Could we be on the cusp of ensuring gender equality on IIT campuses? This is a step in that direction for sure. On 15th April, the top admissions body of the IITs announced extra seats for women in the premier institutes.

From 2018 onwards, the IITs will admit more women, and this is all in the wake of a surveying reflecting skewed gender ratio on campuses.

A meeting was tabled in the presence of the Joint Admission Board (JAB), which decided to allow an additional “supernumerary” quota through which women will be allocated more seats and most likely, the seats are to be increased in number every year. The process would go on until female students touched 20 per cent of the total enrolment.

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“In case a female candidate is unable to come through the general category, she will be admitted through the supernumerary one,” said an HRD Ministry official present in Saturday’s meeting, as per Hindustan Times reports.

Meeta Sengupta — an Education Strategist and also the founder of #EduIn, an online platform, told  SheThePeople.TV, “Girls do better than boys at school exams, and yet we don’t see them take this forward to the IITs. This is a pipeline problem, where girls are opting out — increasing the number of seats does not address the core problem. The committee recommended changes at the school level too, and details are awaited. This is a problem that is not fully understood yet.”

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Sources have made it clear that “the number of seats for male candidates will not be affected and this will help IITs achieve the target by 2020. Also, only candidates who have already qualified in JEE-Advanced will be considered”.

“The 20% supernumerary seats will be filled by female candidates who have qualified JEE-Advanced. Also, they should be in the top 20 percentile in their respective board exams,” said another official.

“A mixed reaction is likely to result from the recent undertaking by IITs to increase the number of female students to impart gender equality. Being a part of the rat race three years ago, I understand the kind of pressure a student undergoes to make it to one of IITs in India. On one hand, promoting a greater number of seats for women (apart from the pre-existing reservations) seems like a promising solution to combat gender inequality in girl education from a young age; but on the other hand, providing such reservations cripples them. I believe that women need no reservations to prove their mettle; their merit speaks for them,” said Tahani Aziz, a geologist, an upcoming poet and an IIT alumnus.

Promoting such reservations to have a healthy gender ratio in colleges might seem like a prime concern to address many related issues, but it is drifting far from the real problems — the problems of low literacy rate among women in India 

She explained the core problem, “While we know that the number of female students is far lesser than males in IITs, we need to understand that this problem cannot be dealt with like a ‘quick-fix issue’, where the focus is solely on damage control. Steps need to be taken in the right direction to target greater literacy among girls to encourage them to take up technical career fields. Working on a number game with a reactive solution isn’t a foolproof way to work things out and eradicate the problem from its root.  Proactive solutions should be considered and acted upon.”

The rumour mills had it that a panel had recommended reservation of seats for girl students to solve the issue of low number of female students in IITs.

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While IITians are recognised as India’s best students, the institutes lack enough women students, compared to male students. Reports say that women students have only 8 per cent of strength at 23 IITs across the country.

With this new rule, officials are optimistic of having more seats for women in the next academic year. Also, the committee has decided that seats vacated by female students will be filled by female candidates only.

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“Every IIT will be asked to make special provision. In the admission process itself, a special category called supernumerary seats for girls, will be created,” said a senior official.

While over 1,000 cracked the examination (roughly 10 per cent of the total 10,000 seats) in 2015, only 840 female students (coming up to 8 per cent) made it to the institutes in 2016-17.

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Feature Image Credit: Indian Express

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