For years the United States has seen an influx of students from around the world seeking the benefits of one of the world’s best higher education systems. For the last decade and a half, this wave of Saudi Arabians, Chinese and African students has been accompanied by a growing number of eager Indians. However, even with the large Indian student population in this country, there is still almost no diversity in their educational and career goals. Indian undergraduates and postgraduates are focusing solely on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Business), and leaving other specialties (social science, humanities, education, etc.) to the wayside. This narrow focus on education is systematic. It is engrained in the very nature of a country that does not currently show the balanced, well-rounded academics required to become an educational power.
For the last few years, the United States embassy in Delhi, as well as its consulates in various cities around the subcontinent have opened their doors to Indian students looking to study abroad in what has been named “Visa Day.” During this year’s event, more than 4,000 students from around India arrived in the hopes of receiving visas to study in the United States. With 186,000 Indian students already in the United States, India boasts the second largest contingent of study abroad students, behind only China. In fact, this population of students is more than double the amount from just one decade ago.
However, more than 70% of these students are choosing a STEM path, leaving only a small percentage to pursue other educational fields. Further, the percentages of Indian students undertaking subjects such as fine arts, humanities, and social sciences are far below the global average of international students from other countries. Clearly, Indian students traveling to the United States do not value the American educational focus on these social and cultural fields of study. This is an issue not only for those students who come to the US seeking higher education but also for those students back in India. Indian students simply remain enthralled with and focused on pursuing STEM subjects. This needs to change.
It is important for Indians, both abroad and within the subcontinent, to realize that there is valuable education to be had beyond a STEM program. Other subjects can go a long way in not only diversifying the educational system in India but in making its student’s more well-rounded and complete individuals.
Very recently, USINPAC hosted a delegation from India, consisting of professionals and experts of the Indian education system. Most, if not all of them, echoed the same sentiment. It is time for Indians at home and abroad to embrace a diverse system of education. It will only benefit its students in the long run.
There is no denying the strength of Indian students studying science or technology or business. India boasts one of, if not the world’s strongest student and professional networks in these fields. However, it is in these other aspects of education (social science, art, culture, politics) that India has fallen behind. If the subcontinent wants to offer the most balanced, educated and diverse candidates, it is important that it begins to promote these other subjects as equally important to a STEM curriculum.
It is about time for Indian generations to realize that studying social science or a humanity does not hinder job opportunities. It provides Indian students with a more worldly and balanced education. Students in most other successful countries have already started to accept and embrace this diverse education system. India needs to catch up. It will make Indian students more competitive and prepared for jobs not only in the United States but also everywhere else in the world, no matter the field of study. Education is more than an investment into getting a job in and making the most money in a STEM field. It is about preparing students for success in the real world, whether it be in a job or in a social setting. It is about time that Indian students embrace this, be it in the United States or in India. It starts with a systematic change in mindset.
All statistics courtesy of: