To bike or not to bike…

There’s been rather somewhat of hue and cry over a decision of the VTU (that’s Karnataka’s version of Anna University) powers-that-be to try and get the two lakh engineering students of the state to stop using powered vehicles and to get them to use public transport instead. The student body at VTU are up in arms about this move.

Now, I have many reservations myself about a decision of this sort:

  1. A central governing body cannot possibly decide things for two hundred different colleges and two lakh students, each of whose situations is different.
  2. Most of these students don’t live on campus and since a college can only ban vehicles ‘on’ campus, nothing prevents these fellows from parking their bikes outside the college’s gates, which means all the college will end up doing is to cause a little more hassle for its students and other commuters wherever the students decide to park their vehicles.

What irks me about the remonstrations of the student body is their disingenuousness. The students want bikes because traveling any other way would take away time and energy from studies? The teachers should set an example for the students by traveling using public transport themselves? And if the Vice Chancellor does travel by bus to prove his point, he should be focusing on more important things?. I also read some comment by a student (called Shruti) [In Bangalore Mirror, July 8] asking the VC to improve the examination system, improve the curriculum, improve the teaching, and to improve some other sundry things before he got around to telling the students not to drive around in vehicles. The student also wanted the VC to ban teachers from dictating notes in class.

First, and not to put too fine a point on this, but students who study everyday don’t end up at VTU.

Second, teachers and students aren’t the same thing. Deal with it.

And third, here’s a pointer for you, missie: If the VC can tell a teacher how to teach his class, he can surely tell you not to drive around on your scooter on his campus.

Most importantly, though, did these issues not exist before the VC decided to ban  vehicles on his campuses? Does the student body really care about these issues, or is this just some point of leverage that is raised when VTU wants to do anything the student body doesn’t approve of? I don’t recall any protest by anybody asking for better teaching or better exams at any other time. I guess that shows what this is, doesn’t it?

What the student body cares about, and it definitely doesn’t seem to be the environment, is their freedom to escape from their colleges on a whim.  If only they had the integrity to say this. On the other hand, if they did, maybe they would’ve also asked VTU for better facilities, better exams, better curricula and better teachers, a long time ago, and not as a point in a debate about vehicles.

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12 thoughts on “To bike or not to bike…”

  1. Um… you think this might be why the newspaper fellow didn’t print this when I wrote to the editor?

    On the other hand, none of us study everyday either, so maybe I’m not entirely right!

  2. “First, and not to put too fine a point on this, but students who study everyday don’t end up at VTU.”

    Maybe you should share this ‘philosophy’ with your fellow researchers at JNCASR(many of them i’m guessing must not have done their undergrad at IITs). you can also form your own caste system where those who study from local universities must not be taken seriously and their research work and research careers must be treated as sub par.

    people like you are the reason India is shining brightly in the field of science.

  3. @PersonAbove, That one is responsible for the state of science education of an entire nation is a nice thing to hear about oneself. Nevertheless, I assure you that you are mistaken. Not just about my powers, but also about what I meant with this blogpost (from long long ago… I don’t even remember writing this!).

    You will agree that VTU’s curriculum and facilities suck. I more than agree that they need to be improved. This improvement will only happen if the end-users – here, the students – take the issue up. The reason the students won’t do this is because it doesn’t really matter how much engineering they learn in their time in college; most of them are going to end up doing the job of a glorified typist anyway. Which is why this point is only brought up in debates about bikes on campus and not any other time.

    That I (petulantly) wrote five hundred words two years ago about the petulance of some students at VTU is no reason for you to attempt to diagnose the problem with the Indian higher educational system in seventy-five.

  4. well it’s because of the glorified typists and considerable increase in tax that india was able to come out of severe debt in the mid 90’s to a reasonably well off economy that it is now. your own institute JNCASR would not exist without the tax payers money. your own institute was built due to the whims and fantasies of CNR Rao with considerable wastage of the indian tax payers money. if new depts or an expansion of faculty strength and student size was desired, it could have been done in IISc itself, instead of building a new campus for pseudo intellects.

    by glorified typist i’m assuming you know everything in software and feel it is an intellectually inferior profession, else it would be a little pompous to call others by dirty names.

    you also make the assumption that local univ students have no interest in engg or science and just want to pass out to make a quick buck. well one only needs to see the number of converts from engg to mba at IITs to figure out that lack of interest in engg isn’t just restrcited to local univs but also exists in the elite univs also.

    regarding curriculum, there are many books available both in the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ form and there is really no limit to quench the thirst for knowledge. so those who are interested will study that little bit extra. knowledge need not be acquired only by writing exams or through the curriculum

    i would also like to add that the IITs and IISc have done little to given back the indian tax payer the amount that has been invested by them. there has been very little innovation, almost zero collaboration and hence a very meagre research output. financially speaking the IITs have used up a lot of the government taxes, but have given very little back in return.

  5. So now, not only am I responsible for the degeneration of the Indian higher educational system, but you are responsible for the growth of the Indian economy? Can I see that PhD in Economics you must have?

    That the people worst affected by the apathy of the sort of students who bring up bad curricula only as debate-points are people who are interested in their work but are hamstrung by the system was, I think, my point.

    The ‘…many books available in soft and hard form’ line is a masterpiece. It’s like saying medical schools need not teach properly; there are textbooks on medicine available, after all. Are you sure you don’t also have a PhD in Education? Only experts get to make judgements, right?

