Monday, October 19, 2009

Sibal exercises his autonomy to announce new initiatives -- for the IITs

I'll let our IIT friends tell us if they had any inkling at all about any of the following issues (especially the first and the last) that the IIT Council appears to have discussed in today's meeting.

  1. Opening a new front, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on Monday wanted more weightage to be given to Class 12 Board exam for IIT entrance and proposed raising the required minimum of 60 per cent marks to at least 80 per cent. [Hindustan Times]

  2. To bring research to the forefront in the IITs and increase its role in national development projects, the government today set up a committee which will suggest a broad roadmap for the institutes for next ten years. [PTI]

  3. "The present criteria is that students need to secure 60 per cent at class XII for appearing in IIT-JEE. This is not acceptable. The minimum marks required for IIT-JEE could be raised up to 80 to 85 per cent," Sibal told reporters after a meeting of the IIT Council, the apex decision making body for the elite institutes, in New Delhi. [Indian Express]

  4. Sibal said a three-member committee has been set up to look into the curriculum and submit its report within three months, suggesting required changes.

    The committee comprises Science and Technology Secretary T Ramasami, Secretary Department of Biotechnology M K Bhan and CSIR Director General Samir Brahmachari.

    The committee will deliberate on new age courses to be started by the IITs. Sibal has been insisting that the IITs could explore starting courses in Humanities and Medicine also. The committee will give its report by January. [Indian Express]


  1. Anonymous said...

    Though there is a need to control mushrooming coaching centers for JEE,but not sure if this is the way Sibal wants to do it. He often seems to "dictate" instead of "suggest". That's the trait of a Supreme Court Lawyer who has tasted power with backing of PM. Well there is another topic to blog and fight about "autonomy". Sibal knows how to keep IIT faculty busy :)

  2. Pratik Ray said...

    Bullet #1 and 3 seems basically the same to me, just different links. Increasing the minimum marks to 75% in the class XII exam isnt a bad option.

    Bullet #2 is good soundbyte that will be relegated to background within 10 days.

    Bullet #4 is well... not too sure. A good professor is better off having more flexibility to charter the syllabii. For the ones that use 25 year old lecture notes in their original form, it might be a good thing.

    As far as the new courses in humanities and medicine go, again, it might not be such a bad idea, provided of course the IITs are in a position to provide an adequate infrastructure.

    I suppose opening humanities and medicine + existing science and engineering courses will make IITs look more like a real university. Not what these institutes were set up for, but real universities are the need of the hour, and if by making IITs into such universities one can boost humanities, it might be a good thing.

  3. Pratik Ray said...

    @ Anon. Increasing the minimum scores in Class XII exam is not a step towards eliminating the influence of coaching centers. It is more to ensure that high school isnt relegated to the absolute back burner. At least, that's how I view it.

    I dont think the coaching center fads can be done away with completely. GRE and Class XII exams are relatively simple exams; yet tons of coaching centers exist for them. Earlier, there used to be hardly any coaching for the Math Olympiads etc. Now even those exams have their coaching centers. :(

  4. Abi said...

    @Pratik: I listed #1 and #3 separately for a reason: #1 describes the initiative, while #3 is about an articulation of the reasons behind it.

    I didn't touch on whether these initiatives are good; I am more interested, right now, about how widely these issues were discussed within the IITs before Sibal made these statements. I'll wait for some indication from our IIT friends....

    I know you've been a regular reader / commenter here for quite sometime, so I'm sure you know I would support a move that has the effect of reducing the importance of coaching centers (I'm not sure if this is the right move, though; I have to think through this one some more). Similarly, making IITs full-fledged universities is also a worthy goal.

  5. Anonymous said...

    An interesting link about another salvo fired by Mr. Sibal. The new IITs are gasping for breath in the absence of faculty and even students, and he has put 14 new central universities on the drawing board:

    If the salaries are much better and tax protected as the article says, will they stop faculty at IITs/IISc from pursuing such jobs?
    That is assuming that there is campus, faculty and students in that order.

  6. Anonymous said...

    Sibal is an ass. HE does not even know that there is nothing called 80% which defines 'good marks' at X11 level IN ALL STATE BOARD EXAMS + CBSE + ISCE. The point is - it is much harder to get 80% marks in say UP board X11 exams than in CBSE. So how are you equating the base? Unless there is a common XII exam, which ALL students of XII grade in India take, how are you putting a single factor as admission criteria? JEE itself is fine. It has and continues to filter the wheat from chaff - thanks Sibal.

  7. Anonymous said...

    Changing the marks system to grade system on one side and then setting a minimum marks percentage as eligibility criterion for JEE is surely confusing. I think the confusion is in the Honorable Minister's mind more than in the JEE system.

