Monday, May 29, 2006


IIT in all states??

We need more engineers


It’s time India built more, many more, IITs. Seven IITs for an economy that intends to sustain its current annual growth rate of 8%, and even improve on it, is dismally meagre.

The government should immediately draw up a comprehensive national project to build at least one IIT in each of India’s 28 states and six union territories. It could, for one, give the indomitable E Sreedharan of the Konkan Railways and now Delhi Metro fame, overall charge of the project. That would put it in mission mode.

There’s, of course, the little matter of financial resources. Setting up an IIT would require upwards of Rs 2,000 crore. The government should evolve ingenious programmes of public-private partnership, and the required political consensus, to accomplish such an ambitious project. India produces 200 technology specialists for every one million of its population each year as opposed to the US, which produces 750. India has already cornered a large slice of the services pie outsourced by the developed world. It must repeat that feat in manufacturing. More IITs and quality engineering colleges would help the nation accomplish that.

Speed cannot be a euphemism for haste, though. The HRD ministry has reportedly been trying to push through the first batch of students for the two premier Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Kolkata and Pune by July 2006. The two IISERs will, for the time being, be run out of makeshift campuses, and on borrowed faculty. Such alacrity is counterproductive.

Rapid expansion of higher and technical education must be accompanied with pedagogic and curricular reform. IITs, today, are factories churning out engineering graduates. Their distinguished masters and research programmes are in a shambles.

That is unfortunate. Engineers deliver more efficient and humane solutions when they can account for an ensemble of technical, economic and social concerns. Post-graduate, and doctoral programmes in basic and human sciences were instituted in IITs to foster precisely such an interdisciplinary approach. Consolidation of that paradigm must be integral to setting up new IITs.
In case IITs are desired in all states, an entirely new institution should be established. Merely converting the existing NITs in many states shall be detrimental to the quality of education in IITs. Sadly, the quality of administration, faculty and education & reserch in many NITs is dismal and there is rampant corruption & nepotism. The faculty is stale and outdated with no interest in updating their knowledge or any inclination to keep abreast with the new concepts.

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