My bit on education in India

I just came across this interesting news article on MSNBC that blames textbooks for America’s downtrend in technological and scientific leadership at the global level. The article goes on to say that textbooks in American schools are too thick, archaic, and politically motivated. All sounds good until the article mentions that one of the reasons why India is doing so great in the knowledge and service economy is because of the good textbooks and school systems.

I have studied at Government schools for the most crucial years of my pre-college life. They are nowhere world class, or even good. The textbooks are more often than not, a complete waste of money, and are much more politically influenced than anywhere else. How can you forget the controversies surrounding them that crop up every year or so? In fact, I remember being taught the English language in Hindi!

Indian textbooks, atleast the official Government published ones, are designed basically to provide low cost education. They are really inexpensive. Most students know better and often purchase supplemental books to help them score higher in exams. If I spent Rs. 30 on a government textbook, I would be spending Rs. 300 or more on the supplemental book/guide written by more renowned authors.

I guess a very major difference between “here and there” is that in India, no one expects to be spoon-fed. There is so much competition that everyone is on their toes, perpetually, to figure out ways to outdo the other smart kid in school. At least I didn’t expect to get world class spoon-feeding at my Rs. 45 a month Government school. This is especially true in fields like science and math. Indians, by nature, stress a lot on both these subjects. It is acceptable to score in the 70s on your Hindi exam but anything less than a 90 on the science course calls for disciplinary action.

Then there’s this thing about choice. A lot of Americans are given the choice of what area/interests to pursue very early on during their schooling, whereas the earliest Indian students get a chance to make any type of choice is around the age of 16 when they decide if they want to be future engineers, doctors, artists, or writers.

Schooling doesn’t stop at the school. Almost everyone, especially the science and math majors, enrolls in post-school hours academic coaching which is often very rigorous. Coming back home at around 10PM after studying all day isn’t a rarity in India. You have to be a notch up than your neighbour if you want to succeed. There’s competition to even get into colleges, much less graduate from it.

In the end, I think it’s your personal motivation that matters more than textbooks or anything else. Sure, good schooling makes all the difference in life, but a good school system/books and poor students isn’t going to make anything happen. It’s all about imagining yourself at some position and then working your way to that position.

2006 is here !

The year 2006 has arrived. It is time to make new resolutions for the new year, and reminisce about the good and the bad of the previous year. 2005 was a very eventful year from every aspect. It was marked by natural disasters, economic growth, groundbreaking breakthroughs in science and technology, and various other events.

On the personal front, the previous year was quite eventful as well, with lots of everlasting memories and lessons in the game of life. I just hope that 2006 is a much better year for everyone, including myself.

Happy New Year, and may God bless us all !

Happy 59th Independence Day, India !

The Indian Tricolor

Today marks the 58th anniversary of India’s successful freedom struggle. I would like to extend the warmest best wishes to the readers of my weblog on this occasion. At the same time, I salute the martyrs who laid down their lives to fulfill their dream of an independent and progressive Hindustan.

Click here to read the full text of the President of India’s speech to the nation on the eve of the Independence Day. The President of India is akin to the British Crown in that he “reigns” but does not “rule”. As such, the President is very politically neutral and has a respectable image. The current President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is a very learned person and is responsible for spear-heading India’s space program as a scientist in his younger days. He is probably also one of the world’s most learned statesmen. In his speech, Dr. Kalam focussed mainly on employment generation and power self reliance. In fact, more than half of his speech was devoted to the necessity for improving power generation and distribution. India generates about 3% of the total global energy produced even though it is among the top three fastest growing economies. The President’s call for improvement in this area should certainly catalyse efforts in this area. I am glad that we have a scientist as a President of our country at this important juncture in India’s race towards becoming a developed country.

The Prime Minister of India is the most powerful man in the country. He addresses the nation from the historic Red Fort. In his speech, the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh reminded the country of the freedom struggle, and the reasons for which it was pursued by our forefathers. He stressed on the importance of chalking out newer programs to eradicate poverty, illiteracy, and diseases, something that has become a common theme of almost every I-Day PM speech over the years. Dr. Singh also lamented on the prevalent social inequality in parts of India, especially the villages and among the poorer sections of the Indian citizenry. Being the nation’s highest political figure, Dr. Singh also commented on the need for border peace and effective measures to curtail cross-border terrorism, especially from neighboring Pakistan.

I would like to re-iterate today that I am very proud to be an Indian. More so because I am fortunate enough to be a part of the Indian youth at a time when an Indian face reminds people of unprecedented growth rather than poverty and hunger.

Jai Hind

Mr. President, what do you think tribal sovereignty means ?

I just came across this clip on a message board. You have to watch it !

President Bush is asked a question about his views on tribal sovereignty, and he replies by saying that a tribal sovereignty is just that, sovereign. There is laughter everywhere. He says the relation between the federal Government and the tribes is a relationship between “sovereignties”.

Disclaimer: I have no personal opinion about this clip except that I find the laughter in the background really hilarious.