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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Excelling in education is in our culture

Both my girls completed their academic year in March and we got their report cards in April. Both have been promoted to the next class and their marks amazed me. Lydia’s overall score is in the lower 90’s and of course Lily didn’t have a score but a descriptive grade such “Excellent” and “Good” as she is still in the kindergarten only.

Every morning as I complete my workout and return home at about 6:00 AM, I see kids coming for private tutoring and I still see kids with a huge load of school bags as late as 7:00 in the nights. Now and then we read and watch news about school kids committing suicide because they didn’t perform to their expectations in the exams.

This brings us to a question “Why is education such a big deal for Indians”? If I may state it simplistically, it used to be the only source of our survival for the future. If one has to work and earn a living, it was believed that one has to study hard and excel. Other avenues such as music, art and sports were less encouraged, as they are not seen as legitimate sources of making a living.

This is one of the reasons I feel that many expat Indians who got their basic education in India do so very well in the west. Indians learn the hard way because we do not have access to many things. For example, poor kids learn to do mental math because they cannot afford to buy a calculator and over a period of time that math foundation becomes very strong. When they are in the west, they have access to technology and flexibility, which makes the Indian students attractive in the American universities. It is no wonder they constitute the larger share of all the foreign students studying in American universities.

Lately after our markets began opening up in the early 90’s, many avenues started opening up for the Indians. There’s also increased awareness among Indians that allowing a child to pursue an interest of their choice is a good thing. IPL (Indian Premier League) is a prime example where many of our cricketers having only basic education became reasonably wealthy.

I am very proud of the emphasis that our families lay on their children’s education but I would also like to see more and more families recognize other avenues that the child may be interested in to help them excel in the field of their choice.

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