Off the various experiences that I have had during my hostel life, this one in particular is worth sharing. Due to lack of better things to do at 4 in the monring, for good or bad – me and Saurabh – were discussing the biggest HR question – Where do you see yourself 15 years down the line ? “While I was thinking of an answer, Saurabh reacted almost insataneously – I would like to start off with a liberal arts school in India.
“What do you plan to do now ? How do you see your career shaping up – Would you want to join Mckinsey after 4 years – or do you have plans to go to Standford ? I don’t think you would settle for anything less than a harvard” If you have scored a rank in IIT JEE or any other premier entrance exam Medical, Law, Engineering- ( Just that Engineering Entrance has a touch of glamor to itself ) these questions are bound to come to you – from reporters who think students at IIT’s publish a patent every day.Then obviously there are friends_who_would_tag_you_as_god, the aunt who always called you Einstein, the Girl_You_Had_A_Crush on.
And now picture this – a spectacled guy who was locked in a room of a coaching institute for two years, probably 3 (if he wasn’t lucky the first time ), who was ignored by everybody including his family for 2 years -getting the world to attend him – including the girls who nagged him persistently for two years and the good friends who never thought that YOU of all people would make it to Stephens/IIT/NLU/NID pampering you. And then comes the big advise – I think you should go for Computer Science. The placements were fantastic last year.”
Reality Check –
If you have completed your graduation or are doing a summer intern, the probability of you knowing what you would be doing next summer or a year later is the same as predicting fate of stock markets. Decisions like Which College and Which Branch, are more than often decided with help of Family and Friends- who normally rely on “Market Trends” to decide which branch/course is better than the other. Decided by the placements and not the interest area, a majority of students end up opting for courses that have best placement history. And yes this condition holds without fail for all the student- be it Law- Engineering- Commerce- Pure Sciences – Arts – Mass Media.
But to expect a 19 year old student to make an informed decision on the basis of his understanding of available courses would be unfair. It takes a while to understand one’s areas of interest. However for good or bad the IT jobs have become the default interest area.
SO WHAT EXACTLY TRIGGERS OFF THIS CONFUSION ?
Until and unless one is an exception, the choice of the major subject usually proves to be a fairly important criteria during the placement and hence in deciding the career path. The irony however is the fact that most of the students do not really choose their branch. end up choosing the nearest possible “best” branch. Here is an excerpt from an inorganic chemistry lecture that I had attended
(This one in particular was targeted at students from the IIT’s but would fit in well for most of the UG students) –
A Degree is AWARDED to a selected lot of students, while it is GIVEN to a some of them but fortunately or unfortunately, to the rest of them the degree is “THRUSTED” upon.
From my understanding of the term “Liberal Arts”, a student studying them is expected to become well rounded in a number of subjects – from languages and literature, to science and mathematics and everything in between. One also gets to choose a Major (and/or a minor) as an area of focus. This of course is slightly broader than the definition that stems from the term “Classical Education” that included a narrower set of subjects. Liberal Arts colleges (if the seven sisters are a good model to go by) also tend to have smaller classes, and provide a greater set of activities to their students when compared to a larger university.If we were to talk about a college that is exactly like the ones in the US, then no, it would be safe to assume there are no well known, purely liberal arts schools in India.However, there are a number of colleges that offer similar courses to their students, although with differences. I’d say Delhi University’s top colleges – St. Stephens, Miranda House and others definitely keep up the tradition of providing BA or BS degrees in various Majors, while allowing students to study other core subjects from different fields. Other major cities like Kolkata and Mumbai have similar, well known colleges as well. All of these colleges are very, very selective for their top programs – so much so that a large number of people who may get into top engineering or other professional programs may not even be on the list for say, a BA in Economics from them. (The dynamics of these admissions processes is a subject for an entirely new Quora post :))Another point to note here is that increasingly, the rush to join engineering, law or medicine undergraduate programs has really taken over the focus of a lot of high schoolers. Combined with the selectivity of these programs, the relative shortage of options, as well as the inability to foresee strong career options post a liberal arts degree – lots of people never even consider these as their primary