No More the Quality of Education, It’s the Calibre of Students that is Making the Institutions Premier

What is the probability of an aspirant getting admitted in to a top IIM or a top IIT? No marks for guessing – it is less than one percent. Stated in other words, assuming (suspiciously) that the entrance exams JEE and CAT are capable of evaluating what is being sought to be evaluated, the probability that one who has been admitted to a top IIM or a top IIT belongs to the positive outlier zone of the mean calibre of the applicants.

Unfortunately, the same is not true for the calibre of the faculty who teaches at a top IIM or a top IIT. The education and teaching imparted is nearly as good or as bad as it is at the other top-ranked peer institutions. [this ranking of institutions as premier, tier-I, tier-II etc., is a caste system leading to an interesting aberration in the job market where employers end up hiring institutions rather than individuals; but more on this institutional caste-system some other time]. Not many would have the courage to acknowledge it in public, but many stakeholders associated with these so called top-rung institutions do acknowledge in private about quality-problems with the process of imparting education at their institutions.

Part of the quality problem is due to a low level of requirements in many subjects and the below average capability of the faculty engaged in such delivery. For the most part, the only, crucial, form of evaluation is assessments of student, which are more an expression of student satisfaction rather than a reflection of the quality of the education provided. There is an in-built incentive for mediocre teachers to use less-demanding course content or not be strict or demanding in assessments of performances of student. If the students are paying substantial fees there is an additional pressure to ensure that “the customers” are satisfied and to avoid reducing the market by failing students with weak results.

Institutions, programmes and courses that have low standards achieve a high student completion rate and are rewarded accordingly. Courses, specially the electives, that have a reputation for being demanding may also be less appealing to students and lead to fewer applicants.

It might be supposed that many institutions want to maintain high standards in order to improve their reputation with employers and ambitious students. But “student satisfaction” is not the same as high standards in terms of qualification output. A study of students’ ratings of lecturers’ show that people on courses assessed to be easy rather than difficult gave higher scores to their lecturers.

Another problem is lack of motivation amongst student to acquire knowledge. Their motivation for hard work at the pre-admission stage is in seeking the admission. Once admitted, failing in the programme of study need more delinquencies than the inadvertent effort put in here and there that suffices to succeed. The students in the institution are motivated only to grab the crème of job-offers that flow in quite unaffected by a limited study-input of many students but by the momentum of ranking and reputation.


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Mukul Gupta

*Educator, researcher, author and a friendly contrarian* Professor@MDIGurgaon

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