As the British-American comedian John Oliver would have put it,
Is news bullshit? Of course not! But these days there’s a lot of bullshit about IIT Bombay masquerading as news.
Insight, IIT Bombay’s college newspaper did an extensive survey on the Freshmen Batch of 2015. Intriguingly,the popular newspapers and cable news networks, in their quest to sensationalize, covered only the ‘sex’ and the ‘smoke’.
Instead of deducing meaningful conclusions from the study, a rarity in most conventional media nowadays, they have tried to deride the study to their own understanding or a lack thereof. Their disgusting but ubiquitous propensity to selectively balloon a small component of something into a huge bubble that the very essence of the whole pursuit is lost, is banal.
This was what the newspaper headlines looked like in the days following the study :
The complete study, inspired by a similar one done by Harvard Crimson, can be found here.
IIT Bombay has no student in the recent freshmen batch from the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya (And yes, there are so many states in the ‘North-East’ and each have their own culture and traditions) while we had only one from Jammu and Kashmir.
It is sad to see these states unrepresented at among our institute freshies. It is not only a blemish on those states but a loss for the students at the institute as well.
A student at IIT is not merely a syrup of complex equations and codes. Each one has his own world view, a piece of background, culture, and yes stereotypes. Everyone brings his/her own unique perspective to the college. So, we as a community have missed out on a lot.
Only 97 out of the 902 (~10%) admitted students are female. Such skewed numbers are common in colleges across in India and have penetrated campus cultures so much so that campuses often become a place for dog-whistle misogyny. It hurts not only females but also males who unconsciously and abundantly become used to this.
Wasn’t this worth reporting? Or is it okay, just like every other male-dominated arena is?And I am sure that the powers that be, must be ‘relieved’ that no freshmen identified as transgender, or at least hasn’t come out public yet.
The most interesting finding of the survey was the result of categories (GEN, OBC, SC, ST etc.) and that of parents’ income distribution.
Close to 48% of the respondents belonged to the non-General category which included close to 25% each of OBCs and of SC/STs.
40% of the respondents reported their parents to have an income of 4-10 Lacs. Another 37% informed it to be in excess of 10 Lacs. Only about 22% reported it to be less than 4 Lacs.
I don’t see how these numbers on income and category distribution reinforce each other if the OBC/SC/ST is a real depiction of a parent’s financial status. They paints a very dismal picture of our current reservation system which is basically caste-based. This was very relevant and should have been picked up by the media given the debate on reservation policy. But it wasn’t reported on any platform.
More than 70% of the students have an AIR < 2500 which speaks to the very low acceptance rate of the process of selection.
Almost 96% students took coaching for JEE preparation which speaks volumes of the coaching industry it has generated. Of the 10 respondents who did not take coaching, many believed that self-study was sufficient to ace the JEE. Financial constraints, lack of good coaching near residence and preparation for medical entrance examination were also reasons cited to avoid coaching.
Nearly 90% of respondents under the ‘less than Rs. 2 lakhs’ income group spent more than half of their annual family income for JEE coaching. 28.5% of students under income groups of up to Rs. 10 lakhs spent more than a quarter of the upper bound.
Close to 93% said they felt the pressure of their own expectations to crack JEE.
More than 26% needed some form of mental counselling during JEE preparation.
EXPECTATIONS FROM IITB:
The findings of the expected first salary seem much more balanced than what I thought it would be because of the extravagant portrayals of an IITian’s income in the media.
About 25% had no clue about their occupation after college or what they would become in a decade hereafter. This is a very relevant issue which pertains to the lack of career counselling in schools, the minuscule discussions among parents and teachers or even students and parents.
Almost 42% of the respondents said that their current department wasn’t their preferred first choice.
Close to 64% preferred Computer Science or Electrical Engineering as their first choice.
More than 76% said they would opt to switch their departments if given a chance.
On an average, every respondent put in at least 6 hours of study every day.
Close to 65% of the respondents said their creative side has been worn out due to JEE preparation while close to 55% feel burnt out after the gruesome two years.
More than 55% spent less than one hour or no time on extra-curricular activities.
LIFESTYLE AND BELIEFS:
Just 23.2 % of the respondents came from small towns and villages while the rest come from tier-1 or tier-2 cities.
More than 94% had no qualms with English as the medium of instruction.
More than 55% believe JEE preparation has had an impact on their social life.
More than 70% had never been in a relationship and more than 95% were still virgins. 83.5% never consumed alcohol and close to 95% never smoked.
Only 47.6% reported to have belief in God while 35.1% neither believe nor disbelieve. More than 17.3% identified themselves as atheist.
More than 60% tend to be unfavourable towards religious beliefs and practices.
More than 55% identified themselves as a variant of politically liberal while almost 40% said they were moderate leaving a very skewed number of conservatives.
Close to 93% identified their sexuality as heterosexual.
More than 75% viewed homosexuality favourably. 22% respondents from villages were uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality. An almost equivalent percentage of respondents (25%) from Tier 1 cities felt uncomfortable about the same. So, respondents from the cosmopolitan metros or the like seem to stand on equal footing, at least among the respondents, when it comes to accepting homosexuality.
While more than 88% didn’t own a cellphone before joining IIT, more than 93% own a smartphone now.
More than 81% spent less than hour or no time on Facebook before joining IITB which has plummeted to 51%.
While the study covered a wide range of issue ranging from demography to mental health, it is sad that only a few topics found attention in the media. Instead of focussing on the issues that questions our education policy (if there is one), the media has once again belittled a well-documented survey into the incessant display of its teenage gossip.
Note : All the data has been taken from Insight, IIT Bombay Freshmen Survey 2015. The views expressed in the article are the writer’s own.