We’re hiring at my company in Hyderabad, but not very successfully. Why? We can’t find qualified employees. Applicants typically can’t write beyond the 3rd or 4th grade level, their math skills are even worse and their general understanding of the world and history and events and geography is practically non-existent. These aren’t high-school drop-outs; they are university graduates, many of them from well-known Indian schools.
We’ve taken to giving them a test. Here are some of the questions:
- Does the earth go around the sun, or the sun around the earth?
- Which ocean borders India?
- Seven years ago, how old were you?
- Who is Albert Einstein, and, (if they know the answer to that), what is he famous for?
- Who is Sigmund Freud?
- Name a country that is east of India.
- Why is the sky blue?
- Where is the North Pole?
- Does the moon go around the earth, or the earth around the moon?
- If I say, “The two siblings room was on the second floor,” where should the apostrophe go on the word ‘siblings’?”
Lots of candidates get ALL of the questions wrong. Many get all but one or two wrong. Few if any get more than half right. And it’s heartbreaking. Bright, capable people…horribly educated. How horribly? According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), India ranks 72nd out of the 73 countries that participate in the annual assessment, beating out only Kyrgyzstan.
What’s the future of a country with some 1.2 billion people, growing at an annual seven to 10 per cent clip, when its best and brightest are graduating from recognised universities but don’t know who Albert Einstein is? We don’t have to look into a crystal ball to answer that question, because we can already see what’s happening now: Hyper wage inflation; slowing growth; lack of global competitiveness.
And it’s only going to get worse. As India continues its effort to move from an undeveloped, agrarian economy into a developed, information-age economy, where will employers find the educated people to power that shift? Not in Indian universities, at least from what PISA and I have seen.
What’s the solution? I can think of a dozen steps to take to start to fix this dreadful situation, but the real solution starts with parents.
So I dare you, parents. Give the test to your kid. A 5th grader should get perhaps 4 to 5 right, a high school student 7 to 8 right, and a college grad perhaps 9 to 10. If your kid strikes out, DO NOT STAND FOR IT. Take it up with your school. Badger the principal. Ask him or her how a 10th grade kid doesn’t know that the earth orbits the sun! Badger the teachers. Ask them how a 5th grader doesn’t know how old they will be in seven years? Badger anyone. But DO NOT STAND FOR IT.
This is your child’s future at stake.
This is India’s future at stake.
(A foreigner’s observations on living, working, surviving and thriving in India)