With departure dates rapidly approaching, Indian students are booking tickets and preparing to leave for international universities.
To ease their concerns and answer their questions, we've asked students who are already studying abroad to share their experiences.
Today, we share the story of Aruni Mukherjee, who spent six years studying and one year working in the United Kingdom.
Or is it the degree that not ridiculed by half of the developed world's universities? Or is it, for some at least, the approval stamp of a foreign university that seems to be so much more alluring than an Indian one?
For one, you learn to be a lot more aware of your surroundings because you haven't got your parents to cover your back. In 2007 -- after finishing my A-levels, then a degree and then working for a year in the United Kingdom -- I'm left with a far greater understanding and deeper appreciation of what the world around me is like.
Much of what I feel are the strengths of Western education comes from the fact that I studied a joint honours degree in History and Politics, and not Information Technology or Medicine that most Indian students tend to prefer.
Aside from the possible availability of better research laboratories in the UK, I cannot comment on the merits of the education system in science-related subjects in the UK.
I really didn't want to grapple with the intricacies of Hindi linguistic theory beyond Class X, but as my first language I would have had to.
The trick was to do plenty of real-life case studies and projects in the classroom, which automatically drilled the knowledge in the students by the time the exams came around at the end of the year. I could give the exam without even spending too much time on revision because of how deeply the knowledge had penetrated my intellect -- and I still remember those details.
Half of my friends in India cannot remember a word of most of their study materials from Class XI or XII.
I chose Business Studies, Government and Politics, History and Information Technology. This would have been impossible in India. This allowed me -- and all students -- to focus on what I liked, and since the interest was already there, to genuinely care for what I was studying.
First, the focus on improving the students' methodology was very strong. Indeed, strong historiography was rewarded much more than listing every single fact you knew about a topic.
Students could get top marks by listing 70% of the facts, but stitching together their answers in an academically sound manner. The converse was not applicable -- all facts and a poor structure will not get you more than 60% (B).
I was noting down footnotes diligently while I was doing my school project on Indian independence. At university we were taught the intricacies of the Oxford and Harvard system of referencing and I adhered strictly to the former. My friends in Indian universities had no clue about the proper methodologies even after graduation.
Every single journal of repute in every single subject was available to us on our computers. Most books of note published in every subject were in our library, which was adding to its shelves on a daily basis. Books are being converted into e-books, journals are stored electronically to free up space for new entries and magazines were held dating back to the previous century. None of this is present in India.
A wide number of workshops, projects, seminars and discussion sessions helped us bounce off ideas against each other. The actual curriculum stipulated one seminar discussion with a professor every week on each module, where students basically threw seething criticisms at their colleagues' thesis while the sober academic calmly took notes of how each student defended his/her ideas.
This personalised treatment was present even in schools. Each answer of mine received details comments -- positive and negative -- by the teachers. I used to put my mugging up skills to good use initially, but after the structural defects were pointed out by my teachers, I slowly changed track and acquired those very important methodological techniques instead of writing whatever I knew about a subject.
On the other hand, I have always found that students -- and adults -- prefer to quote eminent personalities to defend their views. Is it because they lack views of their own?
I have instead focused on the core of what advantages there are of a Western education system apart from the added frills. Needless to say, some will scoff, saying that I am servile to the West. But dear reader, do you think the education system in India is actually Indian in nature? Hardly.
Our curriculum content, ideologies and structures within which we educate our students are bad emulations of Victorian England. There is nothing authentic about India's education system, so we should stop defending it as if it's the direct descendent of the gurukul system.
I have tried to portray how structural and methodological changes can greatly help our students without the need for installing expensive facilities, which seems to be a convenient excuse for the current stagnation.
~ Are you a student who is studying/ has studied abroad? What advice would you have for other students who may soon be pursuing studies in a foreign country? What are your experience as an international student? What were the things you wished you knew before you left home? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will feature your experiences right here.