The BusinessStandard has published two responses to a recent allegation by N.R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys that IIT students are not as good as their seniors, and his identification of the cramschool culture as the main reason behind this deterioration in quality. The responses are from big hitters from the IIT system: Prof. Gautam Barua (Director, IIT-G) and Prof. S. Prasad (former Director, IIT-D). NRN gets results!
So how do we improve the “quality” of IIT graduates? Based on the points above, the obvious answers are to increase the numbers of those who are really interested in a career in engineering or science, and to reduce the cases of mental fatigue. As far as the latter is concerned, the IIT Council has been discussing this issue and it has been decided in principle to do away with the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and instead use school results and the results of an aptitude test to decide admission. The wide variety in school board exams is sought to be handled by using the percentile rank of a student as the absolute marks of the school result. This will mean that the marks a student obtains will depend on her rank in her Board and on the size of the Board in which she is appearing.
And here's Prasad:
It is nobody’s case that the admission processes of the IIT system are perfect. Having reduced the question paper to a multiple-choice, objective test, imperfections have crept in, which the coaching institutions have exploited. Therefore, it is impossible to guarantee that everyone who has cracked the Joint Entrance Examination is brilliant. There is no doubt that there is great scope for improving our admission processes and factoring in more information about the candidate than performance in a single test. Perhaps factoring in school results, as is being considered, will help. Perhaps we need to include a component of subjective testing, as used to be done in the past. There are many dimensions for bringing in such improvements.
In other news, the IITs announced their most serious attempt to address the issue of student quality: students now need to score 10% in each subject (and 35 % in the aggregate) in JEE-2012.