Monday, December 18, 2006

Through the Eyes of an FOB

When I first landed as a new immigrant to Canada, there were many things that were – well – different. This is what I am hoping will be the first in the series – my experience as a student.

I joined up learn French as a second language at one of Canada’s French Universities. As I learn't my way through the system, here’s what I found:

  • You call your professor by his/her first name. A sacrilege in India.
  • Late-coming to class, is so severely frowned upon, that 3 strikes and you could be marked absent for the day.
  • Dressing at college is very very casual. Yet very fashionable!
  • Attendance is a must. You dare not be caught bunking class. A far cry from the days – we went to college and lounged exclusively in the canteen.
  • The professor will teach the subject at hand. But examination questions will take a practical spin on the theory taught to you. Gone were the days when, you basically mugged up the class notes, vomited it out at the exams and were done with.
  • While exam scores were important, class papers, reports, projects and the ubiquitous home-work carried equal weight. I don’t remember doing home-work since I left school.
  • I would die for any Indian college to get a library of this size. Huge!!! 6 full floors! And row upon row of computers – you can reference the books or the internet – all within the confines of the library.
  • There is no peon to photo-copy stuff for you. You have a charged Student card – you photo-copy your stuff yourself – using the card. Ah the luxuries of a human-intensive economy!
  • There are arm-chairs in the library – where you can – believe it or not – snooze!! And no body gives a damn. O I used those armchairs - a lot!!!
  • The professors invited you (the class) home for a party or took you out for coffee. Can you imagine doing that with Professor Srivastav (or Pandey or Mukherjee or whatever)?
  • The professors would walk through the aisles un-greeted, un-acknowledged. Can you even imagine that happening in India?
  • You don’t stand when the professor addresses you in class. If you didn’t stand when the prof spoke with you in India – he’d probably throw you out for being ‘mannerless’
  • You could have a difference of opinion with your professor - and still stay in class.
  • And best of all – at the end of the year, you graded your professor on various parameters. I would love to go back in time and grade all those bores who lullaby-ed me to sleep through college.


At 3:44 PM, Anonymous NZ said...

Experienced the same things when I was doing my T & T course here in Auckland and loved grading my teachers too at the end of the year !

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Trupti said...

An Interesting read favorite part is evaluating the profs too at the end of the term.


At 9:09 PM, Anonymous rooma said...

I can so much relate to this STS.... but the only difference is that I am on the other side.... I am a lecturer over here and I was shocked when initially students called me by name and were so casual in their attitude!!!! but I learnt along the way and I enjoy being with them...... now this prompts me to do a post about my exp of being on the other side :)

At 5:58 AM, Blogger That Armchair Philosopher said...

heh, very true. i think this sort of a culture's actually better than the rigors which pass for education in India.

frankly, I've seen people come out from the top institutions in India and not know a word of their subjects because all they're good at is repeating whatever their professors taught them. put them onto a practical project, and they're lost. another thing which I think is different is the emphasis on original work, and analytical answers.

you're not expected to learn stuff by rote , but provide instead commentary on a topic with lucid arguments - and there's no *right* answer. and there lies the benefit of the western educational system. original thinking in conjunction with past knowledge.

At 1:33 AM, Blogger artnavy said...

TAP- I feel you are generalising the rote method in India. It is seeing change here.

How do you explain that some of the best academics in the US are of Indian Origin?

Nice post STS

At 4:42 AM, Blogger iz said...

Sounds like Utopia. Would love to go back to studies but the reason I don't is my snoozy professors.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Beth said...

What an interesting post! I spent five weeks in India this summer with a group of American educators and we visited at least fifteen Indian schools and universities. Even though I'm not a classroom teacher (I work in a museum), after two master's degrees I have lots of experience as a student, and I was comletely fascinated by the differences I observed. I'd love to read a similar post by a North American going to university in India!

At 10:56 AM, Blogger Orchid said...

yes, the differences strike you don't they? I also got to take a couple of courses one-on-one (a 1 hr session every week with the professiors), I was so grateful since I was pregnant and the courses offered did not fit my pregnancy/labor schedule. I could never imagine this kind of convenience back home..and this was during my master's! And that's another interesting aspect in itslef I don't see a lot of pregnant women in school even in post graduate classes!!

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Something to Say said...

nz: Such wicked pleasures we derive, dont we? ;)

Trupti: Welcome. Grading profs at the end of term sure is a novel experience for us.

Rooma: You should do a post about your experiences as a prof. I'm sure it will make an interesting read.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Something to Say said...

TAP: Rigors have their own value. One major reason why we love this system is that - we've already been thru the rigors - which have tempered our thought process. This system adds another dimension to it.

Art: yes, the newer schools in India are fast adopting this new system of learning - I've seen it in the cities at least. To give India its due - US Univs are flooded with Indian students and academics - and one major reason is our education system has grounded us so well with the basics and theory. And both systems have their pluses - we are the lucky few to have taken the best of both.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Something to Say said...

iz: O it is a wonderful experience!!

beth: Thanks! and Welcome!
You're right that would be an interesting read!

orchid: hey, I was preggie too - during my course - and yes, no one looked twice at my belly - not even the profs. In fact on the last day - one of the profs hesitatingly asked me "would you be pregnant?" :) and my classmates spoilt me silly - even offering to carry my bag at times :)
I soooo much treasure those days....

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Vi said...

Honestly, I can't imagine learning any other way. I am used to the lack of rule enforcement (well, in college, anyway) because it's more, I have the worst memory ever, so asking me to memorize oodles and oodles of notes would be impossible.
Grading professors is so much fun! My college depends heavily on those for the success of teactions (although if the teacher is ten-year, there's nothing muc hthat you can do to them) but the course evaluations are helpful to the college.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous OrangeJammies said...

lol! welcome to the world of western learning! i enjoyed the whole process so much that i applied to a Ph.D. program! i was even accepted...but unfortunately chose to go grind my behind in the workforce! :0)


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