1[This is an interesting and informative news article. You can easily find
that most arguments remain true if you change India in the article to China.
By NIDA NAJAR, New York Times, October 13 2011
NEW DELHI — Moulshri Mohan was an excellent student at one of the top
private high schools in New Delhi. When she applied to colleges, she
received scholarship offers of $20,000 from Dartmouth and $15,000 from Smith
. Her pile of acceptance letters would have made any ambitious teenager
smile: Cornell, Bryn Mawr, Duke, Wesleyan, Barnard and the University of
But because of her 93.5 percent cumulative score on her final high school
examinations, which are the sole criteria for admission to most colleges
here, Ms. Mohan was rejected by the top colleges at Delhi University, better
known as D.U., her family’s first choice and one of India’s top schools.
“Daughter now enrolled at Dartmouth!” her mother, Madhavi Chandra, wrote,
updating her Facebook page. “Strange swings this admission season has shown
us. Can’t get into DU, can make it to the Ivies.”
Ms. Mohan, 18, is now one of a surging number of Indian students attending
American colleges and universities, as competition in India has grown
formidable, even for the best students. With about half of India’s 1.2
billion people under the age of 25, and with the ranks of the middle class
swelling, the country’s handful of highly selective universities are
This summer, Delhi University issued cutoff scores at its top colleges that
reached a near-impossible 100 percent in some cases. The Indian Institutes
of Technology, which are spread across the country, have an acceptance rate
of less than 2 percent — and that is only from a pool of roughly 500,000
who qualify to take the entrance exam, a feat that requires two years of
specialized coaching after school.
“The problem is clear,” said Kapil Sibal, the government minister
overseeing education in India, who studied law at Harvard. “There is a
demand and supply issue. You don’t have enough quality institutions, and
there are enough quality young people who want to go to only quality
American universities and colleges have been more than happy to pick up the
slack. Faced with shrinking returns from endowment funds, a decline in the
number of high school graduates in the United States and growing economic
hardship among American families, they have stepped up their efforts to woo
Indian students thousands of miles away.
Representatives from many of the Ivy League institutions have begun making
trips to India to recruit students and explore partnerships with Indian
schools. Some have set up offices in India, partly aimed at attracting a
wider base of students. The State Department held a United States-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 United States in the
2009-10 academic year, the last for which comprehensive figures were
available. Student visa applications from India increased 20 percent in the
past year, according to the American Embassy here.
Although a majority of Indian students in the United States are graduate
students, undergraduate enrollment has grown by more than 20 percent in the
past few years. And while wealthy Indian 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 admissions 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
Ms. Sachdeva, 19, graduated from Delhi Public School in 2010, with a 94.5
percent exam score, one point shy of the cutoff 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 nonprofit group affiliated with the
World Health Organization, while applying to American universities.
But for some students, it is not merely the competition that drives them to
apply to study in the United States. 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. Economics
, commerce, engineering and medicine have a certain cachet, while English,
history and languages are less well regarded. Often students who cannot
afford to study abroad end up in less competitive courses, with a
contraction of career possibilities.
“If somebody majors in English here, it’s like, ‘O.K., she’ll get
married,’ ” said Ms. Sachdeva, who is attending the University of Chicago
this fall and is planning to major in economics with a minor in creative
Other students, finding entrance to their dream school in India impossible,
have made similar choices. Siddhant Puri had wanted to study computer
engineering at one of the Indian Institutes of Technology since he was a
child. But after a month of coaching in the 11th grade, he decided it was
not for him. Instead, he became the vice president of his high school class
and played soccer, and he now plans to study German literature and computer
science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Such students have provided a welcome and much needed boon to American
“We’re accepting an increasing number of students, and they’re excellent,
” said Matthew Gutmann, the vice president for international affairs at
Brown University, which plans to open an office in New Delhi partly
dedicated to recruiting students. Undergraduate applications from India have
grown from 86 in 2008 to more than 300 for this academic year at Brown.
“India’s a really big country; it therefore has a really big middle class,
” said Allan Goodman, the president of the Institute of International
Education, a nonprofit organization based in New York. “They value
education so much so they have been saving for education, and they’re
willing to invest in education. And our prices are very high.”
The financial strain is considerable. Some middle-class salaries in India
are below the poverty line in the West. The difference in tuition between
top American and Indian universities is staggering. Tuition at Dartmouth is
$41,736 a year, not including room and board, while most of the colleges of
Delhi University cost about $150 to $500 per year.
The emotional sacrifice of letting a teenager travel across an ocean is no
less acute for some parents. Dr. Chandra spent the days before her daughter
’s departure in a near panic. But she has accepted the idea that there is
no college in India quite suitable for a young woman like her daughter, who
wants to study psychology and who spent the past few months putting the
finishing touches on a documentary she is making — on the short shrift the
humanities receive in the Indian educational system.
“In the end, I’m glad it happened,” Dr. Chandra said. “She’s been an
excellent student, and she’s not used to settling for second best.”