Ask an average Indian science student about what he wants to do in the future. Most often than not, the answer would be, ‘I want to do IIT.’ Ask him what he thinks about his career and he will yank his eyebrows and repeat, ‘I want to do IIT.’
For an Indian science student the journey to IIT is a heroic quest for the Holy Grail. And much like the Grail itself, they don’t understand what they are after. For them IIT is a magic castle, straight out of grandma’s fairy tale, where you go in with eyes full of dreams and come out with pockets full of cash. It is a name which when stamped across you, beckons the world to bend its knee.
One can understand the cause of this craze in a student and wave it off as naivety. But parents are as much a part of this frenzy as their children. The current generation of parents has been around the ‘Great Brain Drain’ of the 90s which saw a huge number of engineers from India flee to the US. Sitting atop that food chain, with unbelievably fat pay checks were the IITians. This, the parents assume to be an undying legacy which their children will carry forward. And to help them realise this dream, there is a horde of coaching centres out there; each one boasting of superb results and offering highly flexible programmes and admitting almost anyone who wishes to enrol. Uncle Coelho was quite right when he quoted ‘if you want something the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ The fine print though, is that you’re not the only one it’s conspiring for!
The demand for engineers is overwhelmed by the supply and yet the demand for good engineers remains as high as ever. Let’s get down to crunching some numbers. This year 4, 79,651 candidates took the IIT joint entrance exam for a total of 9,647 seats. This leaves 4,70,004 candidates who don’t make it. About 35,000 of these get into the second- and third-tier institutes. The remaining 4,35,004 candidates have little choice but to join a fourth tier institute (the one with cute girls on roadside hoardings). Surely, the competiveness of the fourth tier institutes is highly questionable but these 4,35,004 victims have fallen prey to them.
At a time when India is gearing up to become a global bully, the last thing we need is a generation of youth wasting themselves over clichéd thoughts. Those about to choose their career should do a lot of R&D (Research & Development) and not just decide on a whim. Career counselling should be infused in the curriculum right from the grass-root level to ensure that by the time a student is ready, both the student and his or her parents have a sound idea of all the possible avenues. More importantly, the concept of a brand association that has blinded us for so long needs to be put aside for a fresher outlook. Obviously, you can’t shoot for a star with your eyes covered. You are most likely to end up in a dumpster.