Is Engineering Losing Sheen? Why Young India is Moving Away From IIT Entrance?

After being one of the top choices for Indian youth for decades, engineering as a course of study seems to be losing its sheen. The number of students applying for the engineering entrance exam – JEE Main — has not touched the 11-lakh mark in over four years now. Even the prestigious IITs are slowly getting lesser turnout for their entrance exam. Students despite being eligible for IIT entrance opt out of JEE Advanced and prefer to go for an NIT instead, in search of their favorite subject.

Every year, the top 2.5 lakh rank holders from JEE Main get selected to appear for JEE Advanced. With multiple students getting the same hand, the number of eligible students to take IIT entrance is over 2.5 lakh every year, however, in past seven years, less than 1.8 lakh have appeared for the exam.

Experts believe, that tougher competition and rising fees for coaching institutes are deterring students from taking high stake exams. Students who take JEE Main and qualify for JEE Advanced, have a higher chance of getting a seat at a top NIT and opt out of the even stiffer competition which sometimes lands them in a tier-3 IIT. Competition, however, remains stiff for top colleges including IIT in Madras, Delhi, and Bombay, especially for computer science and allied courses.

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Year JEE Main Registrations JEE Advanced Registrations
2017 11,86,454 1,72,024
2018 11,35,084 1,55,158
2019 6,08,440 1,61,319
2020 9,34,000 1,50,838
2021 10,48,012 1,41,699
2022 10,26,799 1,60,000

‘About 149 out of 150 students do not get seats’

Weighing in on the issue, former AICTE Chairperson Anil Sahasrabudhe said one of the possible reasons could be the high competition. Out of lakhs of students applying, only 2.5 lakh can sit for JEE Advanced and it is filtered even more in the IIT entrance stage.

“A possible reason behind this could be the number of applicants is so large, about 149 out of 150 students do not get seats. These students spend so much time and money on coaching, that the expenditure is large. If a student knows s/he is mediocre, they might not want to spend so much on coaching for JEE. They might be happy with state engineering colleges. They might think that if I have to go to state-level colleges later then better go for it beforehand. Why to take national-level exams?,” said the recently retired AICTE chief.

JEE Topper Says Engineering Not Safe Option

The lack of application or interest in IITs is not just an indicator of lack of merit but also a lack of interest. JEE Main 2022 topper, Parth Bhardwaj recently told news18.com that engineering as a career is not much of a safe option as it used to be a decade back. Bhardwaj, who plans to opt for UPSC CSE after his BTech said,  “Engineering is considered to be a safe option but it is still not as safe, in terms of career prospects and opportunities. Around 30-40 lakh students have taken CBSE 12th and around 9 lakh took JEE Main. The number is still quite high in JEE I would say, however, there has been research which tells that about 80 per cent of the engineers in India are not suitable for any job at all.”

Students From Low-Income Families, Rural Areas at Disadvantage

Due to high competition, it is rare for a student to crack any national-level exam without undergoing coaching classes. The high fee for the coaching classes, however, are not affordable for everyone. While some meritorious students get access to free coaching from state governments, most students from underprivileged families do not get access to such high-end training.

Coaching centers, however, claim that they are in fact bridging a gap between school education and the aptitude required to crack college entrance exams.

Experts are of the opinion that only school-level education will never be enough for exams like JEE Advanced. “The exam pattern is completely different from what students learn in school. Most students who compete for IITs need very good coaching to guide them. Especially for those from state boards. These students find it difficult to compete in national-level exams, said Anup Raaj, co-founder of Instapreps by 7 Classes and an IIT-Bombay alumnus.

Hailing from a small town himself Raaj said a lot of students miss the opportunity to register for IIT entrance due to such short notice of a couple of days and only online mode of application. “Around 10-15 per cent of students lost the opportunity this year due to short notice. While it is very easy for students living in cities to register online, students from villages and towns who have connectivity issues,” he said.

“Around 20000 to 30000 more students might have filled the form if they would have got more time at least by a week,” claims Raaj.

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