Vinayak Garg :


Nov 2010 | This blog post is adapted from the very first publication of V.I.S.V.A.S., which highlighted the deficiencies in current library and reading room system of IIT Delhi.

While this is written for a specific library in India, I believe it is something applicable to any library.

11112007013Ideal Walkthrough in IIT Delhi Library

Person climbs up the stairs and swipes his library access card to open the entrance gate. The scanners at the doors enable him to carry all his belongings right through, into the library.

He goes to the circulation counter. Circulation counter is a set of 10, self service, book deposit and issue desks. He places the books he wishes to return beneath the bar code reader, and voilla his books are returned.

He now goes onto search the books he wishes to issue. He types in the name of the book and using the computer based search programme, he can search the book he wants. The RFID tags on the books allows him to precisely locate the position of the book inside library. It points to him that the book is not on the shelf, but it is kept at table no.7 of second floor. That surely does save lots of search time.

To issue this book, he again approaches circulation counter, flashes his library card and then places the books under the scanner to get them issued. Just as he exits the library, there is a beep in the door sensors. Maybe he forgot to issue one of the books he was carrying. The guard requests him to get it issued, and then he leaves.

The library would be open 24hrs, and also be equipped with self service photocopy machines, that are accessible 24 hours.

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Delhi University Admission Process

Oct 2009 | When you want to change any system, I feel it is best that one should first formulate the most desirable system, without any constraints and subsequently adapt it based on current constraints. Doing so enables us to not only make a better system right now, but also chart out a longer vision towards which one would like to go.

In this post I would discuss the centralized admission process adopted by Delhi University a few years back through introduction of centralized forms.

Despite the fact that so much amount of money has been spent for the system it still remain predominantly a make-shift arrangement and much below an expected standard from a central university.

Firstly, let me introduce this process to you:

DU admission system 1

Current admission process in DU

The student who wants to apply to any college of the Delhi University can buy a ‘central admission form’ from university counter and submit it back there. The form is read through OMR and enables students to apply simultaneously to multiple courses and colleges. After the deadline of form submission, the university prepares college wise datasheets containing the details of all the students who have expressed interest in the college. The information is passed onto respective colleges through CDs and floppies.

Simultaneously, colleges continue to sell and collect their own forms.

The whole process has inherent drawbacks. Instead of reducing commotion and chaos in the admission process, the ‘central admission form’ of university is actually aiding to increase the same. Through centralized form, many students apply to courses which they don’t even intend to attend, thus pushing the cut offs upwards for most of the colleges. Also, many students apply to the same college through both central and college form, again swelling the cut offs. With cutoffs going high, students hold onto whatever they can get in first list, and wait to make a switch in the second list. This list affects the admission estimates drastically, and this snowballing effect is seen the following cut off lists too!!

So what has this form centralized? Should colleges be allowed to sell their own admission forms? And if the admission process is purely based on marks, then why university doesn’t brings out admission list for each college?

DU admission system

Better admission process proposed for DU

What I propose is a simple, single point admission process.

  1. Having a single unified form across university: This form should be available at all colleges and university offices.
  2. Online form: Have facility to fill the form online, and reduce commotion and chaos
  3. The form should require students to submit a preference order, across all the courses and colleges.( Similar process is followed in engineering admission process, even by AIEEE which has around 1000 affiliated institutes!)
  4. Using this preference order, and the marks the university can simply bring our an admission list. No further lists are necessary.
  5. Colleges should concentrate on marketing themselves to students through seminars and information sessions.

Besides improving the system, this process would also teach students to take decisions. Filling up the preference order, the students would get a chance to plan out their career and take control of their lives!

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Teacher Awards

September 2009 | This year Delhi University awarded distinguished teachers on the occasion of teacher’s day. A survey was conducted by the Vice-Chancellor from the post graduate students about the academics they had at the under graduate level. Based on this feedback 80 teachers from different departments and colleges were awarded in a ceremony, by former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

Asha Distinguished teacher award delhi universityI am proud to share that my mother was awarded too, as Distinguished Teacher

It is definitely a step in the right direction, but still a lot is left to be desired about the way it was conducted.

