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Cause for alarm

Cause for alarm
Highlights

The official revelation that over 4,000 students have dropped out of India’s premier institutions like IITs and NITs has taken the nation by surprise. Reports of students committing suicides in these top class institutions, often unable to cope up with academic pressure, trickle in now and then, causing consternation for a day or two. But, a serious look at the problem was amiss.

The official revelation that over 4,000 students have dropped out of India’s premier institutions like IITs and NITs has taken the nation by surprise. Reports of students committing suicides in these top class institutions, often unable to cope up with academic pressure, trickle in now and then, causing consternation for a day or two. But, a serious look at the problem was amiss.

The reasons cited by the government for this phenomenal dropouts are too general in character. A much deeper probing is required. However, a quick assessment can bring some to the fore. In the recent past, there has been an expansion of IITs, more for political reasons rather than academic. But, the proliferation of institutions does not mean proliferation of standards.

Meanwhile, few equally standard colleges came up in private sector thus giving the students a choice. Even the official explanation acknowledges that shifting to other colleges is also one of the reasons for such a level of dropouts. But, a perusal of official statistics raises certain pertinent questions. IITs in Roorkee, Kharagpur and Delhi top the list. On the contrary, there were no dropouts at IITs in Mandi, Jodhpur, Ropar etc. Therefore something more than the issue of quality should be behind this trend.

The government has in fact done a disservice by not giving disaggregated data of dropouts. The dropouts of PG and PhD students are due to job opportunities and therefore not a matter of concern. The branch of engineering gained primacy over the institution owing to concentration of employment opportunities in a couple of branches alone, especially in Computer Science.

As a result, students might have shifted out of IITs and NITs due to preference for better branch in some other institutions. Indian economy records disproportionately higher rates of growth in the services sector. The manufacturing sector is neglected. This resulted in lesser preference for traditional branches of engineering, even if it is in IITs or NITs.

The HRD Minister’s reply to Parliament refers to academic pressure as one of the reasons for the dropouts. One should be extremely concerned about this factor. The academic pressure felt by the students who got admission in these institutions is due to wide disparity in the standard of examination and academic demands set by the course.

Cracking the examination itself has turned out into a special art that could be acquired through coaching, thanks to tutorial industry. The declining quality of plus two or intermediate course has made the problem worse. Analysis of the socio-economic composition of the students who dropped out would throw much more light on the phenomena.

The governments should initiate immediate measures to stem this trend. The entrance examinations for IITs and NITs need a fresh look so that they test the real academic acumen of the student. Counselling centers and bridge courses should be introduced at the institution level. The plus two level should be academically strengthened.

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