Friday, September 25, 2009

Home Schooling

Education, in its current form, where an average child spends for 20+ years in school/college/university etc. to be able to useful to the society, is very recent human endeavor, for past 200 years or so. This is the need of post-industrialized society where the demand of highly specialized individual is higher and such long education years are necessary. Modern societies need more people who can do specialized tasks other than the manual jobs, and therefore higher need for educated people. Also, since these jobs pays well as compared to traditional jobs, it becomes a good investment from the point of individual/family as well. But like everything else in this world, this form of structured education has its own pros and cons.

First, about pros, since it outweighs the cons, otherwise , we all would not be sending our kids to the school anyway. Education, in its current structured form, other than providing formal learning of different subjects, serves many other social and emotional aspects as well. It creates an artificial environment for a growing up kid. This environment provides opportunity to explore many different specialized field to the child such as language, math, science, art etc etc in very coherent way. It also provides an artificial world to the child where s/he is mainly expose to the kids of similar age group, thus sharing a common growing up experiences (this is also cause of many other problems but nevertheless it brings many joys). School in its current form is an wonderful organization for growing up. It is kind of protective environment for the young people where they are removed from the real world experiences and can focus on development. The math, science or social science you learn in the school is long forgotten, but the foundation it built is ever-lasting. Wherever I am today, it is only because of my education. I have many fond memories of my schooling years, and also some of the life long friendship.

Now about the cons, in my opinion, the biggest disadvantage of such organized uniform education is that it creates a herd of people (according to people who oppose the formal school education in its current form at early years). In most cases, unless you are lucky to have other experiences, it removes personality from person. Of course, when you are teaching a big group of students, you can not have personalized education suitable to your personality, interests and needs (remember, we are not talking about the society where everyone should be only doctor or engineer, I am talking about society where it is fine to be an artists as long as this is what one likes to do).

Even if we assume that these cons are big (or exaggerated), in my opinion, the pros of current system outweighs heavily, and thus we are all sending kids to the school. My 5 year old daughter gets so much of exciting rich experience in her school (I will write about this on some separate post) that I personally think I can not provide to her in home. Of course, most of her problems later will be because of peer pressure, but I consider this also as a part of growing up process which is important.

So when I first learned about the home schooling, I was bit surprised. A simple Google search will bring you many more results. Later, I found out, that there is a strong society who believes in home schooling and for many parents, the disadvantages of uniform education and problems of peer pressure on young mind, is too big to send child to the school. In recent years, I have met many parents in my neighborhood, who believe in home education at early years. They take years off from work to educate their child according to the state curriculum, arrange meetings with other home schooling parents to provide social experience for themselves and for children, and try to provide as rich social and learning experience to the child as possible, but with full control. This was new to me and I found it intriguing. This is only possible in developed countries where people can afford such options, not in India where the struggle for survival is still too big, but anyway it is an interesting thing to know.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Concentration of Indian academics around the globe

This is merely a small sample (few hundred hits in last 2 days), but this map of recent visitors of this site gives some idea about the concentration of Indian academics (who else might be interested in content of this blog anyway?) around the globe. It is no surprise that most Indian academics are located in north America and Europe (of course, other than in India :)), where there are more opportunities for scientific research.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Snobbery of Elite Educational Institutes in India

Disclaimer: This post is provoked by an anonymous comment at the blog of Nanopolitan. I have no intention to disrespect anyone from any institutes.

If you read regularly the reader's comments on the pay scale related posts at the blogs of "Life at IISc" or "Nanopolitan" (just to clarify, I am talking about comments, not the blogs by itself, both of these blogs are very thoughtful and respectful), you can clearly note that

- In many cases, commentator from IISc or IITs think themselves above and beyond anyone and everyone, and they heavily disrespect other higher education institutes (They call it UGC pay scale faculty) in every form. This form of snobbery goes beyond any normal etiquette.

Female Science Professor has a nice post on Micro-inequities. She writes:

Micro-inequities are ways in which people are ignored, disrespected, undermined, or somehow treated in a different (negative) way because of their gender or race (or some other intrinsic characteristic).

A micro-inequity can be very micro. It can involve an action or words or even a tone of voice or a gesture. The inequity can be a deliberate attempt to harm someone or it can be unintentional, rooted in a person's perceptions about others.

Whatever the source and however minor each separate event, over the years the cumulative effect of these little incidents, words, and gestures on an individual and on various segments of society (academia, business, even within families) is not so micro.

One of the commentator of her post notes:

Has anybody else read "Outliers"? Among many points in Gladwell's book is that the number of small advantages given to Canadian boys with certain birthdays in the hockey league leads to a professional hockey roster almost exclusively made up of men who have birthdays in certain months. He points this phenomenon out over and over again, in many different contexts - consistent small advantages, over time, lead to great advantages, perhaps even to great people, or "outliers". Why, then, would the same not be true for any discriminated against group, in any field? I don't understand why people are not open to this line of thinking, and are not open to asking themselves what they can do to try to help remedy these situations when they arise.

The inequities (actually they are not micro by any standards) has become a norm in the case of central universities, state universities and colleges in India as compared to IITs and IISc. Some of these institutes has much older history and has served as a education centers over the decades/centuries. They also serve much larger population as compared to IITs or IISc.