A teacher’s primary job is to teach, but still it is not a factor that is considered for appointments, promotions, extensions etc. Would acquiring a Ph.D. definitely imply that one can teach better? Does more research papers reflect that the person can share dreams of the students? It is high time that some measure is developed and used to evaluate the primary job of teachers.

Having student feedback is definitely essential in quantifying the excellence of teaching, but it is needed that the process be holistic and transparent. In this case, the survey was conducted from the post-graduate students of Delhi University, thus putting those teachers at a loss whose students don’t choose to join PG programme at Delhi University.

To sum it I would say, definitely these 80 teachers are Distinguished Teachers, but these are not the only distinguished teachers. (or as an industrial engineer would say the process had, Type 1 error: None of the bad items were accepted, but there is a chance that we rejected good items.)

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Vision for IIT Delhi

In January 2009, senate of IIT Delhi had called for vision statements for IIT Delhi from students, and this document was prepared as a response to the call. This document was prepared by me along with Bhushan Shinde.

IIT delhi


We would like to submit the ‘Vision for IITD’ on the basis of the experiences we have had and the observations we made throughout our stay of 5 years as a Dual Degree student and as an alumni of this institute, respectively. Our stay here has had an overwhelming influence on the qualities we have imbibed and we are very obliged and proud to be a part of the phenomenon called IIT Delhi.

Since last year we have taken an initiative to motivate other members of the student community of IIT Delhi to be proactive in achieving positive goals for a virtuous academic system through the ‘V.I.S.V.A.S.’ endeavor. A tremendous response and appreciation from the student and the faculty community alike has strengthened our belief in the system and we are absolutely confident that IIT Delhi would successfully achieve whatever it sets as its vision coupled by dedicated efforts for its implementation.


We understand that IITs were conceived as centers of excellence meant to produce technocrats for a newly-resurgent India. But the Indian economy could not absorb the products of IIT for a long time, and until nineties IITs ended up producing some of the finest technocrats for global corporations. With the current growth of India and its recognition worldwide there is a demand for technical expertise here as well. We thus need to focus on research professionals also as it is the demand of our booming industrial growth. Industrial growth require technological research and with the brand such as IIT already available at hand it would be sensible to develop these as centres for research excellence as well than creating separate research facilities for technological purpose. Basic science research centres can obviously be looked at to be built separately. There should be a well defined national and global level objective in all our endeavors backed up by strong and proactive feedback and review mechanism. Only then can we achieve all of the following visions.

We present a 4 point ‘Vision for IITD’, as per our understanding.

  1. To be the preferred employer globally: IIT-Delhi currently has some of the best professors, it not only needs to retain them but also continue to attract the best minds from around the world. Today, opportunities for bright minds are tremendous, and IIT Delhi needs to continuously evolve itself to provide a most welcoming environment for its faculty. Besides providing desirable research infrastructure and research funding, there is a need to provide opportunity to faculty to innovate through new styled courses, or through activities introduced in an IAP (Independent Activities Period)
  2. To be the preferred institute for undergraduate program:
    1. To promote interaction of UG students with research scholars (PhD) for projects and thus expose them to the ways of research.-These would have (govt. /industrial sponsorship (kind of monetary work, campus job during semester) for UG students. UG students would benefit from research experience of ongoing PhD work and get a feel of research.
    2. To promote interdisciplinary projects among students, exposing them to the wider aspects of academic world, within and beyond engineering disciplines. IITD would produce aware students, capable of handling current world crisis relating to global climate change, healthcare concerns, global economic meltdown etc
    3. Present student led papers and research at national and international level seminars/conferences-One way could be to award some credits for the work done and resultant recognition at the conferences.
    4. Student Scientific publication: Establish prominence through publication of an online scientific journal. It is necessary, as it not only provides a platform for IIT students to showcase their ideas, but it also acts as a window into the IITD’s academic arena.
    5. Industrial Interaction of students: Focus on preparing the students for the world, through exposure to industrial processes. Semester long industrial internships, industrial visits and lecture series may be incorporated to provide the same.
    6. Multiple Majors in different Dept.: To allow students to declare his/her major for B.Tech in second year. This would enable students to make an informed choice of their majors and pursue it with more interest.
  3. Build research centers of International repute: It would promote research interest among students, and idea generation. Research exchange programs may be conducted to create international exposure, and develop cutting-edge products through collaborative efforts.
  4. To bring about a positive change in the world: Initiate involvement in community work on the institute level by recognizing such work for due credits in the semester rather than NSS which doesn’t have stronger incentive. The focus should be on creating socially responsible citizens.

