Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 56th annual convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras in Chennai on 30 September | PTI
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 56th annual convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras in Chennai | PTI
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It comes as no surprise that in light of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a loud clamour to further postpone the JEE entrance exam. Given the daily rise in the number of Covid cases, there seems to be a pressing need to defer the date of the examination.

The main reason being advanced against deferment is that any further delay in conducting the JEE Main will put the Indian institutes of Technology (IITs) at a great disadvantage because they will be unable to handle the increased number of students when the fresh batch takes admission in or around April 2021. If added syllabus and more students are the worries, then the solution to a similar problem has been provided by Delhi University and Allahabad University in the past.

During the academic year 1972-73 and again in 1982-83, the University of Delhi witnessed major disruptions in its functioning with prolonged shutdowns of teaching that lasted for several months. Yet, through some adroit management, the university did not have to prolong or extend its academic calendar in any significant manner. Perhaps the decision makers dealing with the JEE could have taken a leaf from the pages of Delhi University’s past.


Also read: Modi is teaching NEET-JEE aspirants what happens when a government becomes too strong


Delhi University did it

The University of Delhi made use of the extra days available during the summer and winter breaks for teaching and also pruned with great care and thought the syllabus. Such measures, if undertaken by the IITs in a collective and coordinated fashion, are likely to solve the issue of loss of teaching days and not cause a major overload on the students if they are compelled to attend classes in a slightly extended manner without too many breaks.

I have had discussions with some IIT colleagues across several IITs and I have yet to hear any major disagreement with what I am advocating here. So, what are the likely pitfalls of such a plan of action?

All that will likely happen is that the batches for the academic year 2021-22 shall have to be admitted a little behind the schedule but the delay won’t be much as compared to this year. More importantly, postponing the exam can avoid the doubling up of the student numbers. And the students who will be admitted for the academic session 2022-23 will face near negligible delays in the start of their sessions. Under all circumstances, the batches admitted in this session will exit on schedule at the end of their fourth and final year of study.


Also read: Only non-serious aspirants, Modi-baiters want JEE-NEET postponed: ex Kota student


Teaching extra 

What about the proposed pruning of the academic content? Critics will point out the dangers of having IIT graduates with half-baked knowledge. Once again, I can vouch for this on the basis of discussions that I have had with friends in the IITs and also on the basis of the additional content we teach that it becomes counterproductive.

I have rarely met a student across the globe who has imbibed in the true sense more than a bare minimum of all the knowledge we throw at them at the undergraduate level. On the other hand, I strongly believe, based on years of learning and discussing with colleagues, that less is more in the context of imparting knowledge.

In any case, I am not advocating very severe or drastic reductions in the syllabus. All that is needed is a very well thought out programme of restructuring the content. This takes some hard work for a one-time effort. Once this redesigning has taken place, the execution is fairly straightforward.


Also read: My cousin Vikram hanged himself because of JEE pressure. September dates made it worse


Allahabad University’s success

There is a recorded instance of no doubling up of student numbers at the University of Allahabad where, in 1980, the situation was rather grim. The academic calendar of the university was three years behind schedule. But through dynamic and imaginative leadership, the university was able to conduct teaching through most of the vacation periods and it also indulged in very wise and gentle pruning of the content. At the end of three years, the calendar was back on track.

I am familiar with several students who graduated in mathematics and in other disciplines from that university during that phase and they have gone on to excel in their discipline.

Let me also add that I have often come across undergraduate students of the IITs who have consistently bemoaned the fact that they are overburdened with lessons and testing, leaving them with little time to really think and absorb. Perhaps a good beginning could be made through this excuse of the postponement of the JEE-NEET entrance exam date. 

It must also be noted that the logistics of handling such deferment at any IIT is negligible compared with what universities such as Delhi University and Allahabad University may have faced. Actually, any of the IITs are no larger than an average Delhi University college and it has more than 70 colleges.

If the body responsible for the scheduling of the JEE pays heed to these simple points, perhaps some good could come out of it.

The author is the former vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi, a distinguished mathematician and an educationist. Views are personal.

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33 Comments Share Your Views

33 COMMENTS

  1. What Bull Crap is this???

    Do you even understand what the IIT’s teach? How they teach it? Have you gone through / survived the IIT BTech program yourself?

