Though it sounds so strange but yet it is true. Freshers at IIT- Bombay face major problems in understanding and communicating in English, thereby letting it affect their academic performance. This was communicated by students’ body representatives to a 5 -member external institute review committee. The committee met the representatives on July 31.

Majorly, when questioned about what inspired them to pursue academics seriously, a bulk hands were raised for good placements. It won hands down as compared to scientific temper to pursue the courses. A few students even 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 thus the matter needed to be looked into deeply.

Anshul Avasthi, a 4th -year student at IIT Bombay and editor of the institute’s student media body (Insight), said, “When questioned about how many students had a language problem owing to their lack of English skills, the senior student mentors of the Institute Student Mentorship Programme (ISMP), those who are responsible for the English training programme among freshers, voiced out to 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. Right now, talks are under way with the British Council to conduct formal structured classes for freshers, especially who are weak in English.”

Also, as the committee wanted to know what kind of issues featured in their discussions, if they saw themselves as future leaders and deliberated upon existing problems or devised long- term plans to address them, the students said a majority of the student community at the institute were job- centric and very few had long- term goals. Avasthi added, “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 here. We also pointed out the hype surrounding IIT- Bombay as a destination and that often after students secured a seat here, they felt they had reached their goal and developed a lax attitude.”

The student representatives, yet, told the committee that they should ensure that placements were not the only priority and preparations were not just examination- oriented. For this an industrial approach could be made mandatory for every course so that students developed their interest towards a particular field altogether. They also suggested that making industry experts teach a part of the course should also be made compulsory.

Students also apprised reviewers about the space crunch at hostels and how this was affecting academics. Apart from that, the culture of copying, rampant plagiarism and lack of academic ethics were issues highlighted by the students themselves. In the course of their discussion with the reviewers, students agreed that stricter measures must be implemented at IIT- Bombay. A student expressed, “The departments of computer science and engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering gave ‘fail’ grades to those caught cheating. Tough measures like these must be normalised and implemented across all departments.”

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