India's Top Notch IITs Suffer From Acute Gender Disparity
BENGALURU: Union HRD minister Prakash Javdekar, while replying to a question by Congress MP Ambika Soni in the Rajya Sabha on Feb 9, 2017 stated that girl student admission in IIT has been abysmally low at 8% in 2015-16.
IITs, the premier institutes of India are churning out more male engineers than female engineers, year after year. The widening gender gap in IITs raises the question of accessibility of higher education for Indian girls. Currently, 19 IITs can accommodate 10,500 UG students, 8,000 PG students and 3,000 Ph.D students.
In 2015, 9,974 students got admission in 18 IITs, out of which only 900 were girls. The gender disparity is also a prevalent phenomenon in AICTE-approved technical institutions. The percentage of girls who secured admissions in AICTE-approved technical institutions during the academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16 stood at 42.21 and 46.60 per cent respectively, while in IITs it was just 8 per cent in 2015-16.
Among all IITs, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar had a record intake of 16 girls in a batch of 136 students i.e. 11% in its 2015-16 batch. On an average, the ratio of male to female students on an IIT campus is 10:1
Girls find it difficult to crack JEE Advanced examination. In 2015, 124,741 engineering aspirants had registered for JEE Advanced examination in which 23,407 boys and only 3,049 girls have cleared the examination. It was only in 2013 that the two girls - Aditi Ladha and Sibala Madhuri made it to top 10 ranks in the IIT-JEE (advanced). The 2016 IIT-JEE (advanced) rank list shows that only 147 girls figured in top 1000 ranks. 2014 witnessed only 5 girls making it to top 100 and only 3 girls figured in top 100 in 2012.
The success ratio of boys in JEE advanced in the last 5 years is as follows:
2015: 90.98 %
2014: 91.21 %
2013: 90.66 %
The gender ratio in IITs is highly skewed. For every 10 male students who make it to IIT, there is only one female student who takes admission in IIT.
The gender gap is slowly getting narrowed in higher education. The percentage of girl enrollment in higher education is gradually rising from 39% in 2007 to 46% in 2014. However, the same trend is not seen in IIT admissions.
The subject of gender gap was well captured by ‘Aspiring Minds’ in a paper titled ‘Women in Engineering: A Comparative Study of Barriers Across Nations’. The study meticulously captures the male to female ratios in MITs and IITs. At the application stage, there were 2.27 males for one woman at MIT and over two men for one female applicant at IIT. The selection ratio for men was also similar across the two institutions; 7.2% for MIT (just over seven out of every 100 male applicants) and 6.4% for IIT. The selection ratio for women varied drastically. At MIT, for every 100 women applicants, 15 were selected (15.5%), but at the IITs, it was just 1.9%.
According to the study, US has been encouraging female student to pursue higher education in STEM programmes through its various initiatives. The results are exceptional in that the number of female engineers has jumped up from less than 1% in 1970s to about 19% now. Indian Government is also trying to persuade female students into IITs by way of lowering the fees, providing grace points in entrance exams etc.
These steps however, have not helped the female candidates to crack IIT JEE. Though the number of female applicants has increased from 29,291 in 2005 to about 1.5 lakh in 2012, the qualifying percentage vacillates between 1.07% to 1.90%. The study also ascertains that the overdependence on entrance exam scores as the main reason for having lesser number of females in IITs. MIT, therefore has a much broader selection process. At MIT, 85% applicants with highest test scores are rejected in favor of students that demonstrate other strengths. IITs on the other hand only select the creamy layer (Top 5% of the JEE Merit List) and they do not have any other broad-based selection criteria
According to a Washington Post Report, more than half of engineering bachelor’s degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology went to women in 2015. The same was true at Dartmouth in 2015. At Carnegie Mellon University, women account for nearly half of first-year computer science students — 48 percent, a school record. In US, while men still far outnumber women— 4 to 1 in engineering, 5 to 1 in computer science — female students are gaining ground slowly at many schools and rapidly at others.
The reasons for this serious imbalance in genders at IITs can be many. IIT coaching is expensive and parents may not wish to spend that kind of money on their daughters. They might hesitate to send their daughters to places like Kota for coaching. The percentage of female candidates keeps increasing as the ranking lowers. The premiere institutions which would absorb top ranks have least female candidates. Mid-range institutions which would absorb slightly higher ranks will have a better gender ratio. Those institutions which take higher rank students will have no gender imbalance.
The top Institutions will have to relook at their admission strategy to find ways to accommodate more girl students. MIT‘s admission model can be adopted. Government will have to set up top coaching institutes in tier 2 and tier 3 cities so that local girls can avail coaching services to improve their rankings.