The purpose of these universities are very different than IITs or IISc. It has to be clearly understood that the purpose of universities or college is to provide basic education to a large amount of population whereas the purpose of IITs or IISc is to provide specialized education to select group of students. Both are equally needed and are important for a society. A society needs everyone. A progressive society needs specialized engineers/scientist (assuming that this is what IIT/IISc graduates do) but more than that it also need doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants etc etc. After independence, the attention and privilege IITs/IISc got over the years, it helped in building up a class of people from these institutes who think themselves superior than everyone else. This is a dangerous attitude for a healthy society. State universities, Colleges, and central universities are at huge disadvantage because of this attitude. This attitude coupled with many other factors (mostly politics), has constantly led to deterioration of Indian university system and the result is devastating. The simple fact that IITs/IISc alone can not serve the need of this vast country is good enough to understand that our university system needs more attention, money, care and most importantly respect for India to progress towards prosperity.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Admission Process for Ph. D. in Business Administration in an American University

After my post on admission process for Science and Engineering Ph. D. program, some readers were interested about the admission process in American business schools' Ph. D. program. Knowing that the page still remains the most popular page of this website, I asked my friend (lets cal him "V" here), who is a Ph. D. student in a top business school, to write about the admission process for the readers of this blog. Below is his response:


First things first - know why you want to apply to the business school. The PhD program is geared towards training students for academic positions, although many students end up taking positions in the industry. A majority of students at top-tier business schools seek academic positions in other business schools, although industry positions can be lucrative. In my opinion, if you are sure you want to work in the industry, it may not worth doing a PhD, unless you have a passion for accumulating degrees.

Most schools open up their admission process in September before the year starts (so for 2011 admissions, it would be Sep 2010). The application process consists of the several steps but one needs to choose a specific area or department that you want to apply to, although some schools allow you to choose multiple departments. Each department makes its own decision - its almost as if you were applying to different schools. Therefore, its important that you know which area you want to do research in. The school's website usually lists all the areas and it varies by schools. Some of the common areas (or their variants) are:

• Finance
• Business Economics
• Marketing
• Operations Management
• Organizational Behavior
• Strategy
• Econometrics and Statistics
• Information systems

As far as the application process is concerned, it is well-documented on a school's website. I list the common one below along with my comments:

1. Testing requirements: GMAT/GRE is usually required. Most schools list mean or median scores of the accepted students. In top schools, it is usually over 700. You may choose to prepare yourself (using books) or register for training classes offered by various companies (Kaplan, Veritas Prep etc.). For GMAT, some of the recommended books are:
a. The Official Guide for GMAT Review – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
b. The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review – VERY HELPFUL
c. The Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review – VERY HELPFUl
d. Official GMAT Practice tests – available at for free – very true to the real test
e. Kaplan book w/CD - book is OK and the practice tests are tougher and not completely representative compared the real tests
f. Cracking the GMAT with DVD – explains the concepts very well, especially for novices, the questions are relatively easier. I highly recommend to first finish the official guide first.

As far as GRE is concerned, I don’t have direct experience with it, but I have heard Kaplan is pretty good – make sure to buy their Q-card package/exam vocabulary.

2. Transcripts: schools need to know that you took your coursework seriously and didn’t fool around. Schools are usually looking for candidates who do very well in courses as I think its an indication of how committed you are towards your academic success.

3. TOEFL - for international students. However, if you have a degree from US/Canada already, then it could potentially be waived.

4. Statement of Purpose (SOP) or Statement of Intent - VERY Important. Schools need to know why you are the right candidate as well as reasons to reject you. The 3 key things that you want your statement to reflect are: (a) why do you want to do PhD and why now, (b) why this particular subject area (Finance, OM etc.) and (c) why the particular school. Hence, a good understanding of the area becomes important. It always helps (but not required) if you can talk about some areas that you may be interested in (and certain faculty members). Previous publications and research work is helpful but not necessary. Also, there is some confusion on whether a Masters degree is required. A Master degree, though helpful, is not a requirement to enter into the PhD program.

5. Recommendations: anywhere from 2 to 4 depending on the school. It is strongly preferred that you get them from academics who are familiar with your previous research work and can vouch for it, for example your past adviser. In my opinion, you should get recommendations from a professor who will say excellent things about you. Having said that, if you have a decent amount of work experience, you may get one from your manager as well.

Some things to remember about the application process:

• Deadline: The deadline for application to most business school runs from early December to February - most top schools have their deadline before or on January 1.

• It may not be a bad idea to contact some faculty members whose research you particularly like to get a better idea of what a PhD program in that particular area entails.

• Make sure you give your self enough time before the deadline to prepare yourself and take GMAT in time.

• Please check with the school’s website to check whether the department you are applying to accepts GMAT or GRE or both. Some departments, although they accept both, prefer a certain test.

• In my opinion, writing SOP is the most critical part. SOP allows you to convey information about yourself that other documents (transcripts etc.) don’t necessarily convey; so use it wisely. That’s also one place where you can differentiate yourself from the pack. Make sure you take time to think about it – write concisely, clearly and make sure to edit it before you send it. Grammatical and spelling errors are your worst enemy. In terms of length of SOP, the general rule of thumb is 2 pages (single-spaced).

• The application process of almost all schools is now online (and that’s how the schools prefer). However, the paper-forms are also available for most schools.

• School’s websites remains the best and the most accurate sources of information about the application process and the PhD program in general. Make sure to check their FAQs.

A few comments about the PhD process:

• PhD program usually takes 5 years to complete (in some areas it is 6). Usually, the first 2 years or so are focused on coursework and the remainder on research. Students have a chance to experience research in earlier years via summer papers.

• Finances/Stipend: Most top schools pay the tuition of PhD students – in addition, they pay an annual stipend which varies with each school but is usually enough to cover living expenses for one person.

• A word of caution: PhD, by nature, is a lonely pursuit and you have to be mentally prepared for it.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that these are just my opinions and based on my personal experiences. There could be many factual errors in the information I provide. The best source of information remains the websites of the schools that you apply. So, applicants are strongly recommended to read the information on school's website before you apply.


Thank you V! We appreciate your time and effort.