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During the maiden visit of HRD minister Prakash Javadekar to an Indian Institute of Technology on Friday , the deans and directors of IIT Delhi tried to impress upon him their concern about “decreasing grants“ from the ministry .
They have 523 teachers against 776 posts; they'll need an estimated Rs 1,000 crore to finance the expansion of infrastructure, for good housing, libraries and laboratories; they'll also need support for research, the minister was told. But Javadekar has a different suggestion. “Don't look towards us,“ he said and encouraged the deans and directors to create a “roadmap“ that would let IITs “stand on their own by 2030“.
In separate sessions, Javadekar interacted with faculty members and students--many of them PhD scholars still on campus during vacations. They , too, raised the issue of funds, with one Munish Joseph from the Department of Management Studies--saying that the government “should improve quality of the IITs instead of increasing their number“.“If you can't fund, don't start new IITs. Don't raise funds from students.“
The fee hike may be offset by loans for the college years but youngsters are now graduating “with huge debt burden“, said Joseph. “There are no jobs befitting our degrees. Private universities pay paltry sums,“ complained PhD student Asmita Sharma. “I am reviewing the situation in the IITs,“ replied Javadekar. “About 40% positions are vacant, so your batch and the next need not worry .“ Another student demanded that government institutions be allowed to recruit directly from IITs.
Students and teachers also spoke of the coaching industry . IIT-PAL, the online tutoring scheme for school kids, will weaken the coaching industry's grip on engineering aspirants within a few years, hoped Javadekar. IIT Delhi will start recording for the programme soon. “Kendriya Vidyalaya teachers are not confident about teaching the JEE curriculum but want to partner with us,“ said IIT-D director V Ramgopal Rao. There was a demand for expansion of counselling facilities as well.
Rao pointed out that the government's quality improvement programme for engineering was too small in scale to be effective and MHA regulations deterred appointment of foreign faculty .Deputy director M Balakrishnan “requested“ that “files on visitor nominees“ be cleared. In turn, Javadekar wanted to know what the IITs could do “to create the passion to be good teachers“; to “stand on their own by 2030“ and “develop business-academic partnerships“; and create news ideas “for the way we teach“.
Opinion is divided on awarding credits for massively open online courses (MOOCs). One teacher believed “we're moving too fast. We need to think about how exams will be conducted“. Another pointed out that MOOCs were no solution for the problem of access. “They can't walk down the corridor with me, don't get to work with machines. Learning is not through the lecture-room only.“
Several teachers resisted the idea of a self-financed IIT system. Calling the education system “bureaucratic“, Javadekar said there was no accountability, only protection. IIT Delhi is trying to raise funds from its alumni--according to Javadekar, they collectively handle one trillion dollars worth of investment--and corporations but Balakrishnan said “research programmes have to be funded by society . Even abroad, research is sustained by society. If research depends on industry alone, somebody else will define the programme“.
Adding to the “public-private debate“, Ravinder Kaur from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences argued that it was important “to maintain the public nature of these institutions for their autonomy and independence“.
Javadekar committed Rs 1,000 crore to IMPRINT, a research initiative just for the IITs and Indian Institute of Science; Rs 280 crore to Uchchatar Avishkar Yojana and Rs 800 crore for startups and incubation centres. Describing himself as a “product of the students movement“, he said he would return to IIT often.Follow us on Follow us on