After reading through the various articles/comments here are some of my own. I apologise in advance for the longish mail where I'm probably repeating what others have said elsewhere.
As pointed out by others the "crisis in education" has now led to a situation where we may not have enough good teachers of science to populate the faculty in these institutes. Instead of syllabus preparation, I would imagine that the first priority of those wanting to create these institutes should create some sort of "search groups" to seek and "capture" those who might come and teach.
We must distinguish between wanting to cater to "excellence" and wanting to teach only "excellent students". If figures quoted at the meeting are accepted then there are about 5000 students coming out of 10+2 who:
- Could be developed into good scientists---we are not looking for Nobel prize winners only!
- Will be willing to join a program which has a strong science component as long as job placement is possible.
- Are currently scattered across some good city colleges and a large number of good and not-so-good engineering and medical colleges across the country.
We should expect that a significant portion of those trained (say 50% or more) will look for jobs outside of scientific research and education. These are currently not considered lucrative professions and this is not likely to change overnight.
From the point of view of job placement as per (3) it is essential that the entrance criterion for these institutes be seen by the lay public as a "filtering" mechanism a la JEE or AICET. The private industry that employs the graduating students of the Engineering colleges is mainly interested in the filtering+"intellect honing" aspects of these streams. The actual knowledge and training given is supplementary---desirable but not essential.
It also follows from (4) that the actual syllabus that we prepare need not cater to industry in any direct way. As long as the syllabus has a strong science base (theory and practice) it should be acceptable to prospective employers and through them the prospective students (and their parents!).
At the meeting there was some IIT-vs-antiIIT sentiment expressed. Here are my own views of the plus-ses and minus-es of the IIT system (based on experience from my student days at IIT/Kanpur 1977-82).Pluses:
- Strong filtering+honing---both actual and perceived. Hence placement is good. It follows that students (and their parents) want to get in.
- Campus-based. This is essential as it encourages intra-student interaction and sometimes also non-classroom interaction between students and faculty.
- Quite a flexible syllabus in the final years. This allows the maturing student the possiblity of choosing a different path from that chosen at the start of the programme.
- Too few IIT's to cater to all the students that are ready for similar training.
- Decreasing science and research component as a result of 4-year B.Tech. and the introduction of too many "industry-oriented" courses.
- Years of "coaching-classes" have decreased the enthusiasm and originality of the students.