Understanding IITs - This is what is the title I have given to one of my post in the IIT community in orkut in the thread tech univ ranking of india ... . To the netizens unaware of what in means by the three letter word called IIT, ask someone form the silicon valley or form any reputed university in USA [provided you know someone]. IIT stands for Indian Institute of Technology. There are seven IITs in India and They provides the best quality of engineering education any indian engineering institution can ever provide. These universities rarely come within top 50 engineering university in the world, but still people like Bill Gates have once quoted them to be one of the best university of the world. Even one of the top news channel of US called CBS has released a complete documentary on them. You goto silicon valley and randomly choose 100 person there you will find 40 of them to have a Bachelor degree fro IIT.

Doesn't the previous paragraph seems like paradoxial. Yes they are truely paradoxial. Some university named IIT which does not come within top 50 technological university in the world [and sometime comes within top elite top 5 like MIT, Standford ...] in surveys, is being called as one of the best university of the world by no other than Bill Gates. This is not only confuse the people not very well aware of IIT, but it too confuses the people who have a very close assosiation with IITs as well.

Because of this whenever some global survey organization [which ranks universities] publishes its report, IITs usually doesn't come within top 50s and sometimes it is copared with top universities in the world. It perplexed the average junta of IIT community and a good amount of intellectual discussion goes on in these type of topics. Recently such type a thread is invoked in the IIT community and I posted my views on the reason behind such perplexed vision regarding position of IIT. I am just quating what I have posted there

The ranking of technological universities are based on n numbers of parameters like infrastructure, quality of teaching, quality of research, no of paper published, no of citations per faculty, quality of faculties, no of publications in magazines like nature and science, reputation and so on...

No doubts our IIT system is in all most all respect lags behind in this regard due to n number of reasons like lack of funding, research, lack of quality MTech and Phd programm, corruction and the magic-word called "brain-drain".

But have you ever thought where we exceeds to all most all the university in the world??? We exceed to other universities in our quality of manpower we produce. Our BTechs are the refined Uranium Rod for the Reactors of Best univs in the world. Not less than 30-40% of the quality reasearch outputs in those universities are due to the alumni of IITs.

Not only we should know our weak points but it is much more important to recognize our strong points too. We are the most efficient, economical man-power generator in the world. We are not famous for the parameters considered by the university ranking body, rather we are famous for the quality and quantity of contribution our almuni have generated, be it in academia or in industry in US.

Hence I think there is no point crying whenever we don't come within top 100 univs in the world or take pride [occasionally] whenever comes within top 10 in the world. We are quite different form the average university in the world. Our system has got its own disadvantages and advantages as well. But what I consider most important is to understand why our ranking differs so widely across surveys.

We should rather imphasize on the strong points of us, with some due importance to improve in other weak areas too. I think this is the best strategy IIT can adopt to be one of the most recognized university in the world [Irrespective of the ranking of world univs]
Part -2 :: Understanding IIT - II

This blog is a continuation to one of my previous post named Understanding IIT. For visitors unaware of what does it means by the three letter word "IIT" please refer to the previous post. Here is another link from wikipedia containing a lots of information on IIT.
As I have already mentioned IIT are not very much known for research and development, but rather for un-parallel quality of students has produced who have dominated the arena of academics, industries and silicon valley in US.

Lets first have a look at the research aspect of IITs. The big question that hits my mind whenever I starts thinking about IITs is that where IIT has able create excellent alumnis who are doing marvelous jobs in the field of research, IIT is lagging in a big way in term of quality of research it produces. Here is a blog named "A caustic perspective on India" giving insight into the comparative survey of quality of research done in IITs and other Indian Universities in this post and this post. For netizens lazy enough to browse thes pages here is the extract of the post which shows no of hits there research papers got in google scholar.

