The Indian Student Chronology

                                    This is not yet another grumbling post about our education system, or is it about how the various factors both external and internal influences the Indian Student during his schooling. It is an observation about the Life of a Typical Indian Student. I finished my engineering about a month ago and I chose to work immediately. A few of my friends are pursuing higher studies and a few have got jobs on paper but yet to join their company. A friend of mine spoke to me last night about the “Ambition, Peer Pressure and the various dilemmas when it comes to Education and Career in India.” He even asked me to write about it and this is for him, and for all those sailing in the same boat.

                                     When I wanted to blog about this, I wanted to go deep into this issue instead of just speaking about the problem. So, I just looked into my circle of friends, what they are doing and find some kind of a pattern to this problem so it will be a lot easier to maneuver it when we face it. I’ve taken into account of external factors as well while making this analysis.

#1 The times when Education is purely for Learning

       Some might ask, “Does this phase truly exists in India where Education is only for learning?.” Well, the answer is YES. It’s from kindergarten to 5th Grade. Till this age, the child learns to learn. The parents educate the child without any calculations like “What their child want to be?”, “Where should their child study?” and the most important of all “How should their child study?”. At this age, education is pure pleasure because the kids are too young to understand one word which comes along with education in India, COMPETITION.

#2 The MAD RUSH for WHERE their CHILD should study

       It’s in this phase the parents are ready even to brawl to ensure their child study under the tutelage of the BEST TEACHERS( in terms of producing national ranks). When the child steps into 6th grade, the important fundamentals of science and math starts. The parents begin to calculate, wants their child to stay AHEAD of the COMPETITION and ensure their kids get the BEST EDUCATION. What’s surprising here is that the syllabus won’t change by changing schools and if the child is smart he/she would excel devoid of the place of education. Yet, there is a firm belief among parents that if they enroll their child in the BEST SCHOOLS (decided based on some random survey and rankings) their child will excel. But, besides all this education in India has a STATUS attached with it. Most parents want to proudly say that their child is studying in X,Y or Z school which is famous and education is a STATUS SYMBOL.


     The middle school starting from 6th grade till the 9th grade, the parents who were satisfied about the performance of their ward start becoming over-ambitious. They want their children to be TOPPERS and they begin laying the seeds in the young minds of WHAT they should become;  ENGINEER or DOCTOR (usually in a family of doctors). These three years are called as PRACTICE years for the exceedingly important 10th Standard. When a student is in 10th, every person around him just tell him one thing, “Study Well. Get high Marks. Just one year if you work hard, your entire Life you can be happy.” The boy/girl in 10th standard become immensely popular in the family and if there are children of same age; Buoy! Ohhh! Buoy.. The comparison starts. There is just one thing in this world he is suppose to do, STUDY. The boy/girl works hard and gets good grades and the phase #2 repeats itself again. The PARENTS again wants their CHILDREN to study in the BEST SCHOOLS possible, so the rush continues. But now, with grades in hand there is another choice to make. What group to choose? Some states have junior colleges, other have 11th and 12th in schools. If the child wants to study ECONOMICS, SOCIOLOGY, LITERATURE or any other subject he/she is seen like a CRIMINAL. The PARENTS choose for their kids (like always) and he toils hard again for TWO MORE YEARS studying JUST FOR MARKS. And adding insult to injury, the STUDENT has to attend TUITION (though he/she is already a topper with 90+ scores consistently) for safety and not to be left out of the COMPETITION as other students are attending it. And few parents want to make BEST USE of their CHILDREN’s time and make them attend COACHING CLASSES for COMPETITIVE exams like IIT JEE, AIEEE and many more. The COMPETITION for these BEST COACHING institutes is so high that even to join a COACHING INSTITUTE you’re required to write another COMPETITIVE exam. After these 3 years of intensive, exhaustive study, the child gets good grades (obviously) and then he is at crossroads as to what to do. Even students who score more than 95% in 12th standard don’t know what specialization they should take in Engineering. Again, more often than not, their PARENTS choose the SAFEST option for engineering.


     I feel after the phase #1 I mentioned, the next LEARNING phase in the Life of Indian Student is during his engineering. It’s a time when students start becoming independent and they also think independently. They understand WHAT ENGINEERING TRULY IS during the first year of engineering. I did a small study about Engineering Education and I came across a very bizarre survey. The inference of the survey is that almost 86% of engineering students want to CHANGE their DEPARTMENT of study after the first year. This is a striking statistic but sadly in India, we are not allowed to shift departments very easily. (I’m not aware about the IIT’s, NIT’s or some private universities, but in a large number of universities you can’t choose your subjects). So, engineering education happens in a strict curriculum and it happens more like an extension of your school with 8 periods each day. An average engineer has to write close to 42 OFFICIAL tests (excluding practicals) each semester besides numerous unofficial class tests. We have Cycle Tests, Internal Tests (1,2 and 3) , Model and Final exams and they are short of test NAMES. Most of our time is spent in TOPPING in these exams since COMPETITION increases with each year of study. WE spend three years of our engineering Life this way studying for one exam after another exam. During this phase, we learn a LOT of LIFE lessons something which most college students cherish for their Lifetime.