  6. first of all one need not have a PhD in ‘something’ to learn about ‘something’. the increase in research spending and available funding in research institutions and research labs in India is quite well known or documented. you can ask any of the old timers in your institution or any other government labs about the increase in funding. also one need not have a PhD in economics to figure out that research spending in US universities has been on the way down since 3 years.
    i bet there are tons of people in companies like honeywell, airbus, ansys, who don’t have a PhD degree, who are much more knowledgeable in fluid mechanics and aerospace engineering than you will be after you obtain a ‘PhD’ degree. what you are basically saying is that a person with a title is much more knowledgeable than a person without a title in all the cases. BTW you don’t need a PhD degree or need to enroll in one to read academic and journal papers. correct me if i’m wrong.

    what you are also saying is that what is taught in the curriculum and what research work is done by a student in his/her Phd program is sufficient enough to call him/her an expert. one need not worry much about building his/her knowledge beyond the taught curricula however good or bad it may be. if you think that IISc/IIT has a very good ‘teaching’ program and teaches the students all that they need to know in their respective fields i think you are delusional.
    also there are many so called ‘experts’ who make crappy judgements. don’t resort to childish name calling just because you may get a PhD in a few years.

  7. While it is entirely possible that there are lots of people who’ve become knowledgeable in a field without having been formally educated, I don’t think you would go to somebody who claims to have read medical textbooks and journals the next time you have the sniffles. I would wager you will go to somebody with, and there’s no other way of saying this, a degree in medicine.

    However, one doesn’t need a PhD in a field to comment about the field. So I took a look at some statistics for the Indian software industry. I did not know, for example, that the IT sector in India accounts for about 6% of GDP and employs about 2.5 million people. What I did suspect, and what the data seem to show, is that the amount of this revenue earned because of product development (as opposed to maintenance or testing of somebody else’s software) is about 2-3% for TCS and Infosys. Infosys is trying to do better, apparently, so maybe things will change. I wasn’t wrong when I called Indian software development ‘glorified typing’. Go here, for example: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=964457

    For somebody who complains about my calling the software engineering that happens in India glorified typing, you assume not only that you know how much fluid mechanics I know, but also how much fluid mechanics lots of other people know. Hypocritical much? I stipulate that nobody is going to put me in charge of ISRO’s next satellite launch. But I do know enough fluid mechanics to know how bad the VTU curriculum is… which is where I think this discussion started.

    What you are right about, and people will tell you I myself hold true, is that not everything one knows has to be learnt in college. What college (or grad school) is supposed to do is teach you how to learn. However, in order to do this, the college has to at least teach its students the basics of science and engineering. I know that this is not true of the VTU curriculum for fluid mechanics. I am not qualified to say this about any other part of the VTU curriculum, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the same was true more widely.

    After a PhD in fluid mechanics, while I may or may not know more than somebody with ‘only’ an undergraduate degree in a particular field, the idea is that I would have learnt how to learn the field faster than somebody else.

  8. By your logic, every time you get a cough you would only go to a doctor who has a degree from AIIMS and other similar elite institutions. you simply would not trust a doctor with a ‘local’ MBBS degree.

    Also i have many friends from ‘local’ univs in IISc, and me and my friends did not have much trouble in learning or doing courses in most of the engg subjects. i myself have done my Bachelors in an NIT, and me and some of my friends do find it tough to follow many of the math dept courses, although this can be avoided by improving the quality of math taught in most of the local colleges.

    regarding a Batchelors degree, it is not meant only for fluid mechanics, but is also meant for a number of other subjects(which i don’t have to name). so during the Btech coursework it may not be possible to spend more than say around 4-5 months on fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid machinery, etc. i think what you seem to suggest is a BTech student must know each and every detail of the fluid mechanics syllabus covered in text books like Kundu Cohen, F M White(fluid mech book and the viscous flow book),Fay, IG Currie, Batchelor, Van Wylen, Holman, Incropera/Dewitt, etc.
    and this doesn’t even cover an exhaustive review of subjects like boundary layers, turbulence, gas dynamics, CFD/CGD, aerodynamics, etc.

    Now why would a person entering into a job concerned with manufacturing process, machine drawing, etc, bother to go this much in depth in fluid mechanics?? heck i can assume that you or myself would not be that strong in machine drawing, CAD/CAM, manufacturing process, than a guy in the industry. or do you suggest that almost everything much beyond the basics be taught in these subjects in the undergrad program?? of course, i will have to assume that subjects like manufacturing process are banal in your universe since they do not involve much of math, let alone machine drawing,CAD/CAM itself is many times quite challenging and tough to comprehend.

    “What college (or grad school) is supposed to do is teach you how to learn.”
    i will agree with you on this. and i will like to add that math education in local colleges and NITs needs a huge revamp, but i see nothing much wrong with most of the engg education. an undergrad education should not leave a student burnt out, while at the same time must be challenging and interesting enough so that the students after his undergrad asks for more and assimilates knowledge beyond what has been taught in his/her college.

    from what it looks like, you seem to have little respect for people who do not fit your ‘profile’ or in other words who haven’t traversed the path that you more or less have yourself traversed. you also seem to suggest that an undergrad edu isn’t an undergrad edu unless it’s done from an IIT. well, i think the top 50 univs in the US have a better undergrad edu, or atleast a more organized undergrad education than the indian IITs. so i think that would even give them the authority to say that an undergrad edu isn’t an undergrad edu unless it’s done from a top 50 school.

    you also seem to call people with names like ‘typists’ even after acknowledging that they are funding your current research. even if the IT industry contribution was 1% instead of 6%, that also would be quite huge.
    your ‘anger’ must be directed at the IT moguls like narayana murthy, who hasn’t diversified his business even after 15 years of IT experience.

    Also, the Indian population is too large and many of the talented students are unable to get into the elite engg colleges since their intake is only around 2.5-3 thousand. so i think it is a bit rude to say that those who do study should not land up in a local college.

  9. i’ll give you a summary since you don’t have the acumen to read a 3 min write up.
    you are a pompous prick who is in love with yourself.(the disease/affliction is called narcissism)

    sayonara sucker

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