Bill Gates, during his main speaker speech at the 50th anniversery of IIT system, mentioned that IITs are unique and I concur. Never before in the history of humankind, a major country has created a school for many of its elites, trained mostly for fulfilling the labor needs of other countries.
As to be expected, it is praised widely in circles which have benefitted greatly from this arrangement. Meanwhile major issues which might embarrass many, remain buried deep.
In my batch there were around 180 men and 1 woman. My estimate is that more than 90 percent (more like 95%) of us had urban background. (Indian still has over 60% people living in rural area.) Almost nobody seemed to be from "untouchable" castes. Even though some of us were getting need-based scholarships, nobody seemed to be from a poor family.
In short, IIT seemed to be a place for urban, "upper" caste, "middle" and higher income family, males. Even currently, this tag applies to perhaps at most 10 percent of the country's population. To say, IIT is a place for the best and the brighest, is just not fair in such a situation.
We don't get tired of bragging about impossible grading at IITs where very few get good grades. We laugh at the grade inflation problem in the USA, in contrast. We talk about the rigor of our programs. We all are proud of such things. This surprises me a lot. In my view, IIT system, in spite of all the good intentions of people running it, is deeply flawed. American system is not perfect and I will mention its imperfections later in the USA subdirectory, but it seems designed to motivate many to study hard and learn more. Every year many studies come out pointing out how the USA students are among the worst in the world, but on closer examination many of them seem designed to point out problems before they become big. In some cases it makes getting more funding easier. ;) Sort of like a beauty queen worrying about a pimple on her face. On the other hand IIT system is like the emperor without clothes. We brag, and nobody dares to point out its drawbacks. IITs, in my view, take in very bright students and then after 4 years of outdated teaching methods end up producing mostly slightly better-than-average technicians. It seems designed to de-motivate and crush most of the young minds who aspire to study scientific fields. A truely great institution adds value to its students - IITs don't do that.
After graduation most of the IITians end up working for industrialized nations. A couple of years ago I checked the website of a highly regarded and one of the biggest companies in India - Infosys, and it said that over 95% of its output was for non-Indian markets. To me IITs appear to be an assembly line designd to produce workers in most-needed areas of the Western world (and Japan et cetera) quickly. It is a shame that some of the most brilliant minds in the world end up becoming mere technicians.
Well, ...Goal of this site is to make visitors aware of issues confronting IITs, one of the major institutions of the world. Hope this will lead to some action in the positive direction.