IITs plan to encourage girls to pursue engineering. In 2016, out of 10,500 students, only 830 were girls
New Delhi: IITs have been trying to find the solution to a basic, yet fundamental problem troubling them for years. The ratio of XX to XY just doesn't balance, be it in classes, subjects, courses or even campuses across the country.If you are a student or an alumnus of any of the Indian Institutes of Technology or IIT, you would know that it is not common to find a female student in your class, or perhaps even in a given subject. In fact, if at all, it's quite rare. IITs, which are not just India's top engineering institutes, but considered among the best in the world, have one fundamental issue – a very large gender imbalance.The imbalance is not because of a faulty selection procedure in the country's premier engineering institutes. Instead, it perhaps highlights a greater concern – the ratio of girls to boys pursuing engineering right from the application stage.A study conducted by the IITs revealed a few startling facts:
IITs have been trying to bridge the gender gap in campuses. Girls form only 8% of all students
According to a report in the Economic Times, Ravinder Kaur, an IIT Delhi faculty member who was on the panel that conducted the study said, "It is the Indian mindset to invest heavily in their sons' education. Women do not get a level playing field when it comes to coaching and even funding for engineering at IITs." The fee for general category undergraduate students is typically around Rs 1 lakh per semester or Rs 8-10 lakh for the entire programme.Engineering has been a preferred choice for boys, while medical sciences have seen that trend reverse; but not to the same extent. This, many believe, is a stereotype that sums up our education system and its primary contributor is "family preferences".Based on the multiple studies conducted, the IITs have now come up with a method to bridge the gender gap, and have found a unique way to do it. The prestigious institutes have decided to add an overall 779 seats across all IITs dedicated only to girl students. This, the IIT administration believes, will promote the thought and encourage more girls to study engineering."This is not exactly a quota as the existing seats remain the same, thereby not affecting or discouraging boys from applying as they do each year. The institutes are not reserving a chunk the existing share, instead, it is creating an additional talent pool," an official said.The criteria for getting admission will remain the same. Girls too will have to get an All Indian rank after qualifying through JEE and JEE (Mains). No leniency will be shown in assessing the girls either. The process of selection will be transparent, fair, and 100 per cent merit based. The only condition being – it will be exclusively for girls – the brightest minds in the country. These 779 extra seats are being called 'supernumerary seats' by the IITs.A press statement released by the IIT council however states that "The reservation policy as per Government of India norms as existing at present will be applicable to these supernumerary seats as well." This means that the existing structure and ratio for reservations of candidates from economically and socially backward sections of society will be the same for these extra 779 seats, just as they are for the remaining seats.To incentivise it further for female students, IITs are even coming up with attractive fee structures and scholarships. Five IITs – Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Ropar and Mandi are also considering partial fee exemption for girls.Through these measures, the IITs foresee a steady rise in girl students and hopes to achieve its initial target of 20 per cent female students in all IIT campuses. For the current year, the IIT Council predicts a rise in overall female students from the current 8 per cent to 14 per cent. This, they hope, will be the beginning of the end for gender imbalance at IITs.Sayantani Saha, a student from IIT Kharagpur, and one among only a handful of girl students at the institute was delighted to hear about this initiative. "Not only will it help improve the gender imbalance, it will encourage many more girls to pursue engineering as a career," she said in an interview to news agency ANI.Terming the initiative by the IITs "fantastic", she said, "It has been a privilege" to study in the country's premier technological institutes. She said she believes this would have a positive impact on girls across middle and hi-schools in India.CommentsSudheshna Sarkar, a faculty member at IIT Kharagpur, says she is positive that this initiative by the IITs will bring about a big change over a short period of time. She believes it will definitely result in many more applications from girls for the Joint Entrance Examinations.Of the 779 'supernumerary' seats, 113 seats have been given to IIT Kharagpur, followed by 95 seats to IIT-Dhanbad, 79 to IIT-Kanpur, 76 to IIT-BHU, 68 to IIT-Roorkee, 59 to IIT-Delhi, 58 to IIT-Bombay and 57 to IIT Guwahati.
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