Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Affordable Subject-Wise Certification from Govt. Recognized Academia

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Affordable Subject-Wise Certification from Govt. Recognized Academia

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Last updated on June 8th 2013

US President Obama meets US university presidents to address/discuss their challenges:

The article talks of the problems of rising costs in an age of austerity, more courses & more research students than there is money for and interestingly, Ivy league envy. "Ivy League envy leads to an obsession with research.", it states. This results in professors who are focused on research and don't do their job of teaching students well enough, and even causes teaching dysfunction at lower-level universities!

I think the last problem is the case with lots of Indian universities too.

The article then goes on to giving examples where technology is helping to ease the burden.

A fascinating news item is about MIT planning to offer online subject-wise certifications leveraging its OCW but starting only in 2012 spring:

MIT launches online learning initiative: What is MITx?:

I think affordable individual subject-wise certifications from recognized universities (academia as against non-govt-recognized private "training" institutes) done online or at physical university could be a game-changer in CS/IT education. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

A concern raised about subject-wise certifications is that it could water down universities into training schools.

Well, what I feel is that ultimately universities should cater to what its students choose & need. And students' choice will typically be dictated by job market demand (industry jobs as well as academic jobs; programming/design jobs & research & teaching jobs) and students' interests.

If a university wants to focus on higher quality work/higher complexity work then it can clearly define itself as that kind of university. Only elite students will join it and they will typically have the capability to do higher quality work. Perhaps MIT is the example of an elite tech. university. Their courses as seen in OCW seem to reflect that.

In India, the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) are clearly defined as the elite tech. schools e.g., Their entrance exam (joint entrance exam for all IITs) is the toughest tech. university entrance exam in India (

IITs don't have to worry about funding as the government provides them excellent support. Their campus is usually fabulous. The salary structure for their teachers is the best in Indian academia. The facilities are excellent. So they get the elite students.

The IIT courses reflect the elitist nature of the institution. E.g. They don't seem to teach programming languages in particular. They expect the students to pick up particular programming languages. They seem to teach only algorithms, data structures, general programming constructs - a language independent way of teaching programming. And, of course, they have courses on Artificial Intelligence, Compiler Design, Design & Analysis of Algorithms, High Performance Computer architecture etc. which their elite students can perhaps not only handle but excel at.

I feel universities should clearly identify the student population category they are aiming at. If all universities look up to elite universities like an MIT and try to emulate them with students who are not elite quality you get into a messy situation.

In my considered opinion there is nothing shameful about a university focusing on non-elite/commoner students and delivering them courses that gives them the skill set they desire so that they get the job they want. If they should not be called universities and should be called "training schools" - that is fine. But the "training school" should be government recognized and be able to offer a degree in IT or even CSE.

To my mind it is like there being nothing shameful about being an average competence General Practitioner doctor handling common diseases in comparison to a very skilled Cardiac surgeon who focuses only on open heart surgery. Both serve very important needs of society.

In India there is a thriving "private" but expensive IT training school industry which seems to be doing a far better job of teaching programming skills than government recognised CS/IT academia. But the "private" IT training schools cannot award a graduate degree; they can award only diploma certificates. So many well-to-do students in urban areas of India do a non-tech. graduate degree from govt. recognized academia like B.Sc. (Chemistry) [Pure science as against tech.; cheaper to do and easier to pass as exam standards are "watered down" in most Indian "science" universities] and simultaneously attend the "private" IT training school to learn programming and get a well paid IT job placement.

Here is the most famous IT training school of India, NIIT: The home page runs an Ad. which says, "College made me a graduate; NIIT's diploma programmes made me job-ready"! That says something about the Indian government agency(ies) regulated education system.

In other words the market has stepped in to fill the job-oriented skill set teaching void left by government recognized academia. But the poor students have to do both (and parents have to pay for both) - govt. recognized academia for the govt. recognized graduate degree and the private training school for the job-oriented skill set. This seems to me to be a terrible failure of the Indian education system for commoner students. And this has been the situation for decades!

And since the private IT training school industry gets ZERO government funding it is too expensive for the urban poor and the rural poor & middle class students. All the taxpayer money for education goes to government recognized academia which fails to deliver on job-oriented skill set for commoner students.

1 comment:

Ravi S. Iyer, June 20, 2014 at 2:29 PM

This post dated June 2014, NPTEL - IIT Madras - offers online course and certification in Programming, Data Structures & Algorithms, covers an NPTEL course delivering what the above post is about! The first such course started in March 2014 with the certification exams scheduled to be in early July 2014.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

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