  8. Anonymous said...

    On #1/#3: During the time I did my high school (1998 to be precise), it was commonplace to score 90% and above in Karnataka PUC exams (I think it still is); but many of my friends at IIT Kanpur who studied in UP and other boards, including some were on top 10 of JEE rankings would have around 80-85%. If that is still true, the proposed rule is basically unfair.

  9. Anonymous said...

    Coaching factories will be celebrating this announcement. Now they can add class 12 syllabus to their coaching programs and charge more money.

  10. Anonymous said...

    Three member committee to report on curriculum and none of them from IIT. These people are all holding important positions which already requires lot of work. Will they have any time to actually work on this report. Probably will end up with their secretaries doing some cut-and-paste job (thats how plagiarism comes about in this cases).

    Is there any doubt left now that Sibal is impinging on the autonomy of IIT ? In his supreme arrogance, he has decided that he knows why IIT are not producing any Nobel prize. They are recruiting third rate phds without any experience. So he will fix it. They are taking dumb students who get through JEE because of coaching factories. So he is going to fix it. Their syllabus is outdated, so he is going to fix it.

    God help the IITs. Or should I say, Soniaji.

  11. Anonymous said...

    Sibal's intentions are good. But he is wrong in his decisions to do good. He thinks too highly about himself.

  12. Anonymous said...

    God help IITs........Or Soniaji.....May be Rahulji:)

  13. Unknown said...

    Though I myself do not like coaching centres, I would like to mention a point I learnt from some IAS officer in MHRD. He said, coaching centres help in improving the average knowledge of students in maths, physics and chemistry. Even if they dont get selected in IIT, they do well in whatever program they get into. So, in a way, there is a positive effect of these centres!!

  14. Ankur Kulkarni said...

    The 80% barrier is imposed to stop certain malpractices. Numerous colleges grant fake admission to XII standard while the student often attends coaching for the JEE in some other town. The student then resurfaces only to give the board exam and does well enough to pass. I am certain that many colleges might even be taking bribes to to do this. I think Sibal wants to crack down on this, though the reason he has given to the media is that he wants to curtail coaching classes.

    It not uncommon or unimaginable for people with responsibilities to give simplified explanations for their actions in order to avoid larger controversy. It is easy to see that coaching classes will not stop to exist due to this action -- indeed for coaching classes to stop thriving they need to become irrelevant, ie there should be more seats than those who want them.

    Also, I think the precise modalities of what percentage (80% or whatever else) is to be imposed, taking into account parity across boards, will be clarified later.

  15. Anonymous said...

    To bring the research American standards make Sibal the American Minister for Science and Tech. He will bring it down to standards lower than what we see in our Univs. That India would be in the fore-front of research.

    Or May be introduce a scale called PB2 and by the minister logic only those who are interested in serving science and care less about anything else will join. This will make India the best place.

  16. Ankur Kulkarni said...

    See this:

    The media yesterday was carrying half-baked news. They have made Sibal's brainstorming look like a decision.

  17. Ankur Kulkarni said...

    In the link above, Sibal also wants a collegium for appointing IIT directors. This is perhaps most important of all initiatives -- totally missed by the media.

  18. Anonymous said...

    So much about affirmative action ! I am surprised that no one in UPA realized that it is poor or people from rural background who will suffer most from it. For an upper middle class kid getting 80-85% in CBSE/ICSE exam is no big deal. However, in many states boards (where most of rural people or people study) getting 75% is already a very difficult task.
    Regarding Autonomy, this is one word which Mr. Sibbal does not understand at all. Next in lin e is probably curriculum at IIT.

  19. Gautam Barua, IITG said...

    The report by Indian Express ( is the most accurate on what transpired in the IIT Council meeting. Please read it carefully to understand how others have distorted things. The three member committee has been formed to look into PG programmes reform.

  20. Anonymous said...

    I am not sure why the curriculum needs to be discussed by some NON-IIT EXPERTS COMMITTEE. Is this how IIT profs are given autonomy. Even our class room syllabus will be decided by some babus from new delhi. What the hell are IIT directors doing in the meeting? If all you had to do was to confirm a newspaper report, what is the point in your presence at the meeting? Why are you on the council at all? In parliamentary language this could be called a lame duck session for IIT directors. Our director it seems mentioned that the pay issues was the last on the agenda. Why? What was the council meeting organized in the first place?
    PG programs are run based on individual faculty expertise not at the instance of IIT council. PG programs should not be a course work based as the GREAT IIT COUNCIL MIGHT BE DELUDED ABOUT. Does anyone in the council understand the higher education system in the world??? If YOU (outsiders) are to set the curriculum, student strength, fees, salaries, etc., then what is it that you hired me to do? To deliver A,B,C from the curriculum you set???
    JEE makes news (e.g. front page indian express news) and the whole nonsense of 80% cutoff. It makes no difference as far as coaching classes are concerned as many have point out earlier on this blog. The Kapil Sibal Education policy is totally tilted towards rich people who actually can afford good education in private schools and in cities. The poor will suffer by this policy and also the removal of 10th standard examination.
    Being from a government school with poor monetary background I understand the plight of students from those bad schools to score even first class. I am completely frustrated with our education policy. No wonder the poor remain poor and the recent UNDP report makes sense when it comes to India. For the poor it was hard and you are making it harder day by day. WHY?