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Making examination centres Mindful

This is an article I wrote after I had myself appeared in entrance exams post completing my schooling. The article was written in 2004, published in 2006.

My first published article. (Unable to locate a text version of it. Apologies for placing article as an image)

article-1 copy

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Aug 2009 | In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at larger amplitude at some frequencies than at others. These are known as the system’s resonance frequencies (or resonant frequencies). At a resonant frequency, even small periodic driving forces can produce large amplitude vibrations, because the system stores vibrational energy. When damping is small, the resonance frequency is approximately equal to the natural frequency of the system, which is the frequency of free vibrations.

The diagram below explains the case of resonance frequency in a simple case.Resonance 1

Fb is resonant frequency here, and thus we can see that amplitude is much larger for Fb than it is for Fa or Fc.

We would now extend this to explain career choices, social pressure, student potential and career rise through the following case. In the following case, the main frequency has been superimposed by a noise frequency.

Resonance 2In this case Ff is resonant frequency, and Fe, say is a noise frequency. In reality we would have a wide array of noise frequency and little peaks but for simplicity I am taking just one here.

The point I want to make here is that any system attains maximum amplitude only when it is allowed to vibrate at its natural frequency. You can make it vibrate at a lower or higher frequency, but you would never get that kind of amplitudes. In the same manner, with our careers it is important for us to realize our interest and true potential and then realize that. It is only in that field that we can truly excel and reach the top.

It doesn’t matter whether the natural frequency is low or high, what matters is whether the system is vibrating at that frequency or not. Following others in making career choices can result in a disaster. No career should be deemed as low or high when making choices, what matter is whether the stream really interests you or not. Each and every field has its own peak, and only the one who is truly passionate about the job can reach that peak.

Point E may be confused as resonant frequency in a case when the full picture is not visible to a student. It is here that the importance of informed choices is truly represented, it is necessary to make student aware of the entire spectrum so that he can identify his true natural frequency!

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Teaching teachers

August 2009 | Currently there is a dearth of well qualified teachers, at all levels. A teacher forms the backbone of an education system and it is required that attention should be paid towards providing this basic necessity to the education system of India.

Considering the fact that education, especially the basic education, is pre-requisite for development of an area, it is necessary to have adequate, well qualified teachers in all areas. Availability of teachers at grass root level could lead to enhanced awareness of general public towards development in various sectors and could enhance general health and economic levels.


Increased number of trained teachers in the states highlighted by the chart would have brought in more development and prosperity to the region, than presence of an IIT (Guwahati)& IIM (Shillong) can ever bring!

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Electing Electives

fateJuly 2009 | A very important part of the curriculum in engineering institutes consists of elective courses. A range of courses are offered to a student, out of which he may choose the courses that he wishes to pursue depending on his interest and career ambition. Now the question that arises is the fact whether the student is actually able to get his choice in the current systems, or does it just reduces to a game of fate?

In IIT Delhi, elective courses form almost 40% of the total credit requirement for award of degree. It is these courses that enable students to create a distinctive profile and prepare themselves for the field which they choose to excel in. As per the system, the student just expresses his desire to attend a certain course as an elective, and what follows is a mysterious process which outputs whether the student has been allotted the course or not. For electives relating to humanities, a student is to fill a preference list and that is used as input for an even more mysterious process.

