We love lottery. Lottery is the easiest way to get big bucks, never mind the probability. And hence a large number of people buy lottery tickets. But are we choosing the colleges and universities to study in based on principles of lottery?
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about how people choose an engineering college. I mentioned in that blog that some students from some engineering colleges in Delhi are writing on quora that their faculty is poor, their infrastructure is poor, their curriculum is outdated (all in comparison with IIIT Delhi) and yet they are recommending that students join them and not IIIT Delhi because placements are better (which is questionable claim, but I will let it go, since I am not very fond of placement as a way to decide admissions).
As the time to decide the options come close (the options can be filled in till 12th July), the number of answers on quora on the above lines have multiplied. A finer argument is as below:
Because the academic quality is so poor, we can pass all our courses with good marks with very little effort. This means that our transcripts look good (good marks). This also means that we have all the time in the world to do what will get us the jobs, viz., extra-curricular activities which develop our personality and soft skills which companies consider more important than academics (and see our placement record, which is so good), or study for CAT and other management admission tests (and see how many of us get into IIMs and other top management institutes). They will argue that the only purpose of an academic institute is to give them space for self growth, and line up a large bunch of companies at the end, and we know what those companies are going to ask us. We will prepare well for those interviews, and we will get those jobs.
When I wrote my earlier blog, I was dismayed by this line of argument and said so, but in the heart of my heart, I hoped that may be just a few people have this line of thinking. But in the last few days, the number of answers on quora on this line have increased, and it is clear that a lot of students in those institutes believe in this answer. I was still thinking that no prospective student or parent will fall for this argument. I was thinking that anyone reading this would immediately say that if there is no academics, I don't want to send my ward there. After all, one of the primary aims of going to an academic institute is to study. Placement may be important but can not be more important than the quality of education itself. The education is what will serve you for the next 50 years.
But then it happened yesterday. We had an Open House in IIIT Delhi where we invited potential students and their parents to come and see the campus, listen to the Director, ask any questions from students and faculty, etc. And at least parents of two potential students asked me why they should be concerned about quality of education. Why shouldn't they send their wards to a college where they will have all the time in the world to prepare for those campus interviews, and get a 50+ lakh job.
Here is the answer.
If a college 'A' had 0.5 percent graduates getting 50+ lakh package and a college 'B' had 0.7 percent graduates getting 50+ lakh package, and to conclude from this that college 'B' is better than college 'A' is flawed for many reasons. You have not tried to find out what are the skills and competencies those particular students had which your ward may or may not have. Even with those skills and competencies, there will be an element of huge luck since there would be many graduates who have similar skills and competencies. It is not obvious that the same skills would be in demand in 2019. It is not obvious that those companies would even be hiring from this college as the placement is a dynamic game. And these are huge factors.
So, by considering only this factor, you are essentially playing lottery with your ward's career. There is no other word to describe it.
But isn't the highest salary an indicator of overall placement. Hardly. Overall placement would be good if a higher percentage of students have got a job, and most of the students have got a good job (which is best indicated by the median package). And you can look around. Most colleges which have a graduate getting a 1 crore offer would not tell you the median salary of their graduates. They will talk about average, since this one student would have increased the average significantly. That is, if they give out authentic data at all. (By the way, I believe that even if you get authentic detailed data from two colleges, it is still risky to compare them based on placement data as primary inputs. I would not do it. But the point I am making here is that at least don't use such limited data which often give a completely wrong picture of the college.)
Another question about the highest salary is. Isn't there a correlation between better placement today and career earnings over the next 50 years. Again, hardly. The current placement depends on past record. Particularly, when we look at these 50+ lakh packages. Companies want to recruit very small number at these packages every year. So they go to a small number of campuses, which were selected at some point in time because at that time, these campuses were somehow known to produce better graduates. But once people start working, companies have a mechanism to evaluate performance, and give you pay hikes based on that performance. And while the number of 50+ lakh offers would be minuscule on the campuses, this number would soon become very large based on performance. (At least 100 times as many graduates will get this package in less than 10 years' time.) And performance in the company would not just depend on your ability to do well in an interview, or have soft skills or people skills (though all that is important), but your basic competence, and your ability to continuously learn. And there you would find that graduates of colleges with good quality of education do exceedingly well.
(I recall meeting an LNMIIT graduate in 2009, who told me that on-campus placement in his batch in 2007 was ZERO. He managed a job with some help, and he was given the lowest level salary amongst all recruits that year in that company. And yet at the time of his meeting me, he was earning more than anyone else hired in 2007, including graduates from top places, and this was purely because of the fact that we had a fantastic faculty quality in LNMIIT at that time - almost all of them were retired faculty from various IITs.)
So if you want to make money, you have two options. One, choose a college treating the process as a lottery and have a chance of one in 100 to make it big. Two, join a good academic place. Work hard. Build your competencies, and wait for a couple of years, and then the world is yours, almost guaranteed.