# Why are students in India pushed to be Engineers?

## Main Question or Discussion Point

Why is are students in India so often guided (or forced) into being engineers?

(I have the impression this is a valid question, my only sources being remarks by posters on this forum and the Crazyengineers forum, and the movie "3 Idiots".)

I can imagine very different explanations for this phenomena. For example:

1) Insignificant cultural differences (between India and the USA) result in a greater demand for engineers. For example, perhaps holding a job like Supervisor of Waste Collection Services in a small town requires an engineering degree in India, but not in the USA and there is no difference in the amount of technology that is applied to the job between the two countries.

2) Significant cultural differences result in a greater demand for engineers. Perhaps small companies in India (like small construction firms) take a more systematic enineering approach to their work versus the somewhat "seat of the pants" approach that is used in the USA.

3) Cultural conditions with respect to applying technology are roughly the same in the USA and India. The population of engineers in India is small relative the demand for engineers.

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Because it offers a way out of the gutter to those willing to study hard.

Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
You're begging the question that Indian kids are guided or forced, you're asking why before even confirming if it's true. All you have to go on at the moment are anecdotes, why not take a step back and see if you can find any data for enrolment in engineering courses broken down by ethnicity? You might find that some ethnicities enrol into certain courses disproportionately, or not. In either case unless you establish that you're just inviting speculation

WWGD
Gold Member
2019 Award
My impression agrees with that of Stephen Tashi. In my schools in the US, both undergraduate and graduate, most Indian students are either engineers and computer scientists. I remembered how me and my friends talked for days about the one Indian student , out of a large total of Indian students, when we found out he was a history student. And I think you, Ryan, are misusing the expression "begging the question" http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html.

Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
I may be making the common confusion between begging the question and a loaded question fallacy:

Either way this question explicitly assumes that it is true Indian children are pushed into engineering careers without establishing whether or not this is true at all. Anecdotal accounts along the lines of "there's a lot of Indians doing engineering at my university" are not good enough for obvious reasons. The majority of engineers in my engineering department aren't Indian, should we make conclusions from that? Of course not. For this thread to go anywhere the question of if there are a disproportionate number of Indian students in engineering has to be answered first. Otherwise it's just speculation on a faulty assumption.

WWGD
Gold Member
2019 Award
I think what Tashi is saying (please clarify, Tashi) is not that most engineers are Indian, but, I think, that a large proportion of International Indian students are engineers and scientists. Even at a professional level I rarely hear of Indian professionals outside of engineering, medicine, or hard sciences in general; there may be some bias of mine involved, but my first impression agrees with that of Tashi.

Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Why is are students in India so often guided (or forced) into being engineers?

(I have the impression this is a valid question, my only sources being remarks by posters on this forum and the Crazyengineers forum, and the movie "3 Idiots".)

I can imagine very different explanations for this phenomena. For example:

1) Insignificant cultural differences (between India and the USA) result in a greater demand for engineers. For example, perhaps holding a job like Supervisor of Waste Collection Services in a small town requires an engineering degree in India, but not in the USA and there is no difference in the amount of technology that is applied to the job between the two countries.

2) Significant cultural differences result in a greater demand for engineers. Perhaps small companies in India (like small construction firms) take a more systematic enineering approach to their work versus the somewhat "seat of the pants" approach that is used in the USA.

3) Cultural conditions with respect to applying technology are roughly the same in the USA and India. The population of engineers in India is small relative the demand for engineers.
It could aspirations of prestige and prosperity, which are often motivations for many folks. Are there less societal constraints on becoming an engineer as opposed to a doctor, lawyer or other esteemed profession?

........I can imagine very different explanations for this phenomena. For example:
1) ...
2) ...
3) ...
You forgot the biologists ? I know MANY Indian people are biologists, MANY also visit and post on PF. I don't think they were forced to be engineers.
Making a choice in major has something related to cultural tastes ? That's weird to hear, my parents only told me to learn English to be a teacher but later I became a doctor.

Making a choice in major has something related to cultural tastes ?
My speculations are about why there is a big demand for engineers. A big demand would lead to various incentives that steer people into engineering - like attractive salaries. So there is an effect of supply and demand on the choices parents and students make. Supply and demand is the only reason for emphasizing engineering that occured to me. (Maybe I'm too much a capitalist.:) )

Ben Niehoff
Gold Member
Do you have any data on what Indians study in India? When you draw conclusions from the international student population you see at US universities, remember that these are only the ones whose families are wealthy enough to send them to the US for college, and they are likely to choose fields of study that they expect to be worth the exorbitant price they're paying. Fields like science, medicine, and engineering seem to be well-regarded among the American upper-middle class as well.

The medical degree from India is not valid in the US unless they do residency here, which is again another 3 years. This is true even for the super-speciality doctors in India. And the residency is a general purpose one, so many super-specialized Indian doctors prefer to go to other English speaking countries like UK, Australia, New Zealand, where Indian degree is approved. If not for residency, they can come for fellowship, but that is again for 1 year, and needs to be extended every year.

The medical degree from India is not valid in the US unless they do residency here, which is again another 3 years.
So, we can assume those studying here plan to practice here.

The same may be true for engineering. Those studying engineering here may hope to be employed here.

