Thursday 1 March 2018 3:35 PM UTC
By Jeevan Vipinchandran
Are the children of NRIs/PIOs under excessive pressure to succeed in school? Are they also frequently forced to study fields like medicine and law against their wishes? People of Indian origin living abroad are rightly proud of their academic achievements. Many of them are world leaders in their fields, often in medicine or engineering. It is not unusual to see specialist departments at many London hospitals dominated by people of Indian origin. While it’s generally a good thing, no-one in the British Indian community has questioned whether children are being put under unnecessary pressure to succeed.
Furthermore how many Indian and Malayalee youth in particular are genuinely interested in the fields that their parents urged them into? If I was a patient in a hospital and I suspected that the Indian origin doctor or nurse treating me was not really interested in or passionate about their jobs, I would be hesitant to be under their care. The underlying attitude of the doctor is vital to the patient’s comfort, to really put them at ease. Perhaps making young people who are not really interested in medicine study it is not the best idea when patient welfare is really considered. I grew up with young Indians, including Malayalees, who were
interested in fields as diverse as music and anthropology, but were literally forced to take medicine at Uni. That was upsetting for them and I am not sure if their parents really recognised that.
It is true that many people do not enjoy the daily grind of work, from the rush hour squeeze to sitting for hours behind a desk (and getting a bad back). But having some degree of passion for their field can offset those negatives somewhat. If Indian origin youth are being urged into fields that they have no real interest in then they cannot contribute well to their areas of expertise.
At a time when India itself is changing to be recognised as a great business start-up nation, it is likely time to let youth of Indian origin in Britain and elsewhere find their own career path. Not everyone is academically inclined, not everyone enjoys the tough maths and science school work that comes with careers in medicine. My observation is that many of the younger generation of Malayalees are less academically inclined than their parents.
To be fair, some changes are visible. Some parents are more modern in their outlook. Not everyone agrees that Indian origin kids are forced to study things they don’t want to. One Malayalee Devops engineer (a kind of software deployment expert) I spoke to argued that kids being pushed hard on academic studies was more of a feature of Indian society but not Britain. He said it is a ‘myth that a disproportionate number of Malayalees do medicine’. Another Malayalee who works as a business
consultant argued that kids are either ‘pushed too hard or not at all’, or some parents who push for careers in medicine may not know about other careers which pay better than medicine.
Others however see things differently. A North Indian yoga teacher I questioned about this issue argued that parents of a certain generation did not have a strong education, so they ‘very much pushed their kids to getting educated’. She questioned if parents would be willing to sit down with their kids and discuss their future career, rather than assuming medicine, law or engineering is the ‘’highest professional job there is.’’
Overall, it does not make sense to heap pressure on young men and women to succeed in fields they have neither passion nor aptitude for, or make them do tuition when they would rather be out playing football. Excessive pressure to do well at school may only lead to resentment, which could contribute to a lack of interest in Indian culture and tradition – something which rankles with older generations.
It may be that NRIs living in places like Great Britain need to acknowledge that the country their kids grow up in is different to India on many levels. The obsession with social status is not as strong here.
The fixation with medicine and engineering that Indians exhibit can appear to be out of sync with a Western society that values greater individuality over conformity. In basic terms youth should be allowed to explore and find the field which fits their aspirations best.
Medicine and engineering are undoubtedly fine fields, but so are business, music and sport. Pressuring youth into academic areas is neither good for their relationships or their wellbeing. Not everyone will share this perspective but is something worth thinking about. Maybe NRI parents could one day value the idea of producing the next Satya Nadella (the CEO of Microsoft), rather than yet another overworked doctor?
Jeevan Vipinachandran is a political analyst and writer, specialising in political violence and counter-terrorism. He graduated from LSE with a Masters in Comparative Politics: Conflict Studies. He has written for the Conservative Party, Future Foreign Policy and the Times of Israel. Regular updates can be found on Twitter on @jeevanvc and www.jeevanvc.com. Jeevan also blogs on business development and holistic lifestyle growth at www.my-wise-owl.com.
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