#5 The Placement Phase

     What about the Final Year in Engineering? The most important reason why PARENTS want their children to study engineering comes, a safe JOB in an MNC. But, it in this phase, a few ENGINEERS understand the difference between SCHOOL and ENGINEERING. First three years in engineering is more like school, our only aim is to score HIGH in SEMESTER. And to achieve that, we prefer to use books which easily give us better grades popularly called as LOCAL AUTHOR BOOKS. The FOREIGN AUTHOR books are only for the library racks and they are rarely touched by an average Engineering student. But, what people in the industry value is not just MARKS but KNOWLEDGE with the appropriate SKILLSETS.Good grades is only a passport, to get the job visa you need something more than that which most ENGINEERS understand only in the Final Year. That is when some grumble, “I should have followed my passion! Engineering is not my cup of tea.” They are shattered and they pick themselves up to follow what they really want to do. Few engineers land in a job which has no relevance with their specialization of study and yet perform well. They are the ones who follow the quote, “When you can’t get what you love, start loving what you get!” and they do work. But, they can never do great work which comes only when it’s fuelled with passion. They remain as mediocre engineers serving the famous IT organizations in India hoping for a promotion, hoping for a raise and they take up the management exams, certification exams for a hike.

     You may be surprised to see this phase with education, but it play a critical role. So, till now the Indian Engineer has finished Engineering successfully and is working for a good organization with a decent pay hoping for a hike. As he prepares himself to study further, the elders at home start the MARRIAGE talk. Especially, if it a girl engineer she should be married as soon as possible. So, we get no industry experience in college, we study like machines and we join a industry filled with people who are alike in terms of degree and experience. It is our learning time and talking about marriage at this time is so inappropriate. If the guy/girl is in love then the situation worsens more. If you want to learn management, you need at least 2 years of experience (though for an Indian MBA experience is not a compulsory factor) which looks too much for few people as they are worried about marriage. The question pops in their mind, “What if I don’t get the ‘perfect’ job initially?”, “What if I am forced to marry and I can’t wait for two years?”, “What is my girlfriend/boyfriend can’t wait because his/her family is looking an alliance for him/her?”. This is when balancing Life and education becomes so difficult. Largely due to family and peer pressure, many ambitious Indian students end up becoming mediocre ones because post marriage, studying becomes a lot of more difficult. I feel girl engineers are more affected by this impediment than guys ( if the guy is not committed :P).

At the end of all this, all you get is an Indian citizen working for an MNC with the hope of an offshore opportunity and probably with one year old kid. His wife will probably also be an engineer so that they could could make both ends meet ( the EMI’s for their newly bought house is eating their salary). This has been the trend and this shouldn’t continue at any cost.

A few things which can be easily done:

1) A request to our parents. Please stop seeing EDUCATION as something which will give you MORE MONEY and enroll your ward in a SAFE course. In a capitalistic economy, MONEY is important I don’t deny any bit of that. But, more than MONEY in the future, your child should ENJOY whatever he does. Please don’t think your child is too young to decide. In the present world, they are very clear on what they like. Parents role is to support what they children like and when they say something just support them instead of changing their views. That support is what they need the most.

2) Please look at the LARGER picture and not blindly choose ENGINEERING. This creates a big VOID in the Indian CREATIVE industry. People who are smart and creative need not necessarily land in an engineering course. Arts, Science, Humanities may not be professional degrees but yet they not LOW by any standard. When a passionate student studies something in tune with his interests, he comes out as an excellent product which is good for him, good for the country and the world as a whole. This Indian mentality of BEING SAFE has created a dent in our country for many generations.

3) A few people do this. Never study Engineering so that you will be a frontrunner when you’re looking for an alliance. A few parents instill this thought in the minds of their children, especially parents of few girls. You don’t get a degree to get married to a guy who earns a six-digit salary. Every parent wants their children to be comfortable but the word comfortable does not directly correlate to money alone. And one more thing, please don’t put your degrees in the marriage invitation. It’s a marriage and not an interview. Grow up! People.

  I am not against ENGINEERING and I am proud to be one as well. Management is what I love and I am hoping to join one with few years of experience. The only thing I am worried about is the concept of SAFETY which most Indian parents force upon their children. If we give a little more freedom to choose, we’ll have people who are good in a variety of fields.

Hope there is a change very soon!

Ram Thilak.       

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5 thoughts on “The Indian Student Chronology

  1. good one ! pretty much sums up the current scenario and people printing degrees in marriage invitations is something that i look down upon too !

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