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Campus fiction

Narayana Murthy is right. Most IIT graduates aren’t as hallowed beings as the myth suggests.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2011 21:59 IST

We haven’t said it. NR Narayana Murthy has. According to Infosys chairman emeritus and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur old boy NR Narayana Murthy, an overwhelming proportion of engineers who pass out of IITs are not good enough to play ball in the big, fast world out there.

We — none of us IIT graduates, some of us IIT entrance exam try-outs and rejects — don’t want to come across looking as pleased as Nandan Nilekani after he’s punched in the last unique identity. But the fact is our silent complaint has always been that those who get into IITs aren’t all Silicon Valley hotshots and that’s not because of a demand shortage. They simply don’t make the grade. For confirmation, check those who buy Chetan Bhagat books.

Mr Murthy has rightly targeted the infamous ‘coaching centres’, essentially cramming joints where youngsters dreaming only of ‘getting into IIT’ are taught to jump the hoops of IIT entrance exams. Speaking in New York at a pan-IIT summit, he also spoke about how entrance tests should be geared at gauging independent thinking abilities rather than problem solving. In fashion industry terms, the IITs are perilously churning out tailors not designers, whatever the myth may be.

For the majority of IIT-minded youngsters, ‘getting into IIT’ is less about acquiring knowledge than about reaching an educational status that by itself is good enough. After all, an IIT graduate (or even a drop-out) will not only, by dint of cracking the entrance exam, be more than eligible in a job but also fetch a premium price in the marriage market. All at the cost of the IIT brand with the result of genuine post-IIT talent moving elsewhere. Which should make it obvious why, in all humility and with stunning hindsight, we are glad we didn’t make it to IIT. We were simply not good enough and got the message.