|A distorted image of a scene from the Hindi film 3 Idiots|
Since when have IITs and IIMs become shrines that everyone has to bow before them and whatever comes out of those hallowed corridors is to be considered some holy benediction?
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and the hurt alumni and faculty of the institutes are both narrow-minded. Here is what the minister had said:
“There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs. The faculty in the IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class. So the IITs and IIMs are excellent because of the quality of students not because of quality of research or faculty.”
What exactly is world-class? Don’t we have our own standards to judge? There is some pretty wimpy stuff coming out of Ivy League universities. The IITs and IIMs depend on government funding, so Mr. Ramesh has just given them an opportunity to crib about how they are short of money and shackled by government interference.
It is no wonder that reports mention the kneejerk response that this one statement has received. Typically, they have pulled up the minister, asking him to hold forth on the quality of politicians. Pretty lame. For not only is the minister a product of such an institute, there are many others, and quite a few of them in fact confirm what he says – not about the faculty, but about the students. The hierarchy is in place and those who get in assume they are better than the rest.
And what is so great about those students? Many take the first opportunity to go overseas and then after they have made it return with a cheque to donate to their alma mater. Those who remain here end up doing staid academic jobs; the more enterprising ones consider research to mean rehashing the minutiae of what they did at the institutes in columns, books and films and these are lapped up because our ‘youth segment’ is now interested in the techie/managerial route to success decoded in simplistic paneer wrap language.
Oh, before I forget, a little bit of mandatory failure along the way is seen as idealism. Idiots.
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I had written a more detailed piece on a related subject in Understanding the Rot in Academia