Freshers at IIT-Bombay face major problems in understanding and communicating in English, thus impacting their academics. This was communicated by students’ body representatives to a five-member external institute review committee, which met them on July 31.
Significantly, when questioned about what inspired them to pursue academics seriously, a majority said good placements won hands down as compared to scientific temper to pursue the courses. Some pointed out that academics and research may not have the same incentives for students to pursue the courses as compared to cultural activities or sports and hence the matter needed to be looked into.
“When questioned about how many students had a language problem owing to their lack of English skills, senior student mentors of the Institute Student Mentorship Programme (ISMP), who are responsible for the English training programme among freshers, told the reviewers that around one-tenth of the freshers faced problems while communicating and understanding English, as a result of which their academics were likely to take a turn for the worse at IIT-Bombay. At present, talks are under way with the British Council to conduct formal structured classes for freshers, who are weak in English,” said Anshul Avasthi, fourth-year student at IIT Bombay and editor of the institute’s student media body, Insight.
Even as the committee wanted to know what kind of issues featured in their discussions, whether they saw themselves as future leaders and deliberated upon existing problems or devised long-term plans to address them, students said a majority of the student community at the institute were job-centric and very few had long-term goals. “The students in fact told the panel members that they knew they had entered a rat race and there was a huge fight for the best jobs and companies. We also pointed out the hype surrounding IIT-Bombay as a destination and that often after students secured a seat, they felt they had reached their goal and developed a lax attitude,” said Avasthi.
The student representatives, however, told the committee that to ensure that placements were not the only priority and preparations were not just examination-oriented, an industrial approach could be made mandatory for every course so that students developed their interest towards a particular field. They also suggested that making industry experts teach a part of the course should also be made compulsory.
Students apprised reviewers about the space crunch at hostels and how this was affecting academics. Significantly, the culture of copying, lack of academic ethics and rampant plagiarism were issues highlighted by the students themselves. During their discussion with the reviewers, the students agreed that stricter measures must be implemented at IIT-Bombay. “The departments of computer science and engineering, chemical engineering and electrical engineering gave ‘fail’ grades to those caught cheating. Such measures must be normalised and implemented across all departments,” said a student.