Saturday, October 15, 2011

Indians 2nd largest foreign student population in US

With more Indians flying to Ivy League institutions, the US State Department held a US-India Higher Education Summit meeting on Thursday at Georgetown University to promote the partnership between the countries. Indians are now the second-largest foreign student population in America, after the Chinese, with almost 105,000 students in the US in the 2009-10 academic year, the last for which comprehensive figures were available. Student visa applications from India increased 20% in the past year, according to the American Embassy.

Although a majority of Indian students in the US are graduate students, undergraduate enrolment has grown by more than 20% in the past few years. And while wealthy families have been sending their children to the best American schools for years, the idea is beginning to spread to middle-class families, for whom Delhi University has historically been the best option.

American universities have now become "safety schools" for increasingly stressed and traumatized Indian students and parents, who complain that one fateful event - the final high school examination - can make or break a teenager's future career. This admission season, students exchanged exam horror stories.

One knew a boy who was sick with typhoid but could not reschedule. "I know a girl who saw the physics paper and she fainted," said Nikita Sachdeva, her eyes widening. Nikita, 19, graduated from Delhi Public School in 2010, with a 94.5%, one point shy of the cut-off to study economics at St. Stephen's, one of the top colleges at Delhi University. She decided to take a year off and work as an intern at a non-profit group affiliated with the WHO, while applying to American universities.

But for some students, it is not merely the competition that drives them to apply to study in the US. It is also the greater intellectual freedom of an American liberal arts education. India's educational system is rigid, locking students into an area of study and affording them little opportunity to take courses outside their major beyond the 11th grade. Only a few courses of study are considered lucrative career paths.

Source: The Times of India, October 15, 2011

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