You know when the virulent (and utterly gleeful) media goes to town interviewing profs, politicians and students in the wake of the Jairam Ramesh interview (quote: "IITs are surviving because of their students. There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs. The faculty in the IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class. So the IITs and IIMs are excellent because of the quality of students not because of quality of research or faculty,"), who all then very piously rebutted:
a) how wonderful the teaching is
b) if Fortune 500 companies are choosing the best students, can they be wrong
one can understand their quick-fix answer making for the all important sound-bites necessary in the 24/7 world of today.
Let us go back and look at what Jerry has said. He has questioned the RESEARCH at these places.
(If he is raising questions on the faculty, yes, we need to question the amount of time the faculty is being allowed to do research as versus teaching, so it is all about research ultimately)
Relatively speaking, there must be some reason for IITs never to be rated in the top 100 of the top 500 educational institutes rankings, no?
I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing. Just pointing this out. (For I am not sure what greatness Harvard et al are doing, by being at the top of the heap - I kind of liked the knuckle-rapping JK Rowling did at the august institution a few years back. Where she instigates them to use their privileges to bring about change amongst the under-privileged (which very few do - Fortune 500 is far more beckoning for all of us
Talking about IIMs. Imagine this: for preparing folks for a business career, here are our top institutes who are ready to take FRESHIES straight from the IITs/ universities, whereas every top univ in the world (not to speak of common sense) know that students who have at least 4 to 6 years work experience are in a far better position to appreciate, understand and then use the knowledge being imparted at these places.
So if we stop comparing, and take a look at the research in absolute terms: yes, for sure there are pathbreaking initiatives. CTARA here in Powai is one. Center for technology Alternatives for Rural India.
To give Jerry the benefit of the doubt, perhaps what he is trying to indicate is that the research being undertaken is not at all enough for the challenges a nation of 1.2 billion is facing. Where IITians and IIMites have access to the infrastructure, have the brains, but then have not mixed it up in a way that augurs a better world.
Or that a lot of these initiatives do not get converted into actionable plans on the ground, and remain 'clouds of dust raised in the lecture rooms'.
And by the way, getting taken in Fortune 500 companies on fancy salaries is not what research that he is questioning is about.
Thank God for some voices in our ministries that continue to raise debates. Now whether the end result will be productive or just fizzle out into tu tu main mains remains to be seen. I hope and pray he does not backtrack now!