Reality Check India

The IIT Coaching Centre riddle

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on March 19, 2007

Recently, the Tata Steel chief B. Muthuraman declared that his company didnt care for IITans any more.

At a recent event organized at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chennai, Tata Steel managing director B. Muthuraman expressed disenchantment with its graduates. “We are not likely to recruit them any longer,” he said, adding his company preferred students from other colleges, who, though less endowed, were more amenable to company training. IIT guys tend to think too much of themselves.l

Source : Mangalorean

I will laugh off the “less endowed” comment. Coming from an ex-IITan like B.Muthuraman, he is probably using some JEE-style mathematical trick to prove his own statement “..IIT guys think too much of themselves” to be correct.

I was more interested to see if he had anything by way of data. Since, admissions data breakup is state secret, it is stunning to hear what he said.

During a recent year under review, 979 candidates from the south zone secured admission. Of them, 769 were from Andhra Pradesh, while Tamil Nadu accounted for 94 successful candidates, Karnataka, 84, and Kerala, for no more than 32 candidates

If true, this statement alone should come like a high voltage shock to the HRD ministry. With such a regional imbalance, what good is a caste based intervention (read quota) going to accomplish ? For every AP candidate who made it, there are plenty who “just missed out”. It is anyones guess that AP will project its dominance further  by monopolizing the new OBC quota as well.


He correctly guesses that coaching factories that have mushroomed in AP and Rajasthan are responsible for this grotesque imbalance.  A lot of bloggers and magazines have completely missed the point about these coaching centres.

Consider the fictional Q&A

Q) Design a contest which is not favourably biased towards those who prepare for it ?

A) Launch random midnight raids on students houses. Wake them up in the middle of the night and ask them 5 of the toughest questions from any subject.

Grade) Nice try but wrong. Now, coaching centres will merely upgrade themselves to offer a 1-2 hour warning via ground agents about the arrival of the quiz brigade.

There are suggestions everywhere about making the JEE much easier.  The question then is how easy must it be so that extra effort in the form of coaching is not of much value ? If it is too easy, then we have a situation where everyone is bunched at the top between 98-100%. The admissions profile will then pretty much follow caste or regional proportions because the law of diminishing returns kicks in early during the preparation stage.

Private gates to public property 

The coaching factories do pose a real problem. They now act as private gates to public property.  I would not have a problem with such institutes if they catered to Manipal or BITS or other private colleges. Today, we are talking about access to a 1% cess paid by all Indians, rich and poor, hindu or muslim, bengali and tamil. At the moment, there are very few who can afford the 50K-1L plus fees to even get a fair shot at the exams.  The first question is have these really become private gates ? Is there still a tougher but cheaper way to the IITs ? While seeking answers to these questions, we must recognize that science magazines, postal study materials, coaching in the form of neighbourhood retired professors, do not count.

As a first step, we must compile data about those who made it without the help of coaching factories. While my sources tell me that very few make it without expensive coaching, we need to have it verified.  Self study material and mock exams do not count because they can be made accessible to a much larger group.

Second step, is to maintain the tough JEE standards, but take steps to close the gap between the regular school syllabus and the JEE syllabus. As things stand, today attending JEE classes is like attending two schools with different syllabi at once.  The Kota-like residential factories, give an unfair advantage because the students can pretty much ignore the regular school.  By all means, ask the toughest trick questions but these must be rooted in something the student has learned in his regular school.

Third step, is to demystify the IITs themselves and tech education to a large extent. I have argued before about the absolute neglect of the three-year programs (BA, BSc, BCom). Our real universities which were once the shining beacons of education are now rotting (please visit Presidency, St Josephs Trichy, American and Madura for a realitycheck). The solution is to give their programs a stake in the new economy. The need of the hour is to convert these three year baccalaureate programs to four year ones. Why on earth cant we have a BSc Physics with computer minor working in a Wipro of Infosys ? Why cant we have BA English with a human factors minor designing web screens in our IT Majors ? We must adapt to changing times, the three year graduates have great difficulty getting L1, H1 or B1, or even EU visas. These visas are the bread and butter of our IT industry. By neglecting these traditional universities, we are digging our own grave.

The governments line of action towards these coaching factories must be, “Please bear with us while we decrease your relevance”.

17 Responses

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  1. Revathi said, on March 19, 2007 at 8:14 am

    The best thing to do is to admit 10 times as many students into IIT/ affiliated colleges and throw 90% out at the end of the first year. This the well known method that is practiced by all medical schools in the west. The other alteranative is to reserve some seats for rank holders from all the states irrespective of their performance in JEE.

  2. Barbarindian said, on March 19, 2007 at 11:42 am

    …and throw 90% out at the end of the first year. This the well known method that is practiced by all medical schools in the west.

