Friday, November 21, 2008

Another Good Thing I Learned in US - Never Too Late to Study

While doing Masters in Arizona State University I had a class mate who was over 55 years old, retired from US military. Long ago he did his under graduation in Aerospace Engineering. He was living his retired life with his wife in Phoenix and one day he happened to visit the water treatment plant to see how the processes work. He got impressed by that and came back and joined for MS in Environmental Engineering. He was an excellent student and passed out with a GPA of 4.0. Now he is working as a water treatment consultant enjoying his job. 

Would this have been possible in India? Now consider this – My father is 62 years old, retired as a Professor from Kerala Agricultural University two years back. He has a PhD in Agriculture and was working for over 35 years. Just imagine the reaction of the people around him if he decides to go back to college and take another degree in some area he really likes. I am sure people will go paranoid back in India about the very thought of a sixty year old going back to college to study. If that happens he may even end up giving interviews to the umpteen TV channels in Kerala. It is such a rare thing that someone above forty studies in India. Studying in India is considered something for the young people. 

Back in India, the general perception is that you are supposed to study only till a certain age and if you study after a certain age majority of the people think that there is something wrong with that person. I completed my PhD at the age of 31 and when I talk to people in India and few of the Indians here during my PhD I have heard so many times “You are still studying at this age?” Also how many times we have heard someone in India telling “I am too old to study”. 

Yes I fully agree that conditions in India are quiet different. Even when you study well and earn a degree it is tough to get a job. Again once you get a job and start a family you have so many responsibilities that you cannot just resign the job like here and go back to school to study. But what I disagree is the general attitude of the majority of the people that studying and accumulation of new knowledge should stop by certain age. I know with the concentration of majority jobs in India in software industry where you need to study new stuff every other day this notion is changing. But India has a long way to go in this regard.


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Anonymous Ancy Sanu said...

Really a nice article...

November 21, 2008 8:54 AM  
Blogger Raghu said...

Yes, it is tough in India to make people " study till end of life" (meaning both ways). Not due to indolence, not due to ignorance, not even to attain dignity, but it is mere depravity that Indians fail to study, rather continue to study, rather not offered to study, rather not permitted to study, rather, not recommended to study, rather not supporting Indians who migrate and study, rather, not wanting to improve the standard of studies and rather not admitting the conclusive study of the above made studies.
:) :(
... Cheers with mixed emotions !!!

November 21, 2008 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Praveen Nair said...


I think you left India in the 18th century..
I myself know 4 persons who are in there fifties and sixties doing graduation in Thiruvananthapuram University college(at your own Home town). I didnt see them attending any TV Interviews... or people going paranoid seeing them...
I wonder how you come up with the statistics.

"Back in India, the general perception is that you are supposed to study only till a certain age and if you study after a certain age majority of the people think that there is something wrong with that person."

When you say "Majority of the people", do you really took a survey?!!

You are learning too many "GOOD THINGS" from US Mr.Brijesh

November 21, 2008 2:33 PM  
Blogger Madhan Kumar said...

If anyone (anywhere, any age) is not willing to do what they want to do because of others thinking bad (or going paranoid) then I am sorry, nothing is going to help him.

November 21, 2008 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Naveen said...

Wonderful Article!! It is true that there's no age bar for studies in the US. We see students of different age group attend class with me in my own Department in ASU. The system here is entirely different. People are more motivated here. Rather I would say the percentage of ambitious and motivated people are more in US if you compare with India.This sense of motivation also creeps into Indian migrants too. I know of a person who came to the US to work here at his late 20's,after he did his engineering studies in India, and later he had the desire to do a course in Medicine and wanted to become a Doctor at the age of about 40. He did the course in Medicine and he is a successful Doctor now in the US. So its not just the people of the US, but the milieu of oppurtunity for change that makes people pursue studies at any age to explore what life has still to offer, rather than living everyday till retirement with the same mundane routine .

I do not think people in India now seem to care about what people around would opine about studies at an odd age. I have seen a person doing his PhD in IIT at the age of 40. I'm sure he is not the only Indian like that. There are lot of them of our generation who are different. I believe people do not opt for studies and pursue a change in their older ages since there's nothing to gain in India after doing the studies. Rather than the knowledge gain, there's no worth doing the course for any better job. There lies the reason for lack of motivation. India is not a land of oppurtunity comparable to the US. India does not have so many prestigious universities and world renown faculty as you have in the US. Once we have good education system and more oppurtunity, situation in India will change.(by more oppurtunity I mean oppurtunity for people to get good job after graduating with any degree, not only IT. IT is screwing most of generation's life in India[I guess this could be another topic for a hot debate]) There will be more Indians wanting to study at their old age (I'm sure more than the count in the US), not caring about what their friends or relative say. Well thats my opinion, and I'm sure there'll be many agreeing to this.

November 21, 2008 6:19 PM  
Blogger Prashant said...

Nice article, but I do think India is undergoing a rapid change in the perception, value and importance of education and "practical" learning.

I know of one person who happens to be distant relative of my mother, who went back to do a PhD in Electrical Engineering at about 44 or 45. Why? Well, because his wife got a Masters at 42, and was just as qualified as he was! They're a lovely couple, and very funny.

