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City kids opting for foreign undergraduate education

Posted on July 13, 2012
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Princeton University

KOLKATA: Eighteen-year-old Alipore resident Rohil Malpani is making last minute preparations before he can finally pursue his dream of studying biomedical engineering at an undergraduate level at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in the US. He tried applying in various Indian universities but faced intense competition. Despite scoring a good 94.05% in the ISC examinations, Rohil found himself struggling in the entrance examinations. Howrah resident Aniket De wants to study archaeology but was let down by his relatives for studying a humanities subject despite scoring 98% in the ISC examinations with a science background.

Whether it is business management, engineering, medicals or social sciences, Indian students are preferring foreign universities over Indian universities for their undergraduate studies and the number has been increasing every year. And UK and US universities are the favourites for Indian students for their undergraduate courses.

An all-round development, flexible course curriculum and the concept of ‘liberal arts’ – a four-year bachelors degree programme in subjects like Mathematics, science, arts and language after which the student can progress to a professional school or a graduate school. Liberal arts can help a student choose a wide combination of subjects from both science and humanities at the same time.For example, one can study mathematics, musica and philosophy or language,physics, psychology. If the student is not interested in one subject, he/she can go for a specialisation of their choice later.

An online survey in 2011 by Institute of International Education records that after out of 53.5% international students studying in American universities 14.4% are Indians with a record 103,895 students. Undergraduate students count a half of the total number of students with students opting for popular subjects like engineering, mathematics, computer science and social sciences.According to UK Council for International Students Affairs report in 2010-11, India counts second with the most number of international students- 39,090- in UK universities.

“”Indian universities are few in number and we have to face a lot of competition for good colleges. Better opportunities and proper scope for research studies is flexible and easier in foriegn universities when compared to Indian education system where AIPMT and IITs are the only solution for proper medical and engineering studies. And if you get through, the course structure is very mechanical and theoretical ,”” Rohil said. He wants to return to his country only if he plans to pursue his masters.

Aniket De has already got a Fullbright-Nehru scholarship to do a Major in archaeology at the Tufts University. “”In India, people think that humanities if meant for only an average student. The education system is such. Not everyone can be a doctor or an engineer,”” said Aniket , who will be leaving for US in August and he plans to research on South Asian history.

“”It is good that students want to go abroad and pursue their undergraduate studies. Strong competition rules our education system, most of which is mindless. Our IITs do not even figure in the Top 50 engineering institutes. Whereas, the course curriculum in foreign universities is very relaxed and well-structured. In fact, the student who topped the ISC exams this year from my school is going to pursue his undergraduate studies in Singapore,”” said Sunirmal Chakravarty, principal, La Marteniere for Boys’ School. Chakravarty rates the liberal arts study model – offered generally by US universities which has been newly introduced by the UK universities – as the best. “”All round development and grooming is equally important as studies and foreign universities help the students build that,”” added Chakravarty.

22-year-old Golf Green resident Rik Sengupta agrees that studying in a foreign university gives a lot of exposure to the students on an international level which helps groom them as professionals. “”When I went to study in Princeton University, I found myself sitting in a class where each student belonged to a different country. There were Chinese, Romanians, Italians, Japanese and people from every possible place in my college campus. They taught me a lot about different cultures. So, apart from studies, such an exposure taught me a lot,”” said Rik, who went to study mathematics in Princeton University in the US right after he passed out from South Point School in 2008. Rik has already secured admission in the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology after he graduated from Princeton University.

Schools too arrange workshops where the students get a first hand information on how to apply, what to study and the eligibility criteria for a foreign university. “” We feel that international exposure is the need of the day and plus tha students are smarter. They know what do they want so we too arrange workshops for them. Some get to for with a scholarship, while others want to finance their own study,”” said TH Ireland, principal, St. James’ School.

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