Of Google Codejam and The Wonder That Was India

The Wonder That Was India, as some of you may have already guessed is the name of the book by the British historian Professor Basham published in 1954 and somehow it seemed an appropriate title for this post. The story as cited in the book, goes that Professor Basham wanted to change the name of the book to “The Wonder That Is India”, since he felt India’s story was still going on.google_codejam

Every time we hear the term India, our mind is filled with numbers and figures marveling India’s growth story. India’s GDP, economic growth and even the success of the Indian diaspora in foreign countries is cited at every international event and acts as a kind of ego boosting for a country like ours, which has been for ages been accustomed to the suppression of the first world countries.

We pride on our education system’s brilliance to produce world class engineers and management students. So much so, the fact that NRI’s start one in four of the Silicon Valley’s business companies, coupled with fact that Indian’s are the recipient of the lion’s share of H1B visas awarded by the US government to the highly skilled labor is a part of our cultural pride.

Yet looking past the brilliance of the Grade A institutions, there is little to pride ourselves in terms of our education system. The fact that a fresh engineering candidate has to undergo months of training after being recruited in the India’s booming IT sector before he begins work to make him job-worthy, should be a slap in the face of India’s ego boosters.

Our education system which prides itself on the marks scored than focusing on the caliber and free-thinking spirit of the students, still has a long way to go before we can hope to make India the entrepreneurial magnet of the world. Surveys done by international agencies puts the quality of the Indian education second last out of 73 countries participating in the Program for International Student Assessment(PISA), lagging 200 points behind the leading country of the world and performing marginally better than Kyrgyzstan, which came last.

Even in the ongoing annual Code Jam organized by Google, after the third round, where the top 25 coders from around the world were selected to compete for the top prize of $10,000, none of them were from India (though India started on a very strong note with close to 17% entries in the first round). Further on, even in the list top 100 coders from which these top 25 were selected, there was a sole candidate from India. Whereas coders from countries like China and Japan formed the majority of the finalists. We may go and on about the success of our system by claiming the success story of a few elitist institutions. But the harsh reality remains that we still have a long road to go.

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