India Graduates Millions, but Too Few Are Fit to Hire – WSJ.com

May 2, 2011 at 9:14 am 3 comments

While it’s a depressing message for India, this article from the Wall Street Journal is a positive message for education.  There’s a value and point to education.  Just having large numbers of people isn’t enough — educational quality matters.  There’s a message here very specifically for us in computing education, too.  It’s not just about enrollment numbers.

Call-center company 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd. is desperate to find new recruits who can answer questions by phone and email. It wants to hire 3,000 people this year. Yet in this country of 1.2 billion people, that is beginning to look like an impossible goal.

So few of the high school and college graduates who come through the door can communicate effectively in English, and so many lack a grasp of educational basics such as reading comprehension, that the company can hire just three out of every 100 applicants.

India projects an image of a nation churning out hundreds of thousands of students every year who are well educated, a looming threat to the better-paid middle-class workers of the West. Their abilities in math have been cited by President Barack Obama as a reason why the U.S. is facing competitive challenges.

Yet 24/7 Customer’s experience tells a very different story. Its increasing difficulty finding competent employees in India has forced the company to expand its search to the Philippines and Nicaragua. Most of its 8,000 employees are now based outside of India.

In the nation that made offshoring a household word, 24/7 finds itself so short of talent that it is having to offshore.

via India Graduates Millions, but Too Few Are Fit to Hire – WSJ.com.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ankit Dangi  |  May 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I understand your concern about Education, but would like you to know that a company’s inability to locate the ‘right’ people can not be looked upon as the inability of the nation as a whole. Please understand that the company being referred here is a call-center company, and of course, India and Indians are much beyond providing just voice based services.

    Educational quality in computing education is indeed a concern all over the world, then, why project just India for the bad!

    Reply
    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  May 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      Agreed that I just quoted a segment about a call-center, and that India is about far more than that. My comments were based more on the rest of the article, not just the small quote I provided. For example:

      Muddying the picture is that on the surface, India appears to have met the demand for more educated workers with a quantum leap in graduates. Engineering colleges in India now have seats for 1.5 million students, nearly four times the 390,000 available in 2000, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, a trade group.

      But 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India’s high-growth global industries, including information technology and call centers, according to results from assessment tests administered by the group.

      Another survey, conducted annually by Pratham, a nongovernmental organization that aims to improve education for the poor, looked at grade-school performance at 13,000 schools across India. It found that about half of the country’s fifth graders can’t read at a second-grade level.

      At stake is India’s ability to sustain growth—its economy is projected to expand 9% this year—while maintaining its advantages as a low-cost place to do business.

      Reply
  • 3. Ankit Dangi  |  May 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I can neither comment on the findings of the study nor on the survey. But a general feel of the situation here seems to have been reflected via them: some true, and yet some more unknown.

    The leap in the number of seats in colleges was indeed required. Considering the population of the country, and the rate at which people started dropping-out merely because of lack of colleges, was a concern back then. And hence, the increase in seats was allowed. To keep a check on it and on the quality of education, UGC and other bodies, perform regular audits.

    When the Minister of Education came up with the “Right to Education” bill in India, in 2009, he has indeed publicly acknowledged that the greatest challenge for him was to get the ‘right’ set of teachers and involve them for an inclusive growth of the individuals and country as a whole.

    My honest opinion is that the question of quality would come up, only when there is a strong base.. here, we’re still building one! Of course, am not denying the fact that it could or rather should come, right from the start! But.. a lot of Indians do need some education, at least the math to count the money they earn.

    And yes, we understand that by certain standards, we may not be ‘fit to be hired’, but then, no matter what challenges lie here.. we believe education isn’t really only about being hired. I guess, being an educator yourself, you understand this better than what I do.

    Reply

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