I believe it is due to the cultural and economic atmosphere in India; from what I've gathered through interactions with other Indian students is that liberal arts streams are often considered a place for those who are mediocre in studies, those who are uninterested in learning. Arts (and sometimes even commerce subjects) are considered an easy alternative for students who do not perform very well. As a developing nation, job prospects for the uneducated offer very low incomes indeed(remember that it is an unregulated sector), and there is a very strong discrimination between those employed in the hard-line science / commerce streams and those doing the supposedly "menial" jobs in more creative industries. There is not sufficient recognition of liberal streams nor are competitive salaries offered, since it is considered to be a secondary industry in a nation where most struggle to make a living (almost no financial support from the government, so people have no one to bank on). India has the 2nd highest population in the world, and you can guess that the competition must be gruesome, especially since Indians seem to have a natural gift in mathematics. Children are pressurized by their parents from the beginning to achieve the very highest score (even in elementary school). Cramming of concepts is done in excess and a little too early in an attempt to produce students of the very highest caliber, and if you can't achieve that standard, you're tagged as a failure. One of my friends is an Indian and he has experienced such extreme stress in school, recalling the horrific times of doing hours worth of algebra homework as early as 4th grade.

In the US, the scenario is not like this. Your future is not financially wrecked if you aren't good at sciences - it isn't the end of the world for a student. All jobs are respected and do not earn huge frowns from others.

So, we can assume those studying here plan to practice here.

The same may be true for engineering. Those studying engineering here may hope to be employed here.
I was specific on Indians coming to US for job or graduate programs. I don't think there are many coming for undergraduate programs. If you are an undergrad in engineering, you could work pretty much anywhere in the world without any extra education or local license, unlike medical fields.

WWGD
Gold Member
2019 Award
I believe it is due to the cultural and economic atmosphere in India; from what I've gathered through interactions with other Indian students is that liberal arts streams are often considered a place for those who are mediocre in studies, those who are uninterested in learning. Arts (and sometimes even commerce subjects) are considered an easy alternative for students who do not perform very well. As a developing nation, job prospects for the uneducated offer very low incomes indeed(remember that it is an unregulated sector), and there is a very strong discrimination between those employed in the hard-line science / commerce streams and those doing the supposedly "menial" jobs in more creative industries. There is not sufficient recognition of liberal streams nor are competitive salaries offered, since it is considered to be a secondary industry in a...<snip>

In the US, the scenario is not like this. Your future is not financially wrecked if you aren't good at sciences - it isn't the end of the world for a student. All jobs are respected and do not earn huge frowns from others.
No, your future is wrecked by the $60,000+ in student loans noose you start your life with--more if you go to high-priced programs. No, your future is wrecked by the$60,000+ in student loans noose you start your life with--more if you go to high-priced programs.
Getting a $60k loan at relatively low return rates which can be paid of in a couple of years (through jobs which you're more likely to get) vs no loan and no chance of education if you're financially ill-equipped. Which one would you prefer? Besides, the craze of being an outstanding student is present in India before university time as well. (At least school education is free and accessible in most parts of the US) WWGD Science Advisor Gold Member 2019 Award How can you pay$60,000+ + around 5-10 years' interest in two years (4-5 years for undergrad, 10 for undergrad+PHD, maybe masters)?
And I don't know what type of interest you expect, but most nice loan programs have been eliminated that I know off. And, again, this loan is not for a top school that can cost $25,000 a year. Maybe a fellowship or some teaching position, but you can easily end up with$100,000
at the end, with additional costs and interests. I can't see what type of job you can get that would allow you to pay \$100,000 _and_ pay rent, food, etc. It may still be better in here, but not by that much.

Evo
Mentor
India has the 2nd highest population in the world, and you can guess that the competition must be gruesome, especially since Indians seem to have a natural gift in mathematics.
India doesn't even make the list of top countries for math, reading or science.

The results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Wow "Indian students rank 2nd last in global test"

India ranked second last among the 73 countries that participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted annually to evaluate education systems worldwide by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Secretariat. The survey is based on two-hour tests that half a million students are put through.
In math, considered India's strong point, they finished second and third to last, beating only Kyrgyzstan
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/Indian-students-rank-2nd-last-in-global-test/articleshow/11492508.cms

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I don't think India was a participant in the 2012 PISA test.

Evo
Mentor
I don't think India was a participant in the 2012 PISA test.
The test from Times of India seems to be for 2011.

India doesn't even make the list of top countries for math, reading or science.

The results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)

I must confess that my comparisons are not based on official studies, but rather on the performance of Indian students which I have seen for myself. Then again, it is possible that only the very bright receive the privilege to study in a foreign country, so I'm probably assuming those students that I see in my school to represent the general Indian student (the reason for this assumption is that those Indian students with whom I've interacted have themselves stated that their performance was at best average back in India, whereas they are clearly in the top bracket of my class right now). When my curiosity got the better of me, I googled some regular high school exam papers in India and noticed that the standard of difficulty was rather high. I really don't understand why India has a low PISA score when the curriculum in their schools is so exhaustive and overwhelming.

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Considering the disparity among the Indians, it is not surprising that India get a low score in these tests. I would expect some scandinavian countries to excel in these tests. In fact, I was surprised to see China among the top performers, where an equal disparity exists.

Within a given country, how do they select people and locations to assess?

Was founding your discussion interesting, so I happened to post here as I guess till now no Indian have posted.
About 3 idiots movie, did you understood Stephen? I guess it was a dubbed version you saw or you have learnt hindi or pictorially it was well presented?
Though I have no such huge experience as I am now studying in a high school but I guess that it is related to some myth. I really like maths,physics, computing and chemistry and I am also thinking of taking engineering.
Well I guess that some people take engineering(not all) because they are really curious about world like I am.
I am not being pushed into engineering but I like those above mentioned subjects and that lead to engineering. Well one can change profession later also.
There is much to study about world.
There are many engineering colleges here in India, do not know about US.
Like in US MIT is famous for engineering students , here in India IIT is famous.