MD, B. Muthuraman, an IIT Madras graduate, says IITs are now thriving on their "past reputation" and TISCO is "not likely to recruit" IIT graduates any longer

  • Many IIT professors too find the present crop of students lacking in creativity, and the spirit of innovation and inquiry

  • They blame the students' blinkered, robotic approach to their studies on the fact that a large majority are products of coaching factories.

  • They call for reform of the joint engineering exam (JEE), and of the IIT curriculum as well, to develop the students' societal awareness, communication skills and knowledge of the humanities.

    The nearly 2.5 lakh students who wrote the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) a few days ago for the 4,600 seats across seven IITs were blissfully unaware of a simmering debate about the JEE system, the institutes' curriculum and their future employability. What has triggered the discussion within the fraternity is the concern expressed by two distinguished IIT alumni about the general decline in standards of excellence at the institutes in recent years. Their remarks have questioned the calibre of students who make it into the IITs by subjecting themselves to the killing rigours of coaching factories in places like Kota and Hyderabad. The alumni seemed to conclude that these products of coaching factories—who now form, according to Wikipedia, 95 per cent of students at IITs—had a blinkered approach to education, did not recognise new ideas and had lost the spirit of inquiry and innovation...

... which brings one back to the issue of "Merit" vs. "Reservations"...

or as this article so succintly puts it:

When excellence in the IITs today is more in the imagination than in reality, how could reservations further erode it?

I guess, it will make as much sense if one replaces "IITs" with "IIMs" and "JEE" with "CAT/XAT/MAT, etc."...

3 comments:

confused said...

Professor,

If IITs are so bad and ''are surviving on past reputation'' then why the clamor for reservations?

You are quite right, the supply side constraints are real problem But pray who is responsible? I don't expect you to admit it but why is a visionary like Arjun Singh so opposed to FDI in education which would easy some of these constraints at no cost to the taxpayer.

Supratim said...

Yes, what is the point in harping about "coaching classes", when this is the result of an artificially created scarcity. (Like so many other things in the past. Remember telephones?). The coaching classes have simply worked according to the system. But, I don't see how you build a connection with the reservation debate?

BTW, let me tell you a parable - maybe you can draw some conclusions. In Mumbai, it used to be a herculean task to get in to the schools in South Mumbai. Parents used to pull any and every string they could to secure admissions for their kids. Today, these schools are going empty! Because so many new private, good schools have opened up through out Mumbai, and most people do not live in South Mumbai. Ring a bell?

Cheers
Supratim

Supratim said...

And, I am happy to note that the Supreme Court has thrown the govt's petition out once again.

So, now all those IIM applicants who had been put in limbo, thanks to our erudite HRD minister, can now find out whether they got in or not.