Sunday, June 05, 2011

Kakodkar Committee Report: Part 7. Our awesome junior faculty will take NITs up the quality ladder. In just 15 days! Satisfaction guaranteed!!

The Kakodkar Committee works within a paradigm of absolute superiority of IITs over almost all other institutions -- including the NITs, the IISERs, the NISER and the IIITs (but excluding the IIMs). So, when it talks about these other places in Chapter 8, every single word in it is dripping wet.

With condescension.

Here's how it all starts:

... While a lot has been done to improve the quality of these institutions, they still need a push to go up the quality ladder. The Ministry of Human Resource Development is willing to provide generous funds; but that alone will not improve the quality. The quality of the faculty needs to improve and the culture of these institutions needs to change.

These institutions need to be nurtured in order to take them to the next level of quality in undergraduate education and research. Only so much can be done from within these institutes. ... [My emphasis throughout]

At this point, I was looking for recommendations that might go like, "the IITs are doing well because of X, Y and Z, so we should create an environment that allows these institutions to get X, Y and Z (in the next 10 years or so)." [where X, Y, Z might be autonomy, generous funding, low student/teacher ratio, etc].

No such luck.

The Committee's is so drunk on its own patronizing tone at this point, that it goes totally berserk.

... There has been some attempt in the past to get IIT faculty associated with NITs, but this has not helped much. The primary reason for this has been the association of established senior faculty of the IITs who have very little time on their hands to nurture these institutions, even if they wanted to. In recent times, the IITs have occasionally attracted some very high quality young faculty. They have the energy and will to change the education system. The proposal is to involve such exceptional faculty in enhancing quality at these identified institutions. Now, even though they are young, they have their goals cut out and hands rather full with building their research groups at the IITs and, maybe, developing relationships with industry. Since they would not ordinarily involve themselves with identified institutes, the proposal has to be different in order to attract them.

It is proposed to identify 5 youngsters (about 35 years in age) for association with each of these identified institutions; the identification will be carried out in consultation with the Director and Chairman of the Board of Governors (BOG) of the identified institute. They will be inducted into the BOG and Senate of the institute and tasked with helping drive excellence in these institutions by leveraging their association with the IITs. One would expect them to:

  • Help an NIT Director take the institute to the next level of quality

  • Build relationships with the young faculty at NIT, and encourage and guide them to take their institute to a higher level of quality

  • [And on. And on. And ...]

[My emphasis throughout]

The Committee expects all this.

From . Newbie . IIT . Faculty.

Who would spend all of 15 days in a year at "their" NIT.

If this doesn't define surreal, I don't know what would ...


  1. karatalaamalaka said...

    What is the obsession of some parts of the Indian establishment with "youngsters"? Why should age be a disqualification/qualification for anything?

    Kakodkar report refers to "youngsters" and presumably others are "old"sters. IMO it is unprofessional to judge people based on age, and is another example of the patronizing tone of the report.

  2. iitmsriram said...

    I dont understand why you are so hard on the Kakodkar committee report. Why not think of it as an earnest attempt to do something? For example, this section. Look at your first quote, the emphasized items. Is it your contention that all or any of those are factually or conceptually mistaken? OK, I can understand the sarcasm and I had a good laugh, as good as the next reader - oh, well, assuming the next reader was not one of the contributors to the report ;-) . But actually, the report does point out many good things that can be done. What would your recipe be for making NITs better than they presently are?

  3. Abi said...

    @iitmsriram: The main problem, in case I wasn't clear in the post, is with the Committee's "solution." The first quote just sets up the rest of the post.

    The Committee's good intentions -- "earnest attempt to do something," as you put it -- are not enough. It should back them up with a decent analysis of what's wrong and how the proposed solution will correct it. What it has produced by way of analysis is boilerplate; and it peddles a "solution" that is nothing short of magic.

    I'm intrigued by your comment that "the report does point out many good things that can be done." I would like to hear more about them.

    As for my recipe: No, thanks. I don't know enough about them, how they function, and the constraints under which they function. Also, the NITs just went through a massive change recently -- the conversion from REC to NIT. Any policy intervention has to look into how effective this transformation has been.

  4. WebMiner said...

    Abi, may I earnestly request you, as an IIX colleague, to not get these valuable postings lost in the dunes of blogland, but to collect all these comments and publish them in a single site, e.g., using Google sites? I am willing to chip in with further comments. Will PM you about this.

    I was present in one of the bigwig meetings leading up to the report as a "invited to listen only" fly-on-the-wall (lucky me!). I felt this sense of surrealism as much as Abi does reading the report. Only a personal vow to behave well prevented me from breaking out into maniacal laughter at times.

  5. chitta said...

    @Abi I have had similar feelings as iitmsriram while reading your blog postings on this report. Is not there anything worthwhile in this report? Anything that you liked. Any detailed critique of anything would normally point out positives as well as the negatives.

  6. pr said...

    It seems like (from reading the posts, I haven't read the report myself) that the report is largely based on biases and perceptions rather than being supported by any real data or evidence.

  7. random said...

    An official way of giving some more suggestions (but aimed at reforming the examinations on the whole and not just the IIT or JEE):

  8. R.Shabadi said...

    I agree completely with Abhi on this particular post. How can one confide such an assignment to the young/new faculty? In my opinion the new and young faculty themselves need some help to get nurtured in ones own institute and needs to be groomed according to the institute values and departmental needs. This certainly needs sometime and it is very important before confiding them with such a huge task of being a liason between IITs and NITs. I think this kind of resposibility will be better handled by the mid-career or senior faculty than the new ones. Atleast, that's how I look at it. It looks absolutely ridiculous to ask an young faculty (below 35) to help an "NIT Director"!!...

  9. Giri@iisc said...

    Some of this is already implemented. Faculty around the age of 45 or so and retired faculty of IISc/IITs are identified to "help" the young faculty in NITs. Some identified problems are that though funding is available in DST and other places, there are no eligible takers for the same. Thus the help includes writing proposals for funding agencies, helping them in procuring equipment etc. They are required to stay 10-15 days in that NIT. Some faculty do not want to spend 45 days in three NITs, so they call the faculty over to IISc and help them. Some of us also serve on their board of studies and senate. A key problem still remains: even if project money is allocated to the investigator, it is very difficult to spend that money in these institutions because of arcane rules. Purchase orders above Rs. 5000 need to go through the purchase committee etc. However, there have been attempts to change these procedures similar to IITs. There are also other issues that are being looked...