CampusNumber of hits
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore12,900
IIT Bombay10,704
IIT Delhi10,324
IIT Madras9,523
IIT Kanpur7,370
Delhi University7,320
IIT Kharagpur6,728
University of Madras5,370
Calcutta University4,400
IIM, Ahmedabad2,550
Bombay University3,040
IIT Roorkee1,018
IIT Guwahati618
IIM, Calcutta622
IIM, Bangalore568
IIM, Lucknow124
These results in no way looks nice as compared to the huge pool of research done in the world. Then the question naturally arises is why??? what makes IITs perform so bad in reaserch??? Why so less hits, why so less citations???

Let me try to answer these question and suggest some practical remedies to get out of the trap of research-less-ness of IITs. IITs are the best engineering Institutions in India. Every student getting into IITs has to clear a very very tough exam called JEE with success rate of 1 in 50. Obviously the student who gets out through such exam is considered as the best brains of India. But unfortunately the advantages of IIT just abruptly ends there. The quality of the professors are not that great. And IITs are govt. organization. They suffer from n number of govt-organization-related diseases like "corruption", "lack of inovation", "red tapism", "bad planning", 'political interference" and the list goes on. Still they suffers a milder-dose of these diseases and this is the reason they have excels in the area where they excels.

But the system of IITs are so un-tuned that there are numerous possibilities to tune them to obtain better and better performance. For examples the best resourses of IITs (i.e. BTechs) aren't efficiently utilized for research. Rather just as a copy-cat of US univs they are increasing the number of intakes of MTechs and Phds. But what I feels is that they should devise schemes to efficently milk there best cows rather than to add extra not-so-innovative (drop this word if you don't like the previous word) cows. Very few Btechs (I think I am one of them) got projects related to there interest, but maxially got projects they are not at all interested in it. So IITs just can't milk them to the maximum possible extend. Therefore what I think is that IIT should take care of the interest of the students while giving projects.

But another aspects [I think this is the most important aspect] that lacks in IIT is what I called Knowledge Base. By the term "Knowledge Base" what I mean in layman term is proper organized database of the knowledge, experience, know-hows, codes, thesis, links, and other research-related-inheritables. I don't find a single reason why a person doing reasearch in the field of X should spend 3 months acquiring the neccessary information regarding X, while 5 persons have already done good amount of work in X. But what IITs have is a mere collection of hard-bound thesis. Research is not about re-inventing wheels. It is not about writting the same code which has been written by 5000 reserchers in the world. Its about Innovation, its about creation, its about new ideas, its about fruitfull creations. The IIT profs have forgotten above lines (or just don't care about it). The result: undue importance in writting codes and obtaining result that has been obtained by 500 researchers already and has practically add no-value to R&D of iit. It doesn't adds anything to resume of the student too. So why should he do reaserch????

So the end-point is about mind-set. The authority of IITs should change their mindset. IITs should start building their own knowledge base, start giving proper importance to the BTech-level projects, stops giving importance to code, start rewarding innovativeness. It would be further beneficial if they start sharing there knowledge base amongst themselves. Then only we could reach the level of the best institutions in the world

Part - 3 :: Understanding IIT :: "Has IIT taught you anything?"

"Has IIT taught you anything?" - is exactly the name of the post given to one of the topic at IIT community at Orkut. The topic should have been what IIT has taught you. Aparently there is a very straightforward and simple answer to it - "Obviously they have; by the way these are the best engineering university in INDIA, and have produced "n" number of illustrious alumnis, whose students are considered as the best brains of INDIA".

That was a simple easy to convince answer to the above raised question. But to have a feel of the deep truth about it we need to give a little more thought on it. The word "taught" is related to "teach" and hence it reffers to "teaching standard, qualities, and its output". I don't want to touch the first two point (i.e. standard, and quality) as they are related to the instructor/proffesor of IITs. And as everyone knows that IITs are known for its present and past students, hence the stuffs that these students learn in IIT should be considered as the main parameter to answer the above question.

To me learning is a paradoxial stuff. To illustrate the above point let me quote a famous (but I don't know who has quoted it) about learning history, "The truth that we learn form history is that we can't learn anything from history". Learning is not that correlated to teaching as usually considered. Learning is not just about "learning formula and equation by mugging the up and storing them in ones brain forever". Learning is about enriching ones life, enriching oneself, enriching ones experience. Stuffs learned via teaching is just a fraction of it.

