Saturday, May 06, 2006


Am back after 20 days of hiatus... My exams got over finally. I was just musing over the change in my viewpoint towards the exams.
I was a nerd and a book worm in school. I was not the topper but used to stay in the top 10s. Being born in a family of teachers has its own perks and pitfalls. You begin to believe that reading makes you smart, and that it helps you succeed in life. So you read and read, any failure to succeed is purely seen as the insincerity on the your part to cram useless pieces of information.

After being exposed to many cultures, namely south Indian, north Indian, Chinese, American and European, I have the luxury to evaluate the different education systems. They are both very similar and very different in their own idiosyncratic way.

Let me describe education (as I received in India):
I did my schooling (kindergarten to standard 12... CBSE board for the curious ones) in a reputed school from Kanpur. I had around 8 subjects each year. The purpose of the classes were to enable us to score maximum marks in the exams. We slogged and slogged till our strength drained out. We studied everything from American history, European history, Indian ofcourse and others too. I still see no reason why we did that, Americans don't study Indian history, Europeans or the Chinese don't study Indian history, then why do we do it??? Most importantly our education system impose English as a superior language over other Indian languages... The effect: 75% of Indian population speaks English... That's more than America.

Then came engineering. Like all other science nerds I aspired to get into IIT, India's most prestigious technical institute. Unfortunately my rank was 4387/1600000 people... number of seats being only 3500, I did not get in. Since I was kindda arrogant back then, I crapped other exams and ended up in a not so good college near Bangalore. This was where my real education started. I still had 8 subjects, not in 1 year, but cramped into one semester of 4 months. The concept of elective is non existent in India and everyone has to take courses in chemistry, mechanical engineering etc during the first year of engineering. The study was once again focused on scoring well in exams and not increasing your understanding of the subject. I got exasperated and since there was no one to check me, I decided to game the system. Education whether in India or America, judges you on how well you do on the exams. Exams don't prove how well you understand the subject, it just proves that you were able to solve the questions on the exams.

A quick lookup told me that the college highest was 82% for computer science. I decided to learn and score well at the same time. I knew I was good at maths and all the labs (chemistry, mechanical foundry, computers ofcourse) so I leveraged all my effort onto these subjects. My average on these subjects was around 95% and other theory subjects which I considered useless for my career path was 60%. I ended up scoring 79.6% overall, topping the college and earning a gold medal in academics... whilst doing some real learning. People stopped calling me nerd and started calling me geek :P.... The trick had worked.

The world see Indians as scholars... and rightly so, which other country feeds more information to the students than to a computer. Well that makes us knowledgeable in many fields. We are multilingual, have currency rate way lower than America, and have ingrained inferiority complex (people in India consider imported goods better than indigenous products and all the foreigners as Bill Gates with plenty of cash to give away)... What better could an outsourcing company ask for??

Then came MS in America:
Remember that popular belief that there is a pot of gold under the place where the rainbow meets the ground? Average Indian sees USA as that place, only to discover that it is not true. The same thing happened with me. I came here, along with 65000 other students, with a dream in my eyes, that I will change the world( I probably will). The education system here is nothing less than a fairy tale to a person in India. I thought that its always the knowledge that matters, not the grades. There is no use of a guy with a 4.0 GPA who doesn't know which way the earth rotates. But I was wrong again. I scored a 3.44/4 last fall and was automatically filtered out of the recruiting processes of companies like TI, a fact which I discovered later. Not to mention being left out of phi beta delta .... Now am back in the game. I did well in exams this semester, I am hoping for a better result.

So my advice to all the students... If you think that reading your course book over and over will make you succeed in life; you are wrong. If you cannot change the system, use it to your advantage. Do well in exams, but don't let exams or schooling ruin your education. The sooner you start this practice, the sooner you will taste success. And always remember, schooling is there to help you control your life, not control your life for you.

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
-- Mark Twain

PS: I am really sleepy, so please no flames for grammatical errors (if there are any, mail me)



  1. Hhhm , nice posting. I guess most of us would relate to the experience stated here...Exams/exams and more competitions and no thought to enjoy the means rather than look for ends or achievements...Keep posting...

  2. Good posting!!!

    The blog sums up the experience most of the indians have..well some only get really educated others only get schoooled!!

    Vinay Parusa

  3. Its good to know that I am not the only one who feels this about education AKA "schooling" in India.

  4. There's always a loop hole! Nevermind, india has always been producing jems.
    Exams.. are a way (not the only way) to judge a person's academia. But surely "Labor Omnia Vincet", hardwork conquers everything !!

  5. Good useful peice of info for prospective students of US.