I belong to a generation of students (defeated and victorious) who have been through the IIT-JEE grind. Despite two years of punishing coaching schedules, my peers’ fascination for competitive exams and “premier” institutions hasn’t dimnished.
Déjà vu is unmistakable – engineering aspirants who, three-four years ago had devoutly attended JEE coaching are now filling up benches in CAT classes. It's easy to see parallels between IIT and IIM, charismatic brand names that are venerated in India. Ignoring the inherent contrasts in the nature of CAT and JEE, their resemblance is strong in other respects - intense competition for limited seats, loads of feverish applicants struggling through endless mock tests and three hour classes, anchored by visions of hefty paychecks and jobs abroad, and the escalating success of the coaching monsters spawned by these exams.
There is nothing wrong in the pursuit of a successful engineering/ management career or in aspiring to enter elite schools. What is troubling is the unthinking way in which we make the leap, heedless of aptitudes and needs. We owe it to ourselves to draw our own maps rather than go astray, following signposts.
Enough has been said about the evils of our education system, the distressing effects of coaching on learning attitudes, parental pressure and the lack of awareness and imagination that characterizes most career decisions. It’s not awareness that we lack, but courage to see our selves, our dreams, and our abilities in a truthful way and do the right thing. Soon, the quick-fix dogma of “Choose science stream, get an engineering degree and then an IIM MBA” will be elevated to commandment status. We end up chasing the same mirage on every road.