Let me briefly touch upon the reservation issue because I feel it is important. India is fast becoming a nation of reservations and quotas, a political compulsion! The IITs and other academic institutions are no exception. The current extent of ‘Reservations’ is 49.5% in education at all levels, with 22.5% for SC & ST (15% for SC, Scheduled Caste and 7.5% for ST, Scheduled Tribe, since 1973) and 27% for OBC (Other Backward Classes, since 2008) students. Some States are planning to add more groups!
IITs currently have no reservation for faculty positions, nor should there be in any education institutions. There have been different arguments against reservations, primarily concerning their lack of preparedness and subsequent performance at the IITs and the resulting quality dilution, as the cut-off for these students is lower than for the general category students.
Needless to say that the economically deprived SC & ST sections of population do deserve all that we need to do to upgrade their education level to high standards, to enable them to compete. It did take considerable effort and ingenuity from the IIT faculty to tackle this difficult problem of 22.5% SC & ST reservation through one year preparatory courses. Their background was just not adequate to compete with the rest.
This large scale problem can be best solved on long term basis by treating it at the roots. That is, at the KG-12 level by creating ‘special residential schools’, with highly motivated teachers, equipped with modern infrastructure and facilities, use of multimedia technology, etc., continuous monitoring, to bring them to a much higher level. With superior education, these students will be more comfortable and able to effectively compete with the rest. One approach is to establish several more Navodaya residential schools (an excellent experiment that late Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister of India initiated) all over India wherever needed (with only 30 students in a class). Another model worth emulating is the Eklavya model residential schools (EMRS) of Gujarat. The uniqueness of these schools is that they are managed by professional bodies (public or private) with expertise in running schools, while funding is provided by the Gujarat State. In 2008, we visited 3 of these Eklavya schools in the tribal belt of Gujarat and were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the quality of education imparted, commitment of the teachers, activity-based learning, enthusiasm, discipline, and self-help among students, facilities, etc. We found it to be a successful model worth emulating on a larger scale.
This will require large funding and Government should have no hesitation to create such excellent facilities for the benefit of those, who have been neglected for too long. A serious effort on the part of the Government and careful implementation with dedication and commitment is required urgently. This will go a long way in elevating the economically and educationally deficient people of India, while eliminating this reservation problem at the higher education levels. For the last 50 years, the Government has played with this very important issue and have brought us today to this sorry state of affairs, where large section of such population still do not have opportunities to obtain quality education even at the school level. The IITs and other Institutions must convince and assist the Government to think in a rational way – tackle the problem at the roots. For several years parallel approaches need to be pursued – continue with the current reservation policy only for the economically deprived persons from among these, while implementing large number of Navodaya and Eklavya schools for easy accessibility to all those who need it, and after 10yrs discontinue the reservations. Proper implementation and commitment are essential.