    from IIX

  21. Anonymous said...

    Sibal's pathetic and desparate attempts to make news are not working. Everyone prefers watching the Balloon Boy drama to listening to the fart coming out of his mouth.

  22. Anonymous said...

    In the future, to protect whatever autonomy we can, we need to elect our IIX directors democratically within the campus or within the IIX system by those who are directly affected by the actions of the director. These, current, politically appointed directors are turning out to be real mess for the IIX system.
    This the first change we need... irrespective of personal accomplishments none of these guys have done well for the system as of now...

  23. sunil said...

    From what I gather, the 85% cut off is a proposal, and not a 'decision' as of now. I do think that revamping the IIT entrance is certainly called for. The very fact that a inordinately large number of students from coaching centres in Kota and elsewhere get into The IIT's mean that we are probably not getting the 'best' students, but the 'most coached' students.
    I am no fan of Kapil Sibal, but i do feel that most of the people here on this blog are unduly critical of him. In my opinion, it is better to try and fail, rather than not try at all. Status Quo is simply not acceptable !

  24. Gautam Barua, IITG said...

    Please note the following:
    1. As per the Act and the Statutes, the Senate of an IIT handles academic matters. The same Act states that the Council will "advise on matters relating to the duration of courses, the degrees and other academic distinctions to be conferred by the Institutes, admission standards, and other academic matters".
    2. So, if the Council forms a committee to look at the PG programmes (and not UG, and not curriculum as wrongly reported), what is wrong?
    3. A Committe formed by the IITs is considering the JEE reforms issue. There was no decision in the Council meeting yesterday. What the Minister stated is the general principle, and ONE possible way of handling things. See what ignorant reporters have done with it.
    4. A Committee headed by Dr. Kakodkar will also look into autonomy issues that are in front of the IITs. These were discussed in the meeting and the committee will examine all issues. There is hope that changes will be brought about in the way IITs and the Govt. interact.

  25. Chitta said...

    Let me try to play devil's advocate and be a little contrarian.

    I have heard a lot of complaints about the ills of coaching and a few of them do resonate with me sometimes. (For example, Abi's point about it possibly skewing the male-female ratio in IITs.)

    But at times, my thoughts wander in the following direction.


    The students who take coaching in Kota or elsewhere are working extremely hard. Hard work of some of them gets rewarded in them getting a seat in IIT. So I wonder what is wrong in getting students who have worked hard?

    Why such disrespect towards hard work and dedication?

    Is not that a trait that make people otherwise successful in whatever they do?

    I feel in India there is often great admiration for some "innate abilities" and disrespect for people who succeed by hard work. IMHO while there will be some Ramanujans and some Ambanis and Rahul Gandhis (not that they don't work hard) but for the rest hard work will be very much a factor in their success.


    The kids who go to Kota are willing to sacrifice and work hard to get a leg up in the rat race to join an IIT. As long as there is a rat race, no matter how the test for the rat race is conducted, some of these motivated kids and parents will do their best to get a leg up. That means doing something more than the average kid in their neighborhood, school, whatever. That perhaps means taking extra classes somewhere.


    To me hard work and dedication is the great equalizer.

    So I wonder when people who are otherwise "liberal" take a position against hard work and dedication and go after some "innate abilities", which if there is something like that, is a matter of luck.


  26. Anonymous said...

    As an IIT alumnus of the late 80s and current faculty, I am totally disappointed by the current set of students. All the dedication and hardwork you talk about seem to disappear once they join the IITs. There is a serious attitude problem with the majority of the students.

  27. sunil said...


    I mean no disrespect meant towards the students who go to Kota or elsewhere for 'coaching'. They surely have to work very hard to get through the IIT entrance examinations. It is equally true that most of these 'successful' coaching classes charge an exorbitant amount as fees, which puts it beyond the reach of many. In my opinion, it is important to see that this 'cartel' of tutors are put out of business. This tutoring business has gone out of hand (not only for the IIT-JEE, but for almost all examinations), and have had a detrimental effect on the school/college system.

