Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why This Age Bar?

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Matt was 45 years old when I met him in Arizona State University (ASU). He was doing his 7th semester of his Bachelors in Civil Engineering while I was doing my second semester of my Masters in Civil Engineering. He had two kids of which one will be graduating from high school (12th grade) next year and may potentially join ASU (he ended up in University of Arizona). Both of us worked in the same project and we become very good friends. He was working with Federal Government as an Environmental Regulator for over 15 years after taking few courses related to that when he felt that he should do his Bachelors in Civil Engineering. He resigned the job and joined ASU full time for his Bachelors at the age of 41. He was a warehouse of knowledge with the tons of experience he had and I learned a lot from his association.
Moving forward 7 years – when I was about to finish my Ph.D and looking for a job, he recommended my name to his boss in his company and that got me the first job in US. Initially I was working with him and learned all the tricks of the trade.
Now another of my friend – Rick – he was 50 years old when I met him in the first semester of my Masters in one of the classes. We need to do a project and this professor formed the groups randomly. Rick and I were picked by the professor as a team to do the project. That was the start of a great friendship that is going strong even now. Being my first semester in US, his story was unbelievable for me. From the age of 18, Rick was a construction worker, married at the age of 19 and had four kids by the age of 24. Now here he is at the age of 50 doing his Civil Engineering Bachelors.
Eight years back at the age of 42 he felt that he should learn more about construction and joined a community college and took some courses related to construction. He found those courses interesting and at the age of 44 decided to enroll for engineering in ASU. He graduated with a CGPA of 3.8/4.0. His practical knowledge derived from 30 years of work experience was beyond words. 
Why am I talking about Matt and Rick now? If they were born in India, there dream of becoming a Civil Engineer could never has fulfilled. I was surprised to see that there is age restriction as well as restriction on number of attempts for all major exams in India. See below the advertisement of IIT entrance this year.  Only those born on or after October 1988 can appear for the exam!
If someone like Matt or Rick wants to study in IIT after few years of practical experience, they never can. Rick and Matt got admitted in ASU after going through the entire admission process of ASU for Bachelors degree. Shouldn’t we in India should also encourage such practice than restricting admission based on date of birth and number of chances?
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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Brijesh,
I agree with you totally about opening up education to anyone without the constraints of age in India. But its not a direct apples-to-apples comparison between the Indian educational system and the US.

You will continue to see this trend as long as the colleges and universities accept the government control in some form or the other (either as direct govt aid to fund teacher salaries, infrastucture sharing - even if it is something like giving majority of admits to students based on the common entrance tests conducted by the government). Even with a huge growing private sector I still believe that education is one sector that has huge government control and interference. With the narrow prevalent retirement ages (55 in some states, 58-62 in central government and 58 in most private sector companies), government seems to take upon itself the responsibility to protect the chances of the upcoming generation by imposing such restrictions. Also diversity (from experience perspective) is not something our universities strive to achieve.

How/who can change this trend? Truly autonomous/deemed universities. Govt must only be involved in setting the broad minimum required (but competitive) syllabus and the respective universities can go as far above the minimum as they want based on the faculty they can recruit and the funding they can identify and provide to support that faculty. The can then chose to modify the admission criteria to enable people from different education and professsional backgrounds and age groups to come together and thus bring with them a broader perspective and richness to teaching and learning.

Also if these universities have a mutual respect for each other's curricula they could allow transferring credits from one university to another like its done in the US.

Is there a quick and easy fix? Obviously no.. It takes time and people with vision and passion to change the archaic system for the better..

-- GS

December 13, 2012 5:15 PM  
Blogger kumar sujay said...

Hi Sir,
Its great of u,to take some time from your busy schedule to write on this topic.Sir,whoever coutries have such kind of politics and politicians the developnment in term of education cant be positive.It is due to he face that these politicans are not well-educated and have cheap developnment stratagies.I am sure that these gentlemen would not have got admissions in iit's or any government institutions because of there age but if they would have been of SC/ST or OBC then they would have chance.
Government have never thought of such ideas despite of thinking of reservations of these pepole belonging to backward caste in educational institution despite of having mind that is empty.
Sir in short i would like to say when there is such kind of weak and un educated government we cant look for that india or that education practices.Government just works for getting votes either it be right or wrong,they dont work like US govenment which work for development and pepole.
The answer to this problem can be solved when pepole like Brijesh Nair,Anna Hazare,Raja Ram Mohan Roy,Abhayanand,Ratan Tata e.t.c.comes in Cabinet of India.

December 23, 2012 7:32 PM  

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