    I am an IITian (BTech, not MTech or PhD). Those were the toughest years of my life in terms of the work I had to do. My son is now preparing for his own IIT Entrance exam in 2021 and I have repeatedly told him – “Son, if you think these 2 years of preparation for the JEE Advanced is tough, wait till you get to an IIT. Getting into an IIT is a cake walk compared to Getting Out of an IIT!”

    We have 4 months of 20 days each in 2 semesters. Tests and exams every week. Plus lab work, tutorials, and simply having to keep up with the sheer volume of material. It is fantastic! The best equipment, the best Professors, the very best that our country can provide. It is intense, extremely hard work and it prepares each and every student to be the best that this Nation produces.

    After each semester the student gets time off to recoup.

    I would not want my child to have half the experience. I would not want him to have distracted and overworked Professors. I do not want him to have so intense and demanding an experience that it lessens the impact.

    Do you even realize that there are IITians in every industry, in ever field? And you want to jeopardize not one but 2 years by postponing the entrance exams this year? A DU or Allahabad University student’s education is nothing in comparison. Why on earth do you think the IITs are in such high demand that more than 2 million students compete for a few thousand seats? For better salaries? Jobs abroad? Better marriage prospects for God’s sake?

    No. The students are competing to be able to get the very best that India can give them. Yes, that is Tax Payers money. Each year we build a batch of Engineers – the very best – each and every year! They go on to lead the nation in all things Technical and otherwise.

    You are not talking about a few thousand student here. You are talking about the future needs of the Nation.

    No compromise when it comes to the Nation!

  2. I completely endorse the views in this article by Dinesh Singh. The whole education system at IITS of today is a pitiable routine churning machine of graduates who are blinkered in thought processes from entry to exit. What can be taught in one full year of this “through the mill” I have been able to comprehend in 25 % of “classroom time” and 75 % of “left to me-time” studies for my Ph D in IIT Madras way back in 1992. Getting degrees from IITs has become a hype. in that this is becoming a sace of other much older universities getting relegated” I only hope it does not become a case of “Nothing grows below a Banyan Tree” in the coming years

  3. Education can wait but life can’t.
    First government should work for finding a cure for Corona virus then they can conduct exams.

  4. No iit/iisc in India even scored under 300 top university ranking 2020. Colleges in india r running like school system with conventional system of education

  5. Are you serious??? Comparing situation of 70s & 80s with 2020. Come on man. A lot has changed. And the major part is the number of students. They have been 10 times more student than those times. Everyone knows how exams and teachings were done that time.
    Exams should be held. Media should just report what’s happening and not give their own opinion.

  6. DU, Allahabad u., jnu, etc never lose – only country lost. Destroy the rhythm of a country and it will be ill – like a human being. Bring back the rhythm as soon as possible or it will be too late.
    The government, media, hospitals, electricity and water departments, ndrf army, police, garbage cleaners, farmers, laborers are all working. Youth are roaming around roads – Rahul gandhi, mamata like vagabonds want exams cancelled and IITS universities closed. They want to increase their ilk of vagabonds. Stop this nonsense. Let the country breath and survive. Virus, death and birth are omnipresent.

  7. How can you compare 1960s with today 2020.
    The increment in number of participants with respect to no of seats inceresed is too less
    There is a term called teacher student ratio
    After doing too much efforts and then going to such prestigious college, do the aspirants deserve such conditions?
    For a while being we consider to postpone the exam
    When are we going to conduct it then?
    Even if exams are counducting in september , aspurants are already one semester behind.
    Assume we postpone it upto november, after chhat pooja at november end there will be commencement of exams and admission process will start by feb march because counselling is not easy dude
    Not at all easy
    It demands time

    We are free at the end of april but college starts in august even after rushing everything! 4 months requesried
    Suppose exams take place in last week nov jee and 2 nd week december neet.
    When will academics start?
    April next year!
    WHOLE YEAR IS DESTROYED. THIS APRIL MAY YIMINGS ARE EXAM TIMINGS AFTER COMPLETING SEMESTER.
    THIS CYCLE WILL CONTINUE AND FURTHER BATCHES ARE GOING TO SUFFER WITHOUT ANY REASON.