Though not officially declared, it is rumored that the courses are allotted as per the grade points (marks) of the student. Electives for humanity stream are said to be allotted on a mixed basis of grade points and the year of study. What results is the insecurity and loss of control of students on which courses they get to do and when. Even if I would really really want to do a course on psychology or internal combustion engines, there is no way to ensure that I do get that course. It is here that helplessness and the feeling loss of control over their career path gets seeded.

An alternative to this system is a system where students may bid for their elective courses. The system is followed in majority of MBA institutes in US, and also in top B-schools of India like IIMs. Under this system, each student is given a fixed amount of bid points for each bidding period. He may use these points to bid for the courses that he wants to take as electives. This system has far more benefits than just enabling subject of choice for students.

Firstly, it makes students responsible for their career path and they may choose the area in which they would like to take courses. It is important not only to enable informed choices, but also to create a system that respects choices.

bidding electivesSecondly, the bidding system develops students as individuals and fosters ability to take decisions. It is much easier to accept whatever comes your way than to actually demand for a particular subject. By assuring that any subject that they desire strong enough would be given, it holds them accountable for their choices.

Thirdly, quantum of bid points used by students for a particular subject acts like a feedback for the professor teaching the subject. It is a constant feedback for the teacher and would act as an encouragement. Nothing can matter more to a teacher than recognition from his students about his competence. This feedback is totally unbiased, unlike year end feedback form; here the students have no perceived benefits from giving a good remark. It is a feedback in which students are calling out to teacher to lead them to their career goals, and this is what really counts.

It is only in such system that I feel it is possible to sustain interest of students in academics and maintain high enthusiasm level of teachers. Afterall, each of them deserves appreciation for their efforts and decisions.

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Informed choices

A place to go, somewhere to be, I choose the way that’s right for me.

Others help, their hands are good, But they can’t help more than they should.

If others say who I should be, Then where is my identity?

God teaches me each step to take. Don’t block my path, my life’s at stake

choiceThese lines by Tim Kolb aptly capture the relevance of informed choices in a student’s career.

We make so many choices all the time in our careers, and some of them are big enough to actually govern who do we grow up to be; choice of subjects in class XI, choice of course/ college after 12th, choice of course to take for post graduation (or even choice not to do post graduate degree!) and also choice of jobs/ sector etc.

But how many of the choices that we make are actually informed choices? How many decisions do we take being fully aware of the consequences of not only our chosen path but also of the other paths?

During my time at IIT most of the students that I met had never given a second thought about becoming an engineer, or even about taking up science at class XI, it just seemed the obvious option that a student of their caliber was expected to do. But then that is where the problem begins, students would always contemplate what if they would have actually given it a thought in class XI, would they still have chosen the same path? And surprisingly this continues, at campus placement they again take up jobs that students of their caliber are eligible for and then they contemplate few weeks into the job whether they would have actually liked some other job better.

The problem with not having an informed choice is not that you would make the wrong choice, but the fact that you would never know if you made the right choice.

choices-for-deliberate-creatorsOne of the main reasons for continued traditional decision making is the social pressure and limited acceptance offered by society to people who choose to tread on their own paths. The society offers its acceptance strictly by a set of hierarchal perceptions. Even within engineering the stream selection is by norm in the order of computer science-electronics-etc etc ….. a student who is currently elated from his good performance in the entrance exams is offered advice by all the nearby relatives/ friends and friends of relatives on what branch he should choose, and the student who is clueless about what does each branch has to offer is forced to make the biggest decision of his career merely on the basis of public poll!

Secondly, students are being asked to make choices again and again without being properly educated about the various options. There is little guidance that is provided to students in a regular manner through the education system about various possibilities that lie in front of him.

INSA LyonInformed choices define the interest of student in teaching and the overall flow of education system that follows after the choice. In INSA, France, after school students are admitted into engineering institutes but are not offered specialized branches at this stage. The first year is dedicated to provide general awareness about engineering and provide students with adequate understanding so that they are able to distinguish offerings of one branch from the other. It is only in their second year that they are offered specialized branches based upon their performance in the first year. As a result the students are really passionate about what they are learning and almost all of them graduate to join core engineering services or research, because this is what they chose. Also another interesting observation in this system is that the ‘hottest branch’ keeps changing very dramatically each year, the batch I was studying with had civil engineering as the most sought after  discipline, and it was biotechnology the year before. Long internships, and a 5 year degree ensures that students have a good knowledge of the work life before they actually jump into it, and can actually choose the field they want to enter.

