This week we've been interviewing candidates for a new slot on our team at work (though due to budget constraints this is an "internal only" hire.) The resumes we got from HR which fit the job requirements totalled four Indian immigrants and one Pakistani. Not a single US born or educated candidate among them.
So far as I can gather, this is not unusual in technical areas. (And although we're a marketing team, this is a slot for a heavily analytical person.) And while fifteen years ago the joke was, "If you want to be an engineer, learn Japanese." These days, I guess it would be, "If you want to work with computers, learn Hindi."
While some of this has to do with India currently providing the combination of a business friendly climate, comparatively low wages and a good educational system, from my conversations with Indian co-workers it sounds like it's also the result of India actively fostering a highly technical citizenry over the last 30 years. Based mainly on standardized tests (and to some extent on student preference) students are put onto various pre-professional tracks at in junior high or high school, with the coveted areas being medicine, accounting and technology. Very, very few people, I'm told, go into the arts or humanities, and the idea of taking a college majors that doesn't have an obvious target career is very alien to my Indian co-workers.
On the basics, my co-workers have an outstanding education. Their math skills are better than those of most US-education people I know, and their reading and writing are also generally better -- though with a few oddities that are the result of trying to bridge the gap between Indian and American English. (And while their usage can be odd, their grammar and spelling are generally much better than those of us from the US.)
But while I admire the overall emphasis that Indian society apparently puts on education, I find the idea of an educational system which is entirely based on preparing people for careers (and thus gives little time to history, literature and philosophy) rather dispiriting. Certainly, we do little better in the US, where our humanities departments are too often given over primarily to political activism, and a lot of people manage to graduate college with little familiarity with Western Culture. Still, I would like to see such enthusiasm for learning focused on the full range of subjects, not just ones relevant to specific careers. And if my own experience is any gauge, having a primarily liberal arts education is not a barrier to pursuing a very analytical career.
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