By Chaahat Khattar

Yesterday I met a prospective investor for a firm I voluntarily work for. More than anything I was very much fascinated about his organization and his work profile. He works for a CSR outsourcing firm based out of USA. Multi-National Companies around the globe are supposed to keep aside certain part of their revenues for Corporate Social Responsibility. Since such firms themselves cannot go down to villages they simply outsource that business. The CSR outsourcing firms then disseminate funds throughout the globe to local NGOs and the employees of such firms virtually carry millions of dollars with them and stay at nothing below a five star. We had an amazing meeting for over four hours. Amazing, because we headed down to a fun Chinese restaurant for a fancy dinner. Nonetheless, the guy seemed pretty impressed by the flowery words the founder of my organisation used to elaborate upon the work we do. Out of all the discussion we did, what majorly caught my attention (after the attractive watch the guy was wearing), was a simple sentence- In USA the importance of social service among youth is developed right from High School unlike India where it usually begins at under graduate level.

The difference in the participation is not because of any kind of mindset among youth of two nations but because of the education system. As soon as a student in India steps into standard 10th, he/she needs to decide his/her future path of education from Science, Commerce or Arts. The system in USA is little identical if not too much. In India the pathways are different but there is one striking similarity among all three- MARKS. The student needs nothing but marks post high school education. Marks can be anywhere from national competitive entrance examinations to high school examinations. There is no other option for a student to get into even in the worst of undergrad colleges in any field in the country without marks (extremely limited sports or ECA quota is confined to a handful number of colleges). It seems as if your thirteen years of schooling does not matter at all. What primarily matters is how you perform in your twelfth standard or ever after till you are satisfied with the college.

Whereas in United States of America what matters the most is the overall personality of the student. Being a nerd out there will not help the child get through an Ivy League institute. The Statement of Purpose matters more than a simple high school report card out there. Whatever the child has done apart from mere studies in his/her schooling is well taken in account before offering the coveted unconditional offer letter unlike India where the term cut-off has become more important than any other thing in life.

In short in India there is hardly any incentive towards higher education for a school student to participate in co-curricular activities. Even if the student is a national champion or an entrepreneur, there is no guarantee or even the slightest of hope that he/she will get through college/university of his choice without touching the sky rocketing cut offs.

In the simplest of cases, if there is a student who has been designing software or probably making his/her own robots, he/she will not get through any of the IITs until and unless he/she manages to surpass other lakhs of students who appear for JEE, most of whom end up becoming bankers or consultants for overseas firms, literally wasting millions which the government spends on each one of the IIT pass-outs, expecting that the student would be helping in designing the next space shuttle or a much more user friendly Aakash Tablet.

In USA the student is expected to outshine other applicants, and not ‘scoring machines’. More the time a student has spent participating in numerous activities, higher are the chances of getting though the university of his/her choice. The student needs to strengthen his/her statement of purpose and the only way to do this is to act more like a youth (extremely participative if not competitive, leadership skills, team spirit, zestfulness and high confidence level). The student there gets sufficient incentives for being a social servant, a proficient guitarist or anything that defines a capable person and a student who can put in maximum efforts to turn his/her dreams into a reality.

In India this idea of having an overall personality develops in a student once he/she starts pursuing graduation because most of the postgraduate colleges in India judge a student on various parameters and not just one common entrance examination. Also, as soon as the student is done with his/her studies, it will take much more than a nerdy brain for him/her to crack case studies or aptitude examinations of corporations for getting placed.

The Indian education system has been going through quite some revolutionary phases recently but still there is no ray of hope for inclusive education especially at school level. School life is meant to be enjoyed, experimented, explored and exploited throughout to bring out the best in the child, who needs to be later rewarded appropriately. Education system needs to be dynamic and must inculcate both co-curricular and curricular aspects into a youth instead of just one of them.


Chaahat Khattar is an ardent economist and is working with an international consultancy firm. He is an MBA and pursuing Masters in Business Laws. He is also a Harvard University alumnus and a certified financial modeller. He has keen interest and experience in authoring research papers and case studies and have contributed to various renowned journals. Chaahat can be reached at ckhattar@gmail.com

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind