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'IIT is competitive, Harvard is flexible'
IITs are often dubbed the Indian Ivies. But how do the two compare? Akshay Saxena, 28, has been to IIT Bombay and Harvard Business School. The San Francisco-based chemical engineer and president of Avanti Fellows, a not-for-profit organisation that supports underprivileged students, discusses the pros and cons
Is there a difference between the IITs and the Ivy League school when it comes to education systems?
There's a massive difference between the two. There is greater flexibility in the curriculum in the US, with students being allowed to change subjects midway and design their own courses. In the IITs, on the other hand, students must sit for the JEE and courses they are admitted to depend on those scores. Second, unlike the IITs where your interaction with industry is limited, in Harvard there is close and continuous collaboration with industry. And the final placement depends not just on marks but also the impression you've managed to make on industry representatives.
How do teachers at the IITs and Ivy League schools compare?
Ivy League schools are private institutions where teachers are very well-paid. So, the quality of faculty there is better. There is also a greater emphasis on practical teaching. Indian teachers are not very well-paid. Also, many students go through IIT just because they cleared JEE and not because they really want technical education. That is why the quality of education suffers.
Is there anything Ivy League schools can learn from the IITs?
The academic environment in IITs is highly competitive. This may have something to do with the selection process. Admission to the IITs is through JEE so the admission criteria - and hence the aptitude of the students who clear it - is uniform. Once you get admission into an IIT, it seems that everyone else is better than you in maths and physics. Anyone can come first or last in class. So in the narrow sense of what one has to do in a class or in his job, IITs have an edge.
Was it difficult adjusting to an Ivy League school after spending time at IIT?
It was easier for me to do well at Harvard because IIT had a more academically competitive environment and I found I was better placed to deal with that there. But the students who came from US schools had greater exposure to the world.
-As told to Amardeep Banerjee
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