It Is Time The Image Of IIT Be Changed

It Is Time The Image Of IIT Be Changed

There has been a lot of talk about the degrading quality of engineers from IIT, the quality of education and professors, suicides etc. But the matter which is only rarely touched upon is the culture of IIT.

Certainly, I hope that the culture perceived by outsiders is that it is cool and friendly. You can roam around in shorts, even attend classes. There is no need to be good looking and you can be crazy with your habits or style. And the living part in hostels is what most of the alumni and pass outs would remember and talk about. But here I am not referring to social culture but the entrepreneurial culture, the culture to promote new ideas, the culture to bring about innovation in the work and learning.

Most engineering colleges in India have become hubs where courses are run and grades are given. In fact it is popular that passing engineering courses is an overnight task. That engineering turns brilliant minds into donkeys. Rightly so in many cases. But it is important to understand, why this culture has become prevalent.

It is no secret anymore that IIT’s have not been up to the mark. They lack in innovation and invention. And one of the primary reasons for this is the absence of infatuation with the learning. It is never clear what is the purpose of a course or is it of any use at all in long term. The answer to these questions lies in immediate short term application. The culture and teaching does not inspire to apply the minds and experiment with the knowledge. And an engineer who has not been in affair with his learning, who has not opened and broken things, who has not fused circuits or developed programs to hack systems or not experimented with the knowledge acquired in one field to solve analogical problems in the other fields, is as likely to run for a job after 4 years as a donkey runs towards the carrot. Worse, he may realize that he wasted his time in engineering and rather should have opted for management course.

So why is it that there are lesser and lesser engineers from IIT into the technical field? And how this culture can be rectified?

I am sure there a hundred reasons and a hundred solutions but I am focussing only on one. And I think in today’s time, this is the one solution that can fast pace the goal of taking brilliant minds that come to IIT to the place where the brilliance rightly deserves.

This is the time; the alumni community of IIT should come up and foster the entrepreneurial culture in IIT’s. Engineers, by made, are applicative minds but to promote and nurture such minds you have to open the avenues where they can find and recognize the need and value of their ideas. It is surprising that over that years many alumni have donated huge sums of money for building hostels and schools in IIT but rarely have anyone thought of promoting start-up culture in IIT. It is from a clear cut goal of building high end technology products and services to solve myriad problems that innovation and invention can be fuelled in the institute. But to have that goal needs strong support, mentorship and funding from the well placed alumni community and the corporate world. If these very engineers go to giants like Google and Microsoft and have made significant contributions over the years then it should be clear that there is no dearth of intellect and ideas in their minds. But it is equally important to be able to work upon these ideas.

Over the years the start-up culture is growing but we don’t see any technological breakthroughs because most of these start-ups have been service ideas rather than product ideas. And to develop technology we need to develop products. And to develop high end technology products needs intense grooming of talent that IIT’s successfully mushroom every year only to see it getting wasted.

It’s time now that the image of IIT be changed. Considering the policies made by the GOI in the recent years, it is only the alumni community that, in my view, is capable of bringing about this change. And I think the respected community is wise enough, placed well and experienced enough to take IIT’s and India one step further in technology and engineering space.

Once, getting through JEE and reaching IIT was considered to be an achievement and nobody knew what to do after that. Now it’s time IIT should be seen as a place where ideas live and people live for ideas. It should be seen as hub of innovation, inventions and discoveries. It should be seen as a place where engineers make and break things. It should be seen as a place where brilliant minds experiment with their dreams. And it should be what aspiring engineers should strive for.

PS:  This article is an appeal to the alumni community of IIT.