In volte-face, IIT directors say coaching not bad

The IIT directors and many in the faculty have for years held that the thriving JEE coaching industry is a menace, it undermines the IIT admission system and sends in heavily tutored students to the country’s top engineering institutes instead of those with genuine ‘raw intelligence’.

iits-reject-proposal-for-radical-reform-of-jee-advanced

At the August 20 IIT Council meeting, however, some IIT directors expressed a different opinion on coaching, marking a big shift in stand.

Directors of some prominent IITs said at the meeting, chaired by HRD minister Prakash Javadekar, that a strongly antagonistic approach to coaching may be misplaced as coaching centres at least keep students engaged in ‘constructive’ and ‘academic’ enterprises which will ultimately yield them professional advancement in some form or the other.

Highly placed officials in the ministry told ET that at least three directors from prominent IITs made this point while strongly advising against any tinkering with the JEE exam. 1

A proposal—which had government support— was mooted at the IIT Council meeting to ‘reform’ the JEE Advanced to make it ‘more scientific’ and to ‘reduce dependence on coaching centres’. All I IT directors unanimously rejected the proposal.

The point was made that it may be better to have young students preoccupied in academic pursuits at a coaching centre rather than be aimless and drifting away in times of high unemployment. All IIT directors are learnt to have largely agreed with the view.

“While there are concerns around the impact of coaching, IITs do recognise that it does provide a service. There is good faculty in many coaching centres as well. The one issue that does rankle is the huge fee charged and the unaffordability factor for many students,” V Ramgopal Rao, director, IIT Delhi, said. 2

The advantage with coaching, it was pointed out by some, was that students would make it to some other institute if not an IIT and hence move on the road to academics and employment.

“This was a view expressed by some IIT directors. It was observed that there is high unemployment and youngsters can be adrift and distracted at such times but if they are enrolled in a coaching centres to sharpen academic skills, it keeps them focussed. Of course, they all want to come to an IIT but even if some don’t make it, they will at least still land a seat in some other good institute. So while no one is advising coaching, it is also true that we cannot really stop the coaching industry and they may be serving a purpose as well,” says Gautam Biswas, director, IIT Guwahati.
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While several committees earlier recommended various measures to check the impact of ‘coaching’ and to bring back students with ‘raw intelligence’ to the IIT system, the latest reading by IIT directors looks at the larger social picture.

“There is no point in blaming coaching centres. In the 80s and 90s, very bright students made it to IITs without any coaching but we have to accept that times have changed, competition levels are high as are the number of aspirants. This is how society has turned out with a clear issue of demand and supply. All this brought about changes in question papers from subjective to objective MCQ based ones and that’s where the coaching industry stepped in to prepare students. So it is not black or white at all but in between,” the IIT Delhi director added.

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