As I said, this was not a good school. Time had robbed the school of good teachers. But it was a neighborhood school and we had a diverse class of good kids. Some came from middle class backgrounds and some came from poor communities. But the kids were good kids and we all learned from each other. I remain friends with several classmates from my high school. Most of us did reasonably well in life. The college was also inexpensive, but not as cheap as my high school. In total, I believe my parents spent about $500 for my tuition for school and college. This may be why Indian students do very well in American Universities. They are used to a free form system in which they have to make it personally without relying on any one else. In other words, these are cultural and family values, not governmental programs. They apply whether students focus on science as we did or on science, sports, media and fashion as today’s students do. Education Systems – US vs. India Primary Education in India – Part 1
The Obama Administration has made education a priority issue. President Obama is committed to improving education in America’s schools. In his speeches, he has referred to India as a success story that America should follow. Mr. Obama has made the case that India’s progress is due to India’s success in educating its middle-class. If America wants to follow in India’s footsteps, they’ll have to look at accessibility to all students. It’s vital that all American children receive a similar education. To try and achieve this, teachers should be educated to the same standard. Additionally, this Summer Course Gives Teachers a Head Start in their teaching profession. Perhaps if more teachers participated in courses like that, they would be better prepared to help students to the best of their ability. This is just one way that schools could be bettered. Obama said in a speech “If India can do it, so can America”.
People like Robert Compton of 2 Million Minutes have made the passionate case that the educational systems in China & India are far superior to the American educational system. According to people like Mr. Compton, if America does not revamp its system, it will fall behind China & India.
I cannot speak about China. But, having gone to school and college in India, I can speak about the Indian education system. With respect, both President Obama and Robert Compton are wrong about the Indian educational system. What makes India work is not the educational system but its culture and family values.
Let me speak personally. My high school in Mumbai was a neighborhood school. At one time, it was recognized as a good school but by my time, it had lost its cache. The education was rather pathetic.
This education was cheap. I recall paying about 60 cents a month as tuition. But it did its job. None of us ever dared to go to our parents and complain about the quality of education we were receiving. The cultural message from parents and society was clear. Education was the priority and the key to financial success. Schools and Teachers were support structures of dubious value. Our education was our responsibility and ours alone. It was up to us to learn in any way we could.
This fostered a sense of togetherness and a drive to learn from the students that were a grade or two before us. This sense of a student community that helps the students that come after them is one of the abiding strengths of the Indian education system.
My undergraduate college was then the highest ranked college in Mumbai. I made great friends in College who remain friends to this day. The education was a different story.
Because the school was not demanding, I had the chance to read a lot. I suppose this is a difference between Indian schools and American ones. Some of my American friends were always complaining about the amount of work they were expected to do in school. Apparently, they had that many essays and assignments to write that some of them ended up using cheetahpapers.com/essay/write/ to help them meet deadlines. I was obviously lucky. With all of the free time I seemed to have, I read Sanskrut classics including, of course, Ramayan & MahaBharat as well as Greek classics like Iliad & Odyssey. I read biographies and novels about great Indian leaders as well as European & American leaders. Apart from reading about Shivaji Maharaj, Rana Pratap, Bajirao Peshwa, I read about Napolean, Disraeli and George Washington.
Today, I know young men and women who have been educated in the most expensive New York private schools as well as elite public schools like Stuyvesant. Like many, they engage in the private school vs public school debate. Perhaps instead they should be focussing on the America vs India debate. Frankly, I got a much more diverse and cosmopolitan education than these New York students and that too at a fraction of the cost.
My graduate experience in America did not cost me a dime. I was fortunate to get a fellowship and a Teaching Assistantship with full tuition waiver at one of the best programs for Algebra in America.
When I came to America, I was a lad of about 20 years who had never lived anywhere but my parents’ home in Mumbai. My first plane trip, actually my first trip anywhere, was from Mumbai to a small University town in the Midwest. I still remember the utter ease with which I was able to assimilate into American University life. There was simply no cultural adjustment necessary, none at all. It was seamless. Having lived in Mumbai and having gone to school there, America was no stranger. The culture was very similar, the systems were very similar and the way to get ahead was the same. Even the language and the slang was not that different. Unlike my fellow student from Dublin, Ireland, I knew that “fag” did not mean a cigarette in America (This student created total stunned silence at our raucous dorm party when he asked loudly “what is the price of fags in this country?”).
Earlier, I spoke of the togetherness of the Indian Student community and the culture of helping younger students from your school (one’s “juniors” as they are called). This is an amazing and abiding strength of the Indian educational system. I know students who have recently come to America from Mumbai. While living in Mumbai, these students know the merits of the various Universities in America and the chances of getting a job from these schools. They get this knowhow from their seniors who have come to America a couple of years ahead of them. When they arrive in America, they already have a support structure of sorts in place.
What makes Indian education work is not the quality of the schools, not the level of resources and not the amount of money thrown at education by the state. The strengths of the Indian education system are:
We encourage President Obama and American educational leaders to focus on the cultural aspects of education rather than throwing more money at infrastructure or teacher unions. The reform of education has to begin at home with parents.
If you want to see how similar America and India are, watch the two clips below. The first clip discusses a “crisis” in American education and the second clip discusses a “crisis” in Indian education. Ironically, both are CNBC clips, the first on CNBC USA and the second on CNBC India.
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As I said, this was not a good school. Time had robbed the school of good teachers. But it was a neighborhood school and we had a diverse class of good kids. Some came from middle class backgrounds and some came from poor communities. But the kids were good kids and we all learned from each other. I remain friends with several classmates from my high school. Most of us did reasonably well in life.
The college was also inexpensive, but not as cheap as my high school. In total, I believe my parents spent about $500 for my tuition for school and college.
This may be why Indian students do very well in American Universities. They are used to a free form system in which they have to make it personally without relying on any one else.
In other words, these are cultural and family values, not governmental programs. They apply whether students focus on science as we did or on science, sports, media and fashion as today’s students do.
Education Systems – US vs. India
Primary Education in India – Part 1