More seats for girls in IITs good augury

Considering that girls born in India still face serious hurdles as against the opportunities available to their male counterparts, the proposal made by the Board of Indian Institutes of Technology to introduce 4% more seats specially for girl students will be whole-heartedly welcomed. In 66 years since the first IIT was set up at Kharagpur — the brainchild of the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to promote technical education in the country — very few girls have passed through the portals of these prestigious institutions. Currently, only about 8% girls get admission — far worse than the overall trend in higher education. Beginning 2018, the board wants to offer 4% additional seats for the next four years to take the overall percentage of seats for women closer to 25%. It is not reservation as it will be in addition to the sanctioned strength.

Although the IITs may not have lived up to their original promise, they continue to be most coveted for their supposed quality of education and the demand their alumni attract in the job market. IIT-JEE is one of the toughest and more transparent engineering entrance exams in the country and most students dream of becoming an IITian. Though about 13 lakh students appear for these exams, only around 11,000 get selected. Responding to the clamour for more IITs from across the country, the Centre last year approved six more institutions, taking the total to 23, including one at Dharwad in Karnataka. With growing aspirations of the youth, the need for more institutes of excellence is undeniable. But educationists have criticised the move as the other recent IITs are still struggling with inadequate infrastructure and lack of qualified teaching faculty. Though every IIT is supposed to have student-faculty ratio of 10:1, it is followed more in breach than in practice. The admission process seems to have turned more mechanical as experts believe that IITs are not attracting the best talent and nearly 90% of those who get through are those trained in “coaching shops.” One of the main reasons for low percentage of admission of girls is because of their parents’ reluctance to send them to undergo long-duration coaching in distant places.

A disturbing trend has emerged of late; almost 20% or around 2,000 students entering both IITs and IIMs, who had obtained seats in the face of stiff competition, have dropped out of the courses midway. The government should make a serious attempt to find out the reasons for this. Also, it’s time to ponder why IITians, who Nehru dreamt of using for nation-building, are mostly employed in building MNCs and how best to reverse this trend.

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