A revolution was unleashed in engineering education (and for other professional courses, too) sometime in the eighties. A large number of private colleges were allowed to offer engineering courses; they didn't get any government funding -- hence the name self financing colleges. These were pioneered by Karnataka, and one seems to find one of them every other kilometer along any highway! There are so many of them, in fact, that some 400,000 to 500,000 students graduate with engineering degrees every year. That's a large increase, and considering that it took place in under 25 years is quite amazing.
Let's just separate our colleges into 'good' and 'bad' ones, irrespective of whether they are government colleges or private ones; the good have well trained faculty with high qualifications, using excellent, well equipped lab facilities, and the bad ones are just the opposite. Evidently, the bad ones greatly outnumber the good ones.
Given the huge demand for professional degrees, and given that the good colleges are so few, you will find reasonably good students in both types of colleges. This leads to a curious result: in terms of pass percentages, and high scorers, the bad ones don't do so badly after all!
But there is one area where there is a real difference between the good and the bad colleges. It is in the much dreaded final year projects. In good colleges, much of it is done in-house. One only needs good equipment, lab staff, a good library, enthusiastic teachers who encourage students to work on interesting ideas -- the kind of things good colleges have. If you study in a bad college, you are simply thrown out into the big bad world, and you start your search for a project.
These newbie adults get an education about how the world really works. Some start writing to people in well known universities and companies for an 'internship'. Some visit major companies for the same thing. Only in extremely rare cases, they succeed. Some pair up with their classmates whose parent, uncle, aunt or cousin is in an 'influential' position in some firm; they do a 'group project' in that company. A large fraction of the students fail to land a project through any of these methods, and become quite desperate as they near the deadline for submitting their preliminary report.
Nature abhors a vacuum; some keen observers noticed these poor sods running up the stairs of engineering firms, and walking down the same stairs with dejection written across their faces. They saw an opportunity to make money, quickly set up fake firms, and took these final year students as project trainees -- these are very interesting trainees indeed! The trainees pay good money to get trained in these fake firms.
These guys -- I mean, those running the fake firms -- are good fellows. They would make working prototypes of various gadgets or programs (automatic door opener! remote control for microwave ovens! an account management solution for a financial institution!), together with a 'project report' that is so authentic that it would be poorly written and have all kinds of mistakes. After all, if the student turns in a near flawless report, and -- an entirely likely scenario -- gets caught, there may be an investigation!
What is the point of all this? According to the Economic Times, this trend has percolated down to school going children. It has all the elements of the above story, only miniaturized. Sure, what ET is reporting is only a small trend, practiced by school kids with some cash to spare -- a rare breed. Nevertheless, it is a bad one, and it is a pity that these things get institutionalized at such a young age.