  28. Chitta said...


    That leads to my other thought.

    I blame the attitude problem that you mention on the existing atmosphere (senior students, faculty, etc.) in the campus and outside.

    The incoming students did not bring that attitude. The campus already had it. It was there in the 80s too, but may be less.


    Why not change the focus in the IITs and for a new batch from day ONE instill on the new students that academics is the focus of IITs.

    Inside the IITs there is often a disdain for "maggus", the students that work hard and not just from students but from some faculty too.


    Why not set the passing grade higher so that students can not coast?

    In essence why not do things inside IIT to mold these students (who DID work hard for 2 or more years in preparing for IIT) appropriately.

    (I know it is hard to do when the seniors tell them something else.)

    But may be an IIT can take a stand and say we have changed and say that:

    "From this year our focus is to graduate students 50% of whom go on to higher studies and research. So from this year onwards to graduate one has to get a B average; Do publishable quality original research for their B. Tech thesis etc. etc. "


    Also, the IITs better watch out for the IISERs/NISER. They seem to be motivating their students in the right way.

  29. Anonymous said...

    Dear Chitta,

    One of the problems is that as soon as "IIT aspirants" become "IIT students" there is a sense of super-achievement. Moreover they think that a well paid job (IT/Finance?) is assured. Most of the students also take IIT degree as the launching pad instead of destination. That makes them carefree and they stop working hard. The attitude problem was not so large in 80s and early 90s because economy did not allow luxuries of 2000s. Students had to work hard. That has changed the attitude a lot.

    But I am totally with you that "hard work" should be respected.

    Everyone can not be a "Tendulkar" with super abilities. Every hard working "Dravid" is equally important, if not more.


  30. Anonymous said...

    Yes, there are factors both inside and outside of the IIT system which have brought the situation thus far. It appears from the students that peer pressure makes it 'uncool' to study hard coupled with the perception (from seniors) that irrespective of their CGPA getting a well paying job is not a problem. The drive to excel seems to be missing amongst many. Infact many students don't appear to be too affected by low CGPA. The focus is more on extra-curricular additions to their CV rather than acquiring a strong domain knowledge. The liberal attitude of the administration (senior or seniormost faculty) don't seem to help improve things either.

  31. Anonymous said...

    I think Mr. Sibal was planning to discourage IIT coaching by nudging students to secure higher marks in their board exams, which supposedly evaluates "complete" education. This is a can of worms because of the non-uniformity of board exams across the country.

    Is there a way JEE itself can be fixed to address this issue? In addition of the "intense" examination format that can judges a student's "depth", one can add an additional paper that evaluates a "student" for "breadth". It may be possible to retain the present format of depth based selection, but add a criterion that rewards students for their performance in their board exams instead of penalizing students who didn't do well in board exams. For example, don't make admission contingent upon good performance in board exams, but provide additional credit for people who did will in boards and give them a better all india rank so that they can choose a branch of their choice. Allow the students who did not do will in their boards to take another internal exam in the IITs in their first year that evaluates them for their breadth, and let them get a second choice at getting departments of their choice.

    This should make sure that coaching centers don't beat the system, but at the same time, students who did not do well in XII board exams get in through JEE and get a second chance at getting departments of their choice after they prove that they just didn't "crack" an exam and possess the necessary breadth of knowledge.

  32. Ankur Kulkarni said...

    Dear Chitta,

    You are confusing between two different things:
    (1) ability to excel at the programme one is enrolled in in IIT
    (2) excellence at JEE

    The goal of the JEE is to select candidates best suited for (1). These candidates may be innately talented for (1) or through hard-work have achieved (1).

    For an uncoached mind, (2) is a reasonable test for (1) [I am not saying that (2) will always lead to (1), for there are various factors that come in the way of moving from (2) to (1), such as seniors, jobs etc]. However a mind that has been coached at (2) may, through the JEE answer-sheets, appear to be ready for (1) but actually may not be. Thus there are numerous candidates who have conquered (2) through coaching and have worked harder, but have worked harder only at (2), and are possibly not at all suited for (1). In the recent past, such candidates have increased in huge numbers and possibly are in majority. This is clearly a cause of worry.


  33. Anonymous said...

    Chitta glibly says: "Why not set the passing grade higher so that students can not coast?"

    Anyone teaching at IIT knows that failing a student is the emotional equivalent of swallowing a porcupine. Your own colleagues will make your life hell and nag ad nauseum until you relent.

    And where is the moral justification for passing unmotivated students more than once through a system barely kept afloat by taxes paid by the only honest wage earners in the country?