Monday, June 23, 2014

A few weeks in

Filled with naive notions of India prefaced by meeting the incredibly educated few Indians you run into on a US college campus and a few Netflix documentaries, I thought I had a good handle on what I wanted to research. I believed that poor Indian students were being pushed hard to succeed in school by their parents, more so than a typical student from a poor family in America. In a way...and certainty not a small way...I was wrong. That is not to say the parents don't care about education, but that there are much stronger factors involved.

The part of Indian culture I feel drawn into thought about is the entrepreneurial way of life in the country. With free education disappearing after 8th grade and...let's call them 'loose' child labor laws, the economic incentives of going to school become difficult to determine before a child even hits puberty. If a child wants to own a shop, drops out after 8th, and ends up owning a shop...how do we categorize that? Should we even be trying? Can one simply look at the income of the owner of a small shop and call him poor? Can we look at the 8th grade dropout and call him a failure because his goals were different from our own?

In this light, I have finalized what I will attempt to study. An interest of mine over the past few years has been students' belief in their ability to learn. Why do students hold on to a belief such as 'I am just bad at math' and use this as an excuse to not attempt to become better. But I also really want to know what the poor children in Ahmedabad want to do when they get older, if they see education as a vehicle to get there, and how much education do they think it will require. If they want to be a lawyer or a doctor, cool. If they want to own a shop or drive a rickshaw, also cool. But I want to know how these two things relate. Do students who believe their intelligence is malleable, that people are not simply born smart or dumb, have higher aspirations.

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting insights, Dan! I'm interested to hear more about how your study progresses.

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  2. You're incredibly insightful, Dan -- I'm glad that this experience is making you think so profoundly about so many intertwining issues relating to education, economics, and the human existence in general.

    India has that effect on people, I guess (in fact, a trip I took to India is actually why I'm in grad school... but that's another story for another day.)

    I think you'll find what we do with MIISP upon your return to UM to be helpful with sorting through and maybe starting to answer some of these questions! Can't wait to hear more about your experience.

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