On Education, Money and Employment : Debarghya Das
Debarghya Das or 'Deedy', as he prefers to be called, is an aspiring computer scientist who is graduating from Cornell University. Besides technology, artificial intelligence and complex math problems, Debarghya is extremely qualified to talk about something completely different - education.
Having exposed serious lapses in the Indian grading system, Debarghya wrote a blog post about his findings and his take on education in India which resulted in his meteoric rise to fame. In addition to this, Debarghya has experienced both Indian and Western education and has worked for Google and Coursera and is an active user of Quora.
I had an opportunity to delve deeper into Debarghya's views on education and employment in India during the run up to TEDx Bangalore, and the end result was a precise dissemination of most myths regarding the same.
In Conversation With Debarghya Das
Starting on a more or less generalized note, Debarghya spoke about his general opinion of the Indian education system owing to his exposure to both Indian and Western education. He said, "When I was aged 3-10, I studied elementary school in America. I was hence exposed a system where they teach you to do your own thing and learn through your own way, so when I came back here it was obviously very hard for me to adjust to this kind of system."
Continuing on a more personal note, he added,"However, at the back of my mind I always tried to go past the system. I would do stuff that I found cool in my free time like random math problems."
That was when Debarghya was bombarded by 'The Great Indian Dream', i.e, the dream of one's parents and all uncles and aunties associated with them. Debarghya's parents wanted him to study in an IIT and then pursue a MBA, which was contradictory to Debarghya's most basic interests. He adds, "I don't really care about how much money I make; I can live a perfectly happy life without that much money. But I also realized that I couldn't do that if I was here so I started trying to convince my parents to send me abroad when I was in my 11th and 12th grades."
So what is his advice for students who have lived with this regressive system throughout their lives? "I know that many people keep saying this, but we are in a period of major revolution. If you actually look at it, companies like Google now don't really care about what you studied anymore. They don't even really care about what your major is, as long as you know what they need. Can you really code? If yes, then welcome to Google." He further goes on to mention that trying to beat a system is foolhardy to say the least, since it isn't practically feasible for one person to challenge an entire system. His answer to increase practical knowledge of students? Online courses. He explains, "Online courses are really changing everything. I work with this 14 year old intern who knows more than I do only because of online education. If you discover your passion, make an effort and take these classes from distinguished professors, things will work out for you."
Finally coming to the point of the 'get employed and then become rich' mindset that people tend to grow up with in India, I asked Debarghya about what he feels about the unrealistic expectations people have about education and employment. Answering in the affirmative, he says,"We grow up with this mentality and its hard to grow out of it as well. But take the example of Google where executives don't need to show that they're executive and you don't even know who the CEO is unless you've heard about him externally. A huge learning experience for me was when I realized that these companies focused so much on the social impact of their actions and not revenue generation. I didn't know something so idealistic actually happens in the real world." But what about the importance of money? He says, "Money is important and that can't be denied, but not at the cost of your principles and happiness."
Pondering over the above conversation, one could surmise that the Debarghya Das mantra for success is quite a simple one, yet difficult to implement. Perhaps if we were to focus less on challenging and trying to change the system and enhance our personal reserves of knowledge, all our youth could meet global standards not in the absence of the regressive system but despite its insidious presence.
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