So one will very much eager to know what are those life enriching stuffs that is learned at IITs. I am just quoting some of the replies that have been replied at the IIT community:-

Its a matter of confidence...what we learn here is to give sensible and logical answers to questions that appear difficult to everyone...Dont worry ...just try to think how do u pass the exams and u will know what u are learning..... u are learning to grasp quickly ...the stuff which is necessary and the attitute towards life that anyone require....optimism.....

After coming to IIT 1> I learn how to learn things to a good depth and bredth at the shortest time possible and in the smartest way. 2> I interacted with the best brains of indai, lived with them brushing shoulders with them. It gives me tremendous confidence in my future life. What else do I need to learn from IIT ????

here is what a legendary prof from iit chennai had to say when asked what did u learn at iit(he was also an iit passout)::: at iit i learned how to learn

And that legendary professor is Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, so legendary that a complete chapter is devoted on him in the book "The IITian". To have a idea of what the alumni of IIT have learned and achieved have a look at "The IITian". It is worth reading.

IIT is a state of mind, once you have acquired it, you know you can learn anything and deliver. The word to watch out for is "Anything". No wonder the world puts its confidence on us. Feels good

And another two three stuffs that come into discusions are time-management, what to do in tight situations, how to live, and how to get the best out of GOOGLE in least possible time.

Aren't you baffled with above statements. There is nowhere anyone mentioned about learning what they have been taught. Where from these magic words like "confidense", "learning to learn", "state of mind", "optimism", "Anything", and "GOOGLE" come from. To best of my knowledge they are never taught in IITs. They are not at all in the curricllum of any IITs. And still people at IITs are learning it. This is the true paradox.

The solution to this paradox lies in the system the way IIT operates. No doubts IITs have the best profs in INDIA, but i don't think they are comparable to the best of the world. This is not just their fault, here they have to do n number of extra mundane stuffs that a prof at USA never dream to do, form taking tutorials to checking marksheets of students, taking labs to doing n number of office related formalities and the list continues. But the IITs have the best possible infrastructure and research facilities in India, they follows strict and taugh examination to filter the best brains of India. Being the best brains, and getting a recognition for it, along with success stories of alumna matters gives them a true confidense, that no student at any other engineering college can have.

The students in IITs are no doubts brilliant, but at the same time most of them are lazy too, or are involved in n number of activities (extra-curricular, co-curricular, or just zzzzzzz). At the same time the course loads on them are heavy. The result, night-outs before exams to cover-up everything that has been taught in a full-flegded 4 months-long-semester and surprising it works. By going through this process a student got acustomed to learn any damn thing, irrespective of whether it is interesting or not, in shortest and smartest way possible.

Most of the student of IITs comes from the middle-class families, and most of their parents have a high hopes on them. While choosing the stream of study, the interests of student who is going to study that course is unfortunately seldom considered. The end result: Student with not at all interested in branch X is studying in branch X. You are force to learn X. The better solution is "learn to learn" and the end result IIts produces majority of its student who are expert in "learn to learn", rather than expert in X. Such students just don't mis-utilize their time at IITs, but rather they learn new stuffs, pursue what they likes, do stuffs to enrich themselves. Wide variety of oppurtunity to do n numbers of extra-curricular activity, co-curricular activities, 24x7 internet connectivity etc are just a boon for them.

Someone is perfectly right in commenting that IIT is a "state of mind". It reffers to the state of mind of its fellow students and alumni. The state-of-mind is a deadly combination of brilliance, acceptance (that you are the cream of society and best brain of india), efficiency in "learning to learn, attitude to excellence in your life, and inspiration from numbers of success stories of your seniors

To conclude, it is not that IITians just learn these type of hype stuffs, but whether they likes or not they learn basic engineering skills, programming techniques and n numbers of extra craps that every engineering student learns in each and every engineering college in india, but with a better infrastructure, better teacher, better laboratory, brushing shoulders with best brains of india.