Although an ex-IITian myself, I am not in a position to judge whether there has been any decline in standards in students at IITs as I have little contact these days with IITs or engineering. How do we test such a statement? We could use a number of indicators:
- Acceptance of IIT students at foreign colleges and their performance there
- Success rate of IIT students appearing for the IIM entrance test
- Acceptability of IIT students to employers in India
NRN also comments on the poor English speaking skills of IITians:
The Infosys mentor also lamented the poor English speaking and social skills of a majority of IIT students, saying with Indian politicians "rooting against English", the task of getting good English speaking students at IITs gets more difficult.I can readily respond to this comment. Some of the best performers in my time at the IITs were from vernacular schools. Their English was poor but this took nothing away from their brilliance- they were among the toppers at IITs and went on to make a mark in the US. I met some of them a few years ago at an IIT Bombay reunion and their English was now as good as anybody else's. The great change at IIT was not counting English marks in the entrance exam. This opened up IITs to some great brains in the interior of the country. To judge the calibre of IIT students by their English speaking skills makes no sense at all.
NRN, in his New York speech, has also advocated doing away with the tenure system at IITs; he wants faculty on five year contracts instead. If this is what is required for producing quality, how is it that US universities have a tenure system and produce great quality? The tenure system was created precisely to give academics the sense of security that is needed in order to produce high quality output over a long period.
I have a suggestion. Let NRN and a few other businessmen pool their resources and set up their own engineering college. They can set their own norms for admission, faculty, fees etc. They can then realise their dream of creating in India the equivalent of MIT and Stanford.