    And best part is that we are not sure weather condition will normalise by november.
    3RD PHASE CLINICAL TRIAL REQUIRE MINIMUM 7 MONTHS
    And now rest you know
    Before next year there is NO HOPE of a covid vaccine rolling out.
    We have to wait till january february and thats the timings for next jee exams

    It clearly shows
    ONE WHOLE ACADEMIC YEAR IS WASTED.

    Sitiations are different
    You cant compare then and now

    And conducting exams is the need of exams

    One more thing
    You can stop iits
    But who will stop private colleges and universities
    They dont even require jee exams
    Many of them even started their course

    No one wants to waste a year
    So those who deserve IIT will have no option except going to these colleges at high fees
    TO SAVE THEIR ONE YEAR

    This year VIT vellore and Thapar univeristy cut offs based on boards exmas are very high due to this factor only and other private university will share more or less the same scenario.

    No government can stop them

    What would you do in that case?

    • Dear Avni, Education can wait but not life. First government should work on finding a cure (vaccine for Corona) everything else is second.

  8. This fool compares 70 colleges of DU with only the IITs.
    Nincompoop, all engg colleges of the country conduct their admissions using JEE.
    If postponed to next year, schedules of all those colleges would go haywire and their management and limited infrastructure would surely not be prepared for heavy intake next year.

    And the point regarding labs by Oliver above is totally apt.

  9. I have not read that anywhere I’m the rest of world exams being put off indefinitely as being advised by some people who don’t have any stakes.

  10. IITs don’t lose, the students lose. IIT governing council is an independent body and has always supported the interest of students (please do not politicise).
    India needs to work on strengthening the courses and quality of students (that are more practical) and not dilute it to offer a degree. You sound a proponent of valuing the degree and not the course which is detrimental to our educational system.
    Also, the claims of overburdened student at IIT is a bogey. These are basics taught in every engineering college and students interested in earning a degree need to make an effort to learn them (am an IITan). The onus is on the students to earn a degree and not design a degree to a students convenience. Please do not (attempt to) run down a great establishment with sham proposals in the garb of smart management.

  11. Another idea floated, saying we did it 40 years ago, why can’t you do it now.
    Ignore the faculty student ratio of IITs, ignore the increase in student intake in the intervening years, also ignore that the directors of IITs along with several faculty and academicians say postponement is not desirable.

  12. If the exams are held right now, only then students will be able to secure admission in the winter semester that starts in January. Since one semester has been wasted due to covid, the summer vacation has to be utilized already for the new batch to catch up. It is also important to note that companies will not change their hiring period (summer vacations) so a drastic delay in academic calendar (say one full year delay) is best avoided. Otherwise doubling of students cannot be avoided.

  13. IIT expands to Indian Institute of Technology. The seats at an IIT are based on the equipment in the labs available for each different stream, the capacity of the hostels and the capacity of the halls. So if there are no students this year, next year IIT will not be able to take in double the students. This is not some arts program, where you double up the halls or conduct the same course on a different day and voila you are done. Even now, the labs are shared. On Mondays, 1-10 students go to x lab, 2-10 go to lab y and so on. And even within the labs, students 1-3 are on experiment 1, 3-6 on experiment 2, and so on. So there is very little excess capacity as is.

    Engineering education in the first year is even more capacity constrained. All students in the first year are taught the same subjects. In fact, some of the best students can and often do change their streams by being exceptional 10 pointers. There are only so many lathes, woodworking, machine shop, computer labs and so on. The capacity cannot be doubled even with capital expenditure, because you need to construct buildings, procure equipment that is expensive, and you need manpower in terms of lab assistants and more. You just cannot indulge in such an exercise in a year. Otherwise, IIT’s would have doubled their space to meet the demand for quality education.

    Now that is just the logistics and capacity of the resources in terms of educational resources. The hostels are an entirely different story. Even in normal years, students are house two to a room at least partially because of lack of suitable housing. And the rooms are less than six feet across. So where are you going to house double the first year strength? All IIT’s require you to stay within campus for a good reason, students need access to the resources often pretty late in the day or early in the day. So classes could be scheduled at 8.00 A.M., or as late as 8.00 P.M.

