Today I chanced upon an article about a survey of international students in US universities.
The article gives interesting statistics about the total numbers, demographics, economic impact etc. of international students in USA e.g.
- Roughly 1 million (i.e. 10 lakh) international students studied in US universities in the last academic year
- They contributed $31 billion (at today’s exchange rate, that is equivalent to INR 20,7111 crore!) to the US economy.
- About 10% of those students hailed from India
These statistics are important for multiple reasons. One that comes to mind immediately is the ongoing debate about whether the 17 or 24 month OPT extension for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs should be legalized (BTW I submitted this comment at that forum).
But I am digressing. What I wanted to point out here is that the above mentioned article about international students gives very interesting insights about the Indian education system.
Firstly, the article quotes Shreyas Manohar, a 21-year old from Nagpur currently studying at Columbia University, who is in two minds while deciding between his current major in economics and his interest in creative writing:
“Whether he actually studies what he actually likes, or whether he does something which is practical and which he can tell his parents that is redeemable for a job later.”
I could not have put it better, Shreyas. I would just add that this dilemma is faced by almost all students from India, regardless of whether they study abroad or in India.
Later on in the article, the author mentions a super important reason why education systems in many countries (including India) severely limit choices available to students:
One bad day, and a student’s options can narrow dramatically.
I agree wholly on this issue. At this point, I do not know any other alternative for a country like India. Adopting the US system of admission i.e.admission through an institutional review board (with a separate independent board for each university) would just not work right in India. There is way too much corruption in India for such a system to work properly. But we must also accept that national exam system is flawed. It puts too much pressure on exam-day performance. The exam preparation cycles of two or more years at coaching institutes where students are pitted against their own friends is just way too demanding. And more importantly, such exams do not guarantee that the most eligible (or should I say, well-matched) candidates get in. Hailing from an IIT, I give the following argument to support this claim — why else would so many IIT-ian engineers willingly agree to move away from engineering at the drop of a hat?
Towards the end of the article — the author provides a wonderful economic insight into how people choose careers. Once again, going back to the example of Shreyas Manohar:
Unless he chooses creative writing over economics. That could take a little longer.
Well pointed out once again.
The choice of what subject to study is so often based on economic motivations. A degree with a higher ROI (return of investment) ends up being more popular. Arnab Ray (GreatBong.net) mentions the same thing when explaining how he chose engineering as a career.
It has been ten years since I graduated, and I now fully appreciate that economics matters a lot. And yet, passion and interest also matters a lot. It is this duality of interests that life presents to so many of us — what we want to do might not be the most lucrative or popular at the current moment. The important thing is to figure out the path by which you personally get ‘enriched’ the most. Hopefully wth adequate deposits to both the emotional and existential aspects of your life.
[Photo credits: via LendingMemo]