Saturday, August 21, 2010

IIMs feel OBC quota weight

Having finished implementing the 27% OBC quota over the last three years, the resources of the country's premier B-schools the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) stand stretched. While some of the IIMs have gone about increasing class size and introducing more sections, others like IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Indore have introduced afternoon classes for first year students. Critics, however, argue that larger class sizes and concepts like afternoon classes may take a toll on the pedagogy and rob the programme of its surprise element. "It was not possible for us to run five parallel sections. So from this year, we have introduced afternoon shifts for first year students of the Post Graduate Programme in Management (PGPM) and Agri-Business Management programme", says IIM-A Dean B.H. Jajoo. Each of these sections (or classes) has about 90 students.

Till last year, the first year classes at IIM-A started at 8:45 am and finished at 1:10 pm. "We have a very expensive infrastructure and were using it only for about four and-a-half hours daily. With the introduction of afternoon shifts (that comprise two sections between 2:30 pm and 6:55 pm), we will be using the infrastructure for almost the entire day", he explains. The increase in number of sections is to accommodate the rising number of students. We have added 151 in three years or so.

Till 2003, there were about 220 students spread across three sections, with each having a little over 70 students. In the last few years, the number of students and classes sizes have increased steadily. Currently, the size of the 2010- 12 batch stands at 431, with each section comprising 85-90 students. The number of students at IIM-A is far greater than the 70-odd per section in IIM-Lucknow. IIM-Indore which also has a class strength similar to IIM-A (90 per section) has also introduced afternoon classes. However, other IIMs like IIM-Lucknow (IIM-L) and IIM-Bangalore (IIM-B) are continuing to run parallel sections. While IIM-L runs six parallel sections, IIM-B runs about five sections in the morning. IIM-Lucknow had started its sixth section last year and is running them simultaneously in the morning. "The faculty is putting in extra effort, and taking up higher teaching load to ensure that parallel sessions continue to run smoothly", says Prof. Ashwani Kumar, Chairman of PGP at IIM-L. After the quota implementation, we have added one more section to the existing four. "We are running five parallel sections in the morning", says Ishwar Murthy, PGP Chairperson, IIM-B.

The introduction of afternoon classes has, however, not gone down well with many. "The steady increase in class size could also affect teaching quality. There are specific marks assigned to students for interacting in the class. Increasing student strength in a class could have an adverse impact on classroom discussions", says a faculty member on condition of anonymity. "Afternoon shifts are a compromise on the pedagogy. It will not only affect the evaluation system, but will also rob the surprise element from the sudden quizzes and case discussions", an ex-faculty member of IIM-A points out.

An IIM-Indore faculty member, however, feels that while pedagogy has not been affected by the afternoon classes, load on the faculty has increased. "The faculty is now required to prepare two sets of quizzes, one each for the sections held in the morning and afternoon", he said. IIM-A feels afternoon classes will ensure strategic rest for faculty, which earlier had to take back-to-back lectures. Mr. Jajoo too thinks afternoon classes will not affect the research work of the faculty members, nor will it affect the students.

IIM-A alumni, however, insist that for an institute of IIM-A's stature it would not be difficult to adapt to the changes. "There are ways like multiple sets of questions that can be employed to maintain uniformity", says a student who passed out last year.

Source: The Economic Times, August 20, 2010

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