    Students at IITs use their summers to improve their skills, via internships or can be coopted into research projects that professors work on. IIT professors also have a full-time work load of research projects that are truly leading edge. So, this is very much part of the education a student at IIT is exposed to much more than just the classes. So comparison to other university which is 90% of the time a teaching institution is comparing apples to rocks.

    With all these constraints, IIT’s can either take on students this year or next year they can admit a slightly enlarged student pool of maybe 120% of the normal size. Postponing the JEE does not solve anything.

    • If we do not have any admissions to IIT this year, then we won’t be having any students in 2nd year of degree.
      So that means we will be having enough space to accommodate double strength students next year.

  14. Well articulated and methodical analysis!! Let’s stop talking down to our youth, and instead address their concerns with maturity and accommodation! The case for postponement, or a more foolproof plan has been made loud and clear!!

  15. Yes, but why didn’t you said it earlier??
    105 academic institutions wrote to PM saying it will be very late.
    When students were begging for postponement that time none of u came forward to help them or favour them.
    This article has been uploaded on 31st August.???
    May i know the need of this article now?
    Now when lakhs are forced to skip exam. Their future is ruined.
    You people never come out to help when needed but just split salt on cuts

  16. You are a dinasaur.. irrelevant in today’s times, proposing a deacdes old solution to a problem of today. Just becuase problem looks same, doesn’t mean you can apply same.solution right now also. Twice of 300 is 600,but twice of 100000 is not 1000600 but 200000.

  17. IITs will not lose. Students will lose. Students number will be doubled for the same number of seats. Students who have been investing in JEE prepration for the past 4 years will miss an opportunity to join IIT and other premier engineering institution. Next year we will have double number of students appearing for the same number of students. Postponement of JEE or NEET is not in the interest of hardworking students.

  18. Instead of solutions, most of these articles seem to be a rant against the Government. I do not understand the need to be anti-policy when it really is a good one. Why should there be postponement of these exams? COVID 19? That is really not an excuse. World over, people are trying to keep things normal. US universities have students back. They are not postponing anything. SAT’s are not being conducted, but parents and students are not out there clamoring for postponement but asking them to be conducted. There is anguish when there is divergence from normalcy. This Indian intellectual dishonesty and attitude among the elite is disturbing.

    • I totally agree to your excellent placement of chronological facts. CORONA is a curse that came out of the blue. Roads are same.number of luxury vehicles 0f all kinds need to ply the same path.
      Solutions are mandatory and essential.Students who burn midnight candles for many years dreamg to join the premiers are at great loss .this rarest of rare bolt from the blue that fell on their heads is giving jitters down their spines.they need to b justified.justice is not science .being from engineering bkground I understand the dynamics of the labs and the limitations.but as a nation we hv to rise and extend the lab hours(we are taking full salaries in iits…tho the colleges r empty and we hv to justify by extending for the country by taking some pain with prolonged working hours and wrt accommodation seniors hv to shoulder responsibility by twin sharing (as they hv to forego and adjust for one year to own the academic orphan batch of 2020_2021

  19. I guess we should stop discussing whether to conduct or not since the exams have already started. This is for the convenience of students appearing for exams

  20. You arguments are all fine. But for how long are we supposed to postpone the exams?. We can’t wait till the vaccine arrives as it is only available next year. By that time the 2021-2022 batch would have to be admitted. These students already lost valuable amount of time, most of them are at home with no prospectives.

  21. DU is conducting their national entrances from 6-11 Sep, the least they could have done was to provide centers in more districts but alas! the exam is conducted in just one city per state! Conducting district level entrance exams is the only solution to the crowding problem and logistics conundrum during a period lined with natural calamities and a pandemic, but the authorities seem to be callous to our plights.The curious fact is that only the exams conducted by NTA are not being postponed or provided with centers in more districts.

  22. Ok, the prof is comparing 1970s and 1980s with 2020 ! Wow ! How many students were there is 1970s and 80s? There has been a disproportionate increase in number of students in India with the teacher to student ratio falling especially for engineering colleges where they are abysmally low. Please do not compare apples with oranges.

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