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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why do Indian students lag behind their American counterparts when it comes to fields like research and development

Why do Indian students lag behind their American counterparts when it comes to fields like research and development

When the topper with a 95% score gets all the honours, all the recognition, and your world flocks to him/her for advice, it is hard to stick to any creative ideas you had.Colleges in the US seem very different. At my college I see undergraduates pulling allnighters in the lobby, building machines for the upcoming competition. I have seen such vicious competition in India too, but it is in terms of learning, where a Indian student is an exampassing machine. Indians pull allnighters with books, not with nuts and bolts.Not to be too harsh on the Indians, there are several handicaps:Creativity and research are expensive, both in terms of time and money. Much more expensive than plain learning. That the reason middle aged Indians get so puzzled that a PhD takes several years.In India, it is atypical for people who work with their hands to also be welleducated. This problem is thousands of years old. If you work with your hands, you a lowlife.Availability of creative aids is a problem. An American can walk into home depot or radio shack and find the building blocks for whatever they want to mess around with. In many parts of the US, teenagers know the inside of a car better than a grown man in India would. One of my previous neighbours had built his house from scratch. Overall, there is a culture of creativity, which does not exist in India. The fact that people are expected to be creative, provides a great impetus for a person to follow their dream. Also, the cost of failing is relatively low in the US. The boss/teacher/parent is always right. Even Indians who work with international clients for the first time try to be strictly nonconfrontational and say all the time just to not put off the client.In terms of the big picture, it is worth noting that the get job template is common in economies where labour is surplus like India. In such an environment, there is statistically little return for individuals to gain broad experience and cultivate a varied skill set researchers need the broad outlook to gain perspective except for a few managerial jobs. On the other hand, in economies with a labour crunch, such as the US, a wellrounded individual will be considered very valuable. Indians are trained, even pressured, into becoming one unit of a commoditized human resource. Now it is not that Americans don take up commoditized jobs, but it is much harder to escape the commoditization cycle in India.It is no wonder then, that India has created its global image of cheap destination where repetitive jobs can be massively parallelized The typical Indian worker is expected to be a master of his/her very specific job, nothing else, and the managers feel that by hiring enough such people, anything can be done. This approach might work in building parts of a software for a customer, but doesn work for long, 20+ year projects for developing a new aircraft.

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