Wasting Youth

Nowadays everyone seems to be preparing for JEE. It is almost as if it is a logical progression to join some JEE coaching factory once you are done with 10th standard. Yeah, the numbers were quite large in my time (~10 yrs back) itself. But they are humongous now, and it is not funny.

Yeah, awareness about IIT and people feeling good about themselves and wanting to go study at India’s best undergraduate institutions is great. It is brilliant. Fantastic. What is not so great, brilliant and fantastic is that tens of thousands of youth are wasting two years of their prime youth trying to mug for an entrance exam in which they stand little chance of doing well.

I just hope I’m not sounding condescending here, but it intrigues me that so many people who have very little chances of making it through the JEE slog so much for it. I think it is due toe the unhealthy equilibrium that has been reached with respect to the exam, which makes everyone waste so much time. Let me explain.

So over the years the JEE has got the reputation of being a “tough” exam. And over the years, maybe due to the way papers are structured or the way factories train people, people have figured out that hard work and extra hours of preparation helps. I could get into studsandfighters mode here but in line with my promise let me try and explain without invoking the framework. And you need to remember that the JEE uses “relative grading” – how well you have done is dependent on how badly others have done.

So if everyone has put in that much extra hard work, you are likely to lose out by not putting in that extra work. And so you increase your effort. And so does everyone else. Yeah this is a single iteration game but still looking at the competition and peer pressure eveyone is forced to raise their effort. Everyone is forced to, to quote the Director of my JEE factory, “work up to human limit”.

Yeah, a few hundred people every year manage to “crack” the system and get through without putting in that much effort. But then their numbers are small compared to the number of people who get admitted, so people who get through based on sheer hard work do tend to get noticed more, and spur other aspirants to work even harder. And so forth.

Yes, there is a problem with a system. Something is not right when a large proportion of youth in the country is wasting away two years of prime youth in preparing for some entrance exam. It is easy to see the fundamental problem – shortage of “really good quality” engineering colleges (I argue that this mad fight for IIT seats shows the gap between IITs and the next level of engineering colleges – at least in terms of public perception). But considering that as given I wonder what we could change. I wonder what we could do in order to save our youth.

As an aside, one thing I’ve noticed about several JEE aspirants is that they don’t give up. I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing – to carry on with the mad fight even if you know that your chances of making it are remote. Yeah I’m sure there is peer pressure and status issues with respect to giving up. But then I suppose I would have a lot more respect for someone who would give up and enjoy life rather than continue the mad fight knowing fully well that his chances are remote.

Looking back, I do regret wasting those two years in mad JEE mugging. Ok I must admit I did have my share of fun back then but still looking back I would have definitely preferred to have not worked so hard back then. And of course I count myself lucky that I got through the JEE and my hard work in those two years wasn’t in vain.

5 thoughts on “Wasting Youth”

  1. I think it is a good idea to invest a couple of years on JEE preparation. It’s a good disciplining influence on the mind regardless of whether you make it.

    I tried prepping for JEE with a correspondence course. But gave up after 11th std, having realized my low chances of getting a decent rank. I often wish I had joined a classroom course and put some fight. It’s debatable whether civil engg at IT BHU is a more rewarding experience than 4 years of Comp-Sc in a decent VTU college. Assuming you’ve no special aptitude/interest for either branch, I’d probably say the former is a better pick. It would atleast mean 4 years away from the comfort zone of home and Bangalore.

  2. I heard this joke long time back- When only one person can win in the race, why are the rest of the people running?

  3. Agree with shrikanth. Preparing for JEE is not entirely a waste even if you don’t make it. For one, it helps in your CET too. And in general it helps increase your analytical skills which will be useful during engineering and beyond. Like shrikanth, I too made only a casual attempt (subscribed to Brilliant) for a few months before giving up. But some of the problems I solved in Physics and Mathematics during those months gave me more joy than the entire year of studying for 2nd PU exams.

  4. Hey,interesting post.The two years of coaching these days are not that much of an issue considering the quality of teaching and disparity in the sylabbi between cbse and jee.The coaching is made most use of(People who work hard) by people who feel that they stand a genuine chance.As far as i have observed,the people without genuine intrest just have a look and get a feel as to what jee is without sacrificing too much in those 2 years.The point i am trying to make is people who feel that the 2 years was spent in hard work are people who really enjoyed doing it back then and mad the cut into the iits.If someone hadnt enjoyed working dat hard probably wouldnt have put in full steam into jee preparation. So i do feel that the coaching aspect is not a bad phenomena and doesnt dramatically deprive the youth.In the end people who enjoyed that level of preparation alone would have spent time and energy into it.This is just statistical observation . I am a 3rd year student at IIT Madras and i dont regret the 2 years of effort because that was the 1st time so far in my life i had to use intense analytical skills.

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