Most importantly making informed choices lets you to take control of your life, rather than vice-versa. It instills an unmatched confidence and lets you live life without any regrets (or maybe lesser regrets!) or ‘what if’ contemplations.

July 2009

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My journey through systems ….

Sardar Patel VidyalayaMy first tryst with a system of any kind was at ‘Sardar Patel Vidyalaya’ where I spent 14 years, from my nursery years to finally complete my Senior secondary (or 12th boards as popularly called !!).

I enjoyed school, and recall many instances, mostly small, that shaped my learning and have left a distinct mark on the way I perceive things. But it wasn’t until I actually left the school that I realized how cherished the system at my school was, all the procedures and methodologies which I had taken for granted, now seemed like innovations. Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, named after the legendary freedom fighter Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, also known as the Iron Man of India, was run by Gujarat Education Society and was based on the principles of free thinking and equitable distribution of opportunities. School encouraged each student to participate in each activity and test his capability in all areas ranging from art, sports, public speaking etc.

It is this idea that I really feel needs to be extended to all education systems across levels: providing students with enough exposure so as to enable them to make them ‘informed choice’ in future. I realize that most of the changes that I have been pursuing in the academic system somewhere draw heavily from this philosophy.

IIT delhiIndian Institute of Technology Delhi, or simply IITD, was my next pit-stop. I entered my class with the lowest rank but graduated with rank 1; this was a land of opportunities. Everything was possible here, and more importantly IITD managed to instill this confidence in people that everything IS possible!! Looking back if there is one thing that I am taking back from IITD then it is the confidence that I can achieve anything that I set my heart upon. So much is going on in IITD which involves students that they are entrusted with responsibilities every now and then, and they learn to face crisis while still keeping a smile on the face.

This is not to say that everything is perfect here and it is heaven, after all it is here that I started my NGO VISVAS to reform the academic system. A lot needs to be changed, both from the end of students and administration, but for the first post I would like to concentrate on the brighter sides.

It was here at IITD that I was given an opportunity to go on a year long exchange to INSA-Lyon, France. I feel that it was a turning point in my life because not only did I matured a lot living alone and traveling across Europe for a year, but exposure to a different academic system actually broadened my awareness about the dynamics of its working and what are the alternatives for each.

Instead of classifying the whole system as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it had enabled me to breakdown system into pieces and analyze characteristics of each and how it fits in with others to complete the puzzle.

Buddhist MonasteryAfter graduation, I was chosen by SPICMACAY (Society for promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) for a Gurukul scholarship, and I spent 6 weeks in monastery of H.H. Dalai Lama. That was a window into an ecosystem which thrived totally on faith and devotion. Initially it seems that logic stops here and it is blind faith that is governing the lives, but dwelling deeper I could find threads that link it to our system and how so much could be adapted from these monasteries and our religious schools into the main stream educational institutes. I also spent some time at the Tibetan children’s village (TCV), interacting with students conducting career counseling sessions and enriching myself all along.

Our education system certainly lacks faith; faith of students in their teachers, faith of teacher in the system, and faith of system in its students: we need to bring it all back!

I beong to a family of academicians, and throughout I have been in touch with academics of different universities and colleges, with my parents being professors at colleges of Delhi University, and my relatives being professors at different universities across India. Recently my sister completed her studies from Shri Ram College of Commerce, providing me an insight into the student side of the story.

Even with my NGO, V.I.S.V.A.S. I have had an opportunity to interact with many students, teachers and principals of different colleges of Delhi University. We have been involved with activities and product implementation to solve problems of these colleges.

Armed with these experiences I decided to start putting on record my thoughts on education system as prevalent in India, and as we would like it to be. The main purpose of placing my thoughts here is to invite other perspectives and together look at each piece of this puzzle from different angles.

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