    Do you have a link?

    There are many ways to design an exam to ensure “fairness”.

    Are the regional stats quoted accurate? What if we count the people of South Indian origin who do not live in the South? Do we see the same picture?

  3. INI Signal - » Demystify IIT said, on March 19, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    […] says Reality Check, Third step, is to demystify the IITs themselves and tech education to a large extent. I have […]

  4. Revathi said, on March 19, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    I dont know if there is an official link but what I know is that in most medical schools in Switzerland, Germany and France, a limited number of people ( decided by the ministry of health each year) are allowed to go to the second year. This is generally 10% of the total number in the first year and some percentage for people who have failed in the second year and who are allowed another attempt. You are allowed to repeat the first year if you like. I am not sure how many times you can do this. Sometimes this leads to a number of problems like when all the first year students decide to repeat and the school finds itself with twice the number of students to teach. In this case, they borrow lecturers from other universities for the extra hours.

  5. realitycheck said, on March 19, 2007 at 1:22 pm


    Are you talking about Numerus Clausus ? It is indeed a good idea.


  6. Barbarindian said, on March 19, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    I have to disagree, I do not like this idea at all. Also, it appears to be a bit different from what Revathi pointed out – looks like they are merely looking at higher secondary grades etc.

    I like the idea of an one shot entrance process better. You don’t end up wasting time.

    I can see what kind of chaos this will create in India. Are we socially and culturally mature enough to accept this sort of evaluations? The only thing works is a pass/fail with no appeal. Imagine the chaos if parents have the ability to manipulate things over a year or so.

  7. Reason said, on March 19, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Muthuraman may have forgot to mention the cost in hiring/retaining IIT grads compared to ABCD college of engineering. If this cost was the same, he might probably hire a lot of IIT grads and use those numbers to brag as well.

    If people invest money and effort in training for IIT jee (instead of sparing the effort and using the money for a seat in ABCD college of engineering), there is a reason. The reason may be merely mass hysteria, or a meaningless brand value. But there would still be a reason.

    I think tech education is already demystified. In the IT services field, there is really no special status for IIT grads. But you may still find a disproportionate proportion of IIT/IIM brand in IT services sales force.

    IT services companies do hire three year BSc grads. Their difficulty in getting a H1/L1 visa may be a blessing for those companies in a way – they need a large mass of ‘offshore’ engineers working on cheaper salaries. BE grads demand ‘onsite’ assignments from the day of joining. This is also one reason for attrition. With BSc. grads, that risk is less. If this visa was a big hurdle for them, I would expect them to lobby strongly on that count.

  8. Revathi said, on March 20, 2007 at 8:30 am

    Ok, I accept that the numerus clausus situation is difficult to put in practice in India- if internal exams were to decide how many will be retained in the medical schools, my guess would be that the first 10% can be safely allotted to the prodigal sons and daughters of politicians… Even in so called un corrupt systems I hear that the oral examinations are rigged in favor of the children of the medical school faculty.

  9. makkumandu said, on March 21, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Trying to close the gap between JEE exams and regular exams is a sure recipe for disaster.

  10. kabababrubarta said, on March 26, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Nice design! kabababrubarta

  11. vishwa said, on April 3, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    iit inframation

  12. Observer said, on April 7, 2007 at 4:36 am

    vishwa seems confused 🙂

  13. Meenakshi Sharma said, on April 9, 2007 at 5:55 am

    School education stresses more on theory while the competitive examinations test the student’s problem-solving skill and application of theory. This leaves no option for the students but to join coaching classes. However, this obviously leaves a large section of children out as they cannot afford these coaching centres. Education is now becoming the preorgative of the rich.

    Revathi must realize that numerus clausus situation will only filter students from those who have been able to get admissions to IITs and other premium institutions. We have to think of getting students lost to selection bias into the mainstream . The real question is are we missing out genius. It is for the educationist to come up with an education system which based on equality is able to filter the true genius and not one ith enough money. A modification of course curriculum and training of teachers to meet the required standards is a must. Probably a time has come where we need to access the quality of our school teachers also. The foundation of our younger generation needs to be nurtured by extremely capapble faculty. A sub standard school faculty will ultimately produce substandard products. The challenge before us is immense but tackling the problem at its roots is THE ONLY SOLUTION.

  14. […] To drive home this point further. If we use the same yardstick of checking the output of the JEE selection machine, it would seem like the exam is heavily biased against Mallus !! (Out of 979 candidates from the south in a recent year – 769 were from AP compared to just 32 from Kerala). There were probably more girls from AP than from any gender from Kerala or TN or Karnataka.    (See an earlier post on this) […]

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