I remember he told me that he never felt more motivated than when he was in a class full of youngsters who seemed to be at an advantage, but he ended up scoring better marks and everyone came to him to get help.

I strongly disagree with the previous poster, in that India is full of opportunities today. There are several good institutions, and the economy offers good payback for the right skills. One needn't even have to go back to school, as there are so many new business ventures and ideas that offer fabulous opportunities for a business education the best possible way - on the job.

November 21, 2008 11:48 PM  
Blogger അങ്കിള്‍ said...


I partially agree with you. I am a commerce graduate from Kerala university. At the age of 42 I got fascinated to electronics, a subject that has nothing to do with the subject I studied or with my employment. Still, I thought I could learn it. Thiruvananthapuram had great opportunities for fulfilling my desire. I did not join any college. Instead I became a member of the British Library, from where I could gather all books needed to pursue my electronics study right from scratch. Within one year , my drawing room had a 300 Watts stereo amplifier, all made myself. Even the printed circuit board was made by me, following a good circuit from Elektor Electronics magazine, components including a cabinet, procured from local market. I had learned without any external help to follow all the instructions contained in the magazine to assemble a high quality stereo amplifier. I was also able to analyze each stage of the circuit diagram. Many of my friends in Tvpm even now have stereo amplifies assembled by me. All this I did after the age of 42. If there is a will, there is a way. One need not even go to a college for leaning things.

With great regret I now remember that the British Library has since been closed permanently. By the by I am now 65.

As Prashanth said we are changing fast.

November 22, 2008 2:38 PM  
Blogger drsubbu said...

Dear Brijesh,
Very nice and interesting topic you chose write the Blog on. I am delighted it has generated good debate.
First of all our Indian culture traditionally was NEVER AGAINST learning. I can Quote innumerable examples fro Thirukkural and Avvaiyar's poems. No body ever fixed age limit for learning.
But due to economic constrains, family responsibilities, insecurity of jobs,etc people were aftraid leave a permanent job which gave liveelihood and stability. This over a period of time became the norm. when norms get inlaid into a community it is difficult to break. That is the main reason in most cases. Also Most edicational institutions have set criteria and are inflexible to accommodate adult learning desires . There are lot of youths who want places to study. There are parctical problems.
But with all these limitations there are still some people who always made brave attempts to catch up with their studies and have succeeded well. The Correspondence courses innovatively developed and promoted by Madurai Kamraj University,Chidambaram Annamalai University have provided Golden opportunities for many people who missed their first opportunity to go to University to achive university degree. I can Quote the example of my Wife's sister who went for teacher's training and became a villge elementary school teacher decided to get a degree and joined correspondence course in BA Tamil literature and achieved BA after the age of 30 and becoming a mother of 2 children and subsequently gone further and has succeeded in getting her MA degree and now aiming go for her specialist educational qualification B.Ed.
You will abundance of examples among Doctors doing various post-graduate qualifications , change of specialities, jobs etc.

In India what may not be possible is leaving family and going for full-time student ship due to financial constrains.
People general out look in India is changing.
Theere are Individuals who are setting new standards all the time in India too.

November 22, 2008 11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Praveen said, Brijesh is learning too many good things from the US. He has seen 55+ men going to college. He has never seen one getting divorced, getting married again, again getting divorced, dancing with half naked women in bars etc. etc. He has seen only his college, his office and his home. Brijesh is a bad observer.

November 24, 2008 7:32 PM  
Blogger Shikha said...

It would be hard to determine India's current perception by taking into account the people of one if its most educated towns.
There are places(in Kerala)where girls who are being married off before they hit 20, where a bachelors degree is more than enough,
where people are supposed to follow the age old cycle of studies,marriage,kids,then their studies,their marriage,kids..
Of course there are people who break the tangle of emotional blackmail and go for their dreams,
and of course they are branded selfish..yes,perceptions are changing ..and for me as a female, things will start changing when girls are allowed to pursue a masters if they want to(so like me to shift the topic to female empowerment :) )

November 25, 2008 2:48 AM  
Anonymous shyam said...

I have seen a few people about 50 yrs old going for higher studies. One of them is my uncle who is an engineer in Kerala PWD (he went for MBA). Nobody went paranoid, nobody called him selfish nor did he gave interviews.
Brijesh sees only good things in US. That is his problem. He needs glasses. Same with Sikha who made wonderful observation about the state with the highest literacy in India.
Brijesh, dont make another sequel to the "Another good thing..." series.
I am waiting for "Another bad thing I learned in US" part-1.

November 25, 2008 10:00 AM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

Anon @ 12.32 PM & Shyam
I believe we should be receptive to the good things others do and throw out bad things those people/countries do. Agreed US has lot of drawbacks as you pointed out but it has lot of good things also. Good stuffs far outweigh bad stuff and that is the reason for its rapid development. I observe both good and bad stuff and put into practice the things I think is good. That is my philosophy of life. Always be receptive to good ideas coming from any corner. If I find something that I really learned in US I will definitely write about it.

November 25, 2008 6:30 PM  

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