Every year one million students aspire to get into IITs, the most esteemed engineering colleges of India, but less than 1% make it to these renowned institutes. Ever since independence, India has produced no Nobel laureates in science. The country has won just 28 Olympic medals, China with almost the same population won 100 in 2008 alone. But there is something that India produces the largest in the world, every single year, engineers.

But what is stopping the country with the largest youth population from championing any other fields than technology?

The Crazy Obsession: Engineering

Every single year, India graduates about 1.5 million engineers. But the journey of students doesn’t begin after graduating, but six to eight years before that. Many fellow students aspiring to get admission in esteemed engineering colleges of the country move to Kota, Rajasthan in their junior college years. The city also eminent as India’s Coaching Centre is the epicenter of coaching institutes for engineering and medical aspirants. Every year thousands of students join the coaching institutes for cracking JEE (the entrance exam for getting admission into esteemed engineering colleges, e.g. IITs) across the country.

These students live in compact rooms, with poor quality food, and washroom, and study for 14 to 16 hours every day for securing their future. Some students prepare for two years and still don’t make it into IITs, thus shoving their self-confidence to the ground. And half of those who manage to get admission into these institutes and enter the pearly gate of IITs, are not happy with what they are being taught. Every year, just after the result of JEE is announced, news floods with students committing studies post failing the exam.

Engineering: Life of Students

The horrifying question put on Quora by an aspirant who failed JEE, can make anyone’s blood run cold, “Why should I live after failing the JEE mains two times? I feel like my world has come to an end. How will I talk to my parents?” It showcases the detrimental effects, the competition has on students who don’t land an IIT.

India has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world, and most of the kids kill themselves mostly due to academic pressure. Suicides are also a common occurrence inside these esteemed engineering institutes. The toxic productivity echo chambered inside these engineering institutes, leading to a constant pressure of not being left behind, many a time overwhelms the students, to an extent to ending their lives. Moreover, the skewed sex ratio in the male-dominated field of engineering, where only 2 out of every 10 students is a girl, makes these institutes a bit more pressurizing for women students.

The granny image of the enormous competition inside the institutes is nowhere close to what is being portrayed as college life by the majority of the population. A recent series Alma Matters depicts a real picture of the helplessness students feel about the shattering dream of having a clarity of what they want after getting into IITs. Many students feel grateful for just being in these institutes, even though they study the core subject which they are not interested in.

The obsession with engineering went crazy in just a few decades. Today, India is inundated with engineering colleges. Those who don’t make it into the IITs choose to take admissions into other universities offering the same courses. Many students in these institutes end up with jobs that pay far less than a sustainable income or worse, no job at all.

What Is The Core Of This Great Obsession?

For a nation where corruption permeates everyday life, IITs are amongst the very few meritorious institutions for the Indian lower and middle class for their social upliftment. Also, for a very long time, before the entry of the private players in the education business; IITs and other engineering colleges were the only few higher education institutes to provide quality education, followed by the handsome salaried placement which made them the epicenter of student attraction.

Now, given the fact that every great obsession has an equally fascinating chase, be it fashion treads or anything else; Indian’s great obsession with engineering was born.

The Blur Picture

The right to choose a career that interests students in the ambiance of hiking unemployment have become a luxury. The core intention of opening IITs, which was producing graduates to change the nation has quickly transformed to only having the safety of a salaried job.

India has the largest youth population, thus the largest workforce. If driven in the right direction, it could produce millions of professionals in all the industries, and most importantly, professionals who love what they do. But, the engineering and similar obsession of the limited career path is constraining students from reaching their full potential. If not fixed then most Indian students will become an engineer first and then decide their true passion and find what to do in life. And with all the chaos, tragedy, deaths, Indian engineering will persist to be the world’s most interesting educational system.