Friday, February 12, 2010

Indian and American Education System: a comparison - I

I have always wondered what would I have been if I had received better educational choices offered in countries such as US. Would I have stuck to just plain Physics, or ventured in Applied Physics, Economics of Education, Medieval Poetry, or even Sports Mechanics and Injury.Instead of listening to insipid lecturers, who did not know difference between Fermions and electrons, I could have spoken to Prof. Levine (MIT) and seen his demonstrations live. Instead of doing my first experiments with telescopes at the age of 22, would I have done some cool supernova observations, derived age of an unknown galaxy or studied planet around a distant star at the age of 17? Possibilities are endless, and I would like to know what exactly did I miss in the class: the attitude of teachers, students, facilities, and of course, aims of learning.

So, I asked a few students from Goa, whom I had incidentally taught Physics and a few other things. These students are now in the US universities, doing some exciting things on their own. I asked them to compare our teaching environment and what they encountered so far in their American colleges.

My questions to them went like this:

  1. Did you take any courses that were similar to those in [our_college] ? if so, can you compare what changed for better (and worse, of course)?
  2. Were there any other courses (Logic or Astronomy) which you wish you had encountered before? perhaps, then you would remove some other courses from [our_college] curriculum, which ones?
  3. Did you find any course very much enjoyable in your stay? which ones, and why? of course you will like some topics more than others, but it is the "learning experience" from a course that counts for me.
  4. How was faculty and support staff? can you compare [our_college] Physics group (i know this bunch the best) with one you saw there? we were a good group, i believe. we can improve hugely in terms of our approach, and i would like to know if you can point out the fault lines... again, i would ask you to stress less on equipment (automated robots or moving screens) than approach, but do write about the over all thing.
  5. How was the syllabus and student activities (exercises, labs, seminars, research)? how did it make a difference, what exactly mattered to you the most?
  6. What was expected from students ? learning is a 2-way street, i believe, did you find something similar?
  7. If you had to remodel [our_college], what would you do? detail 2 things of your own (more if you have time).

They contradicted themselves and repeated themselves, but their answers were surprisingly similar, although words were different and order was jumbled. In my coming posts I will discuss answers to various questions, and my reposte on those answers. After 7 such posts, I will put in my summary posts on this.

If you had to do so, how would you phrased your questions?