Sunday, June 29, 2008

IIT students and those fateful happenings

From Hindustan Times : June 30, 2008

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It’s not the tough syllabus or academic pressure that is responsible for students committing suicide, according to authorities at IIT Kanpur. Suicides occur because students are not as insulated from their families back home as they used to be earlier, they said in response to questions raised under the Right to Information Act.

Excessive use of mobile phone — which even 10 years ago were hardly seen — to stay in touch with family and friends is the real culprit. Mobile phones connect the students 24x7 with their family and make them a part of every problem arising at home. There are also constant exhortations from parents to do well, which create tremendous pressure.

"Earlier, students had the facility of only landline phone; they had little interaction with the family and were more focused on their studies,” said the reply received by the Bharat Punarnirman Dal, a national association of IIT alumni, which had raised questions under the RTI following the suicide of a student, Toya Chatterjee, on June 2. There have been six suicides in the past three years at IIT Kanpur.

Another culprit was Internet use by students at odd hours, authorities said in the reply. It left them unsettled.

Director of IIT Delhi, Surendra Prasad, however, told HT that mobile phones and internet cannot be linked to suicides. "To reach such a conclusion you need to sociologically study past history and data and do a detailed survey. At IIT Delhi we have not done any such thing," Prasad said, when asked for his reaction.

IIT, Delhi recently limited the amount of data that students could download on their hostel computers during the wee hours (1 am to 5 am). But this was done to ensure that students did not stay up late night. "The faculty was of the opinion that late usage of internet leads to neglect of studies and other consequences," said Prasad.

Professor Prakash Gopalan, Dean, Students' Welfare, IIT-Bombay, said: "Some families do pressurise their kids, but there are also families who don't do that. We can't really say that the Internet and mobile phones drive students to suicide as there are many parents who act as support systems via Internet and cellphones."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Quarter Experience

Yesterday, I had the most satisfying experience of the 2 week long (16 classes) summer quarter classes I am currently engaged in. In the very first class the 25 students who got 'F' in Basic Electronics voiced that the poor result was because they did not attend the classes regularly. Why did they do that? They said (i) the class size was huge 250+ and it was easy to go undetected, (ii) due to that size there was not much interaction and they did not enjoy the class (iii) they wanted to relax after grueling IIT-JEE preparation and (iv) they thought they could make up before the exam. I ensured that they attend all the classes of summer quarter so much so that I made cell phone call to two students who bunked the second class directly from the class room and it worked. Also ensured that the class remains interactive, students come to board and solve problem or debate over a solution.

There was Nir.., a very shaky, not-so-confident student among them. He said that he developed some psy... problem too which made him fail. I was worried if I would be able to reach him. But he tried his best. And yesterday I was surprised when he answered in affirmative to a relatively difficult problem I placed before the class. Not only that, he walked quietly up to the board and solved it very neatly there. It was a great moment! I was so happy! I am proud of you, my boy.

I'll end this post by mentioning another experience from this summer quarter class. A good number of students of this batch have the potential to become topper in their class but how much they negelected themselves to get an 'F' grade! For example, Sand..., Gau...D..., Piyu..., Roh..., Mon... had been quite impressive. It is equally true that in spite of my best effort some students are not matching it up by studying the subject for 1-2 hour at hostel. Summer quarter is a fast paced program and I am afraid that they may not perform well. Let's see ...