By Arush Chandna (Head Campus Ambassador in India)
The Indian education system has seen drastic changes in the past few decades. The expansion of the Indian economy in 1991 through liberalization and globalization has led to a massive increase in the number and variety of jobs offered to professionally educated individuals – most notably engineers. This has ignited a tremendous interest in most of India’s educated youth to receive a college level education in engineering, clearly visible in students right from high school.
One of the most characteristic features of university application and selection procedure in India is the famed entrance test. There are primarily two entrance tests for entry into engineering programs known as the AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Examination) and the IIT-JEE (Indian Institute of Technology – Joint Entrance Exam). These tests have acquired a reputation for being some of the hardest entrance tests to pass not just in India, but all around the world. With an estimated 50 million students writing the test each year and a very minimal selection rate for the country’s top colleges, high school students spend almost all of their time after junior year preparing for these tests. This has obviously caused the procedure to be under a lot of fire by concerned parents and school teachers who feel that students today are giving barely any importance to their high school grades. Also with the growing pressure to pursue professional courses, Indian students today spend enormous amounts of time and energy preparing for the entrance tests resulting in stress levels which are always much more than what these adolescents can handle.
On the brighter side the accepted few are certainly ready to face the challenges of studying at India’s renowned technological institutions, ranging from modeling real problems on the ground faced by the millions of rural poor who cannot even afford irrigation, to solving complex mathematical equations for calculating the trajectory of India’s next space satellite in collaboration with France. Being the second most populated country in the world, our country is constantly faced with the most fundamental of engineering problems like energy security, enhancing agricultural produce, connecting our villages, supplying clean water, safe building design etc. to face the growing needs of our citizens. Another aspect, which is often overlooked, is that India is the largest democracy in the world; as such government policies and spending, demographics, and cultural and ethnic diversity are also key elements in determining the focus areas of research carried out in labs across the country, which is not so much the case with more homogeneous societies such as in Europe or the Far East.
Realizing the urgency of addressing all these issues as well as the growing trend to move towards higher paying professional jobs has resulted in a massive increase in the number of engineering colleges within the country. To add to this, the IT Boom and the rapid privatization and subsequent expansion of key sectors like Energy, Transport, Infrastructure etc. has led to a dramatic increase in the number of technology specialists required. The competition amongst rival national universities is consequentially further fuelled by the emergence of numerous new players showing a lot of potential, resulting in an even tighter race to be at the top of the rankings tables. However, in today’s globalized scenario, where students are constantly assessing their own qualifications and capabilities in comparison with their counterparts in foreign countries, it isn’t enough to be in the cream of the crop merely within India. Having realized this, Indian institutions have begun to undertake large scale student research and training initiatives to bring them at par with those abroad. These developments are clearly noticed in the marked increase in foreign university accreditations and published papers in internationally acclaimed journals in the past few years.
The slow emergence of India as an international educational destination is evident when one analyses the steady rise in the influx of foreign students into Indian universities. There are various reasons for this, most notable of which is our lasting legacy of the ‘British Raj’, the English language. Owing to the large cultural and lingual diversity of this vast nation, English has always served the purpose of being a common medium of communication. This, added to the growing international relevance of the English language, has further solidified its place in almost all Indian institutions of higher education, which in turn has made these institutions very attractive on a global scale. With tuition fees less than half of that demanded by most western universities, on-ground interaction with rural development initiatives and establishment of countless multi-national organizations in its rapidly emerging cities, India has definitely secured itself a place on the map, not just for students in Asia, but from around the world.
This blog is by the StudentEvents.com Head Ambassador in India, Arush Chandna. Arush is in his third year of an engineering degree at Vellore Institute of Technology.
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