Sunday January 20, 2019
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Its all about the taste of India!

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Today, thousands of young professionals build their careers in cities where they were not born or raised. A study conducted by LinkedIn in 2014 found that Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Gurgaon are the top cities recruiting young talent from across India.

I hope such transplantation has led to greater exposure to and appreciation of different regional cuisines, customs and languages. In fact, many Indians who leave home for further study or job opportunities first experience India’s linguistic and culinary diversity on foreign soil.

Before leaving for the United States as a graduate student, I had never lived outside Kolkata. As a new graduate student in Florida, I experienced India’s diversity for the first time. What I write next is my personal experience. I have changed names and states of origin not because my friends can get offended but because my experience was not a unique one. Most students from India can attest to similar experiences.

India tends to rank second to China in sending student applications to graduate schools in the United States. The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2015, US schools received 676,484 applications from India. Most university campuses in the USA have Indian student organizations. Composed of students and led by students, these associations work as a cultural grounding for students who have recently left their country behind. The executive committees organize and celebrate major Indian festivals, like Diwali and Holi, and special days, like Independence Day and Republic Day. On the west coast of the US alone, there are two such organizations in Washington State, two in Oregon, and 16 in California. Members of the student organizations typically receive students from the airports upon arrival, make temporary accommodation arrangements with roommates, and help the new arrivals get their bearings in the first few weeks when the new country and a new academic system seem slightly disorienting.

In Florida, we were four girls from India and were all new to our new home. Excited and glad to be in our comfort zone (we’re all Indians after all), we sat down on the carpet in our yet unfurnished duplex apartment and tried to get to know each other.

What language would we speak?

Priya spoke Bengali. Chetana spoke Marathi. Sunita spoke Hindi. Gayatri spoke Telugu. English was the only common language. Everyone understood Hindi, but only one spoke it fluently.

According to the New World Encyclopedia, there are more than 400 languages in India and several hundred dialects. The Constitution of India recognizes 23 official languages. The currency is printed in 15 languages. Any job application form is printed in 3 languages–English, Hindi and a regional language. Most of the languages have their distinct alphabets, scripts, and vocabularies and can be as different from each other as English is from Chinese. (In later years, I have shared the meaning of diversity in the Indian context with my American friends and colleagues. Many of them working in college admissions offices can’t wrap their minds about the challenges such a range of diversity tends to pose.)

Now that English became the apartment’s lingua franca, as in urban India, we turned our attention to apartment rules and cooking turns.

Why not cook together?

Two are vegetarians and two are not.

Gayatri–a strict vegetarian from southern India–does not know the taste of onion and garlic. She has grown up eating dosa, sambhar and chutneys.

According to The Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey, conducted in 2006, 31% of Indians are exclusively vegetarians. Their food habits stem from “inherited cultural practice rather than individual belief.” While Brahmins in many states tend to be vegetarians, this study shows “regional location” often determines food habits; hence, coastal areas have more fish-eating communities than land-locked central and northern areas which have more vegetarian communities.

Since everyone ate vegetarian food in the Florida apartment, we decided to inaugurate our shared kitchen by cooking dal and rice on day one.

Once the dal was boiled and ready, each girl suggested spices for tadka, chhok, baghar, phoron… all meaning “seasoning” in their respective languages.

What would be the seasoning spices?

Gayatri suggested cumin and mustard seeds.

Sunita chose cumin seeds and green chillies.

Chetana brought mustard seeds and tomatoes.

Priya brought dry red chillies and ‘panch phoron’ seeds.

These were only four ways. If potatoes can be cooked in at least three hundred ways, as Shashi Tharoor writes in From Midnight to the Millennium, imagine the multiple seasonings possible to add flavour to an otherwise bland dal.

Soon enough Gayatri’s mustard seeds and Sunita’s green chillies locked horns. To dispel a gathering storm on the very first day of our comfort zone, Chetana and Priya called up Papa John’s and ordered a large all-veggie pizza with no onions.

Bhalo. Achha hain. Bagundi. Good. The evening ended well.

This was my first experience with the multiple ways an Indian identity can be understood. If language and food are essential traits of identity, then there are multiple ways of being Indian.

Credits: The Huffington Post

  • Pritam Go Green

    That’s the amount of diversity we as a Indians possess. Divided by cultures United by Nation. Even U.S knows the worth of Indian students.

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India Needs to Improve its Educational Outcomes to Catch up with China

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes

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The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
India needs to improve its educational outcomes to catch up with China. Pixabay

By Amit Kapoor

Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.

The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.

In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.

India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.

abroad, study
Representational image.

However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.

With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.

In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.

In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

Also Read- Researchers Turn Carbon Emissions into Usable Energy

While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.

The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)