Sunday, March 11, 2007

Criticising IITs

This opinion piece by Bhamy V. Shenoy has been doing the rounds by e-mail. Its broad thrust -- that the JEE, IITs' entrance examination, is needlessly brutal -- is not really new. And Shenoy says some things that will enrage IIT folks -- students and faculty. I want to quote here some interesting statistics quoted by Shenoy:

The sums spent by IIT aspirants for coaching factories is about Rs 2000 crore per year, which is four times the annual budgetary allocation of the government to IITs. About 1,60,000 take JEEs and 3,500 are admitted to seven IITs.

During a recent year under review 979 candidates from South Zone secured admission. Of them 769 were from AP, while TN accounted for 94 successful candidates, Karnataka, 84, and Kerala, for no more than 32 candidates.

Mushrooming of IIT tutorials in Hyderabad may have much to do with JEE results. In the Northern Zone, Rajasthan is an unlikely state that is reported to have been doing well sending high proportion of students to IITs like AP. Kota in Rajasthan has a reputation for offering pressure-cooker coaching for IIT hopefuls.

However, Shenoy's numbers for JEE-takers is way off; it was almost 300,000 last year. The estimate of Rs. 2000 crores as the revenues for IIT coaching centres is also questionable (Shenoy does not cite a source for this figure). I hope that the other numbers -- about the successful candidates from the southern states -- came from some official sources.


  1. Yogesh said...


    An excellent article, which I was about to forward to you.

    1) The article is very good, but there are some factual errors. The total number of students appeared for IIT-JEE 2006 was about 299,000, as stated in your link. Also the number of admitted students to 7 IITs last year was about 5,000 under all categories, as per Ashok Mitra, Director of IIT-Bombay.

    2) The IIT-JEE coaching is estimated to be around Rs. 500 crores per year, as per the following news item in Economic Times, which seems to be reasonable.

    The figure of Rs. 2,000 crores/yr for IIT-JEE coaching is the inflated figure quoted for past several years by coaching classes to show their importance for clearing the exam. Prior to 2005, the number of candidates appearing for the exam was nearly constant at 160,000 to 180,000 for several years. Since nearly all candidates take the help of coaching classes, for 200,000 candidates (including repeaters) at a cost of Rs. 100,000 each, the inflated figure turns out to be Rs. 2,000 crores.

    3) The total funding provided by central govt. to all the 7 seven IITs is around Rs, 800 crores. It includes annual funding ranging from Rs. 70 crores for IIT-G, to Rs. 130 crores for IIT-KGP, plus Rs. 20-40 crores for R&D for each institute.

    4) The decline in quality of faculty is largely opportunities available in corporate sector, with higher pay. In our time (1977), average salary of a fresh graduate engineer was Rs. 500-600 per month, while a college lecturer would receive a salary 3 times of that figure at the start. A recent news in CNN shows Harvard University to double the pay of teaching doctors to attract the best talent:

    Despite small errors, the article is well-written by the author, who is also an alumnus of IIT-Madras, as is MD of Tata Steel, B. Muthuraman. A slightly modified article also appeared today in India e-news:

    At the end, we must appreciate the bold article written by the author to criticize IITs, which is considered a taboo in Indian news media.


    Yogesh K. Upadhyaya
    New Jersey, USA.

  2. nayagam said...

    Abi :

    "..things that will enrage IIT folks -- students and faculty."

    On the contrary, I think quite a few faculty and students would agree with the broad point that the article is trying to make . For example, my advisor was once showing me an internal circular going around at IITK which made the point that 10th, 12th and JEE performance are a better predictor of future performance at IIT than JEE rank alone.

    It is easy to find people who are annoyed with the coaching institutes. It is equally easy to find people who would hold the "JEE mentality" at least partly responsible for "poisoning" the academic atmosphere at IITs. The difficulty lies in getting any consensus whatsoever on what to do about it.

  3. Rahul said...

    I detest the JEE system. But any alternative requires a lot of hard work, and checks and balances everywhere to prevent misuse and nepotism. Here's a recent article (actually a review of several books) on how the Ivy League universities are old boys clubs of America's richest. I have no doubt that if we insert subjective criteria into the IIT selection process, the result would be the same as in the Ivy institutions, only ten times worse.

    As Nayagam said above, using 10th and 12th school exam marks may be an improvement, but I gravely distrust the CBSE and think the state boards are a complete waste of time. If we had improved, nationalised school-leaving exams on the lines of the SAT/Achievement tests (I wrote this in an earlier comment too) that may help matters -- for all institutions, not just the IITs.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Its suprising that despite repeated protests from junta about the bias, this blog is always in favor of ear-marking IITs and the IITian culture for some or other "fabricated" shortcomings.

  5. Pratik Ray said...

    I tried to post a longer comment earlier, but somehow blogger didnt work.

    Anyway (assuming this comment makes it!!), please read this before starting to take up cudgels for board exams as an "alternative":

  6. Pratik Ray said...

    a slight correction. The link is actually:

  7. Doctor Bruno said...

    Even in my college days (10 years ago) I heard guys were spending around Rs 25,000 for IIT JEE Preparation..

    I am not aware of the current expenses

    Now, assuming that 2,50,000 of them get tuition, it works out to be definitely MORE than the government allotment....

    Though I am strong advocate of the "Entrance Exam" concept, I feel that the "Coaching Institutes" can be easily tackled by changing the pattern of question each year....

    One year it should be fill in the blanks... Next year objective type, another year completely Abstract Thinking Oriented etc.... ( I am not sure whether it is easy to do)

    That way the coaching institutes will loose out the glamour

  8. anonymous coward said...

    there are probably very few people who clear jee without the aid of coaching. but one must also understand that JEE is not any ordinary exam like the CBSE board (although for some reason they are trying to make it CBSE-like). coaching classes which to cram stuff up will not get good results because a deeper understanding of the concepts is needed.

    students should know how formulae are derived, instead of just applying them. perhaps the problem violates some basic assumption used in the derivation of the formula. in my dept. (CS@IITD), I found that people were rarely of the crammer variety and if coaching classes help mould them that way, so be it.

    the question of the fees charged by them should be addressed by improving school education making coaching materials more accessible, rather than dumbing down the paper to CBSE level. board exams are to ensure that the student has a basic minimum knowledge of the subject, they dont have any ranking component. in JEE, the minimum knowledge criteria doesnt hold, it is a ranking system.