Vasugi Kailasam is a third-year PhD student at National University of Singapore and is also a graduate teaching assistant there. Her research deals with the way in which reconciliation can be conceptualised in Sri Lankan Literature and film in Tamil and English written from 2000-09. She has a master’s in Comparative Literature (Asia/Africa) from SOAS, University of London. Originally from Chennai, she did her Bachelors in English from Stella Maris College, during which she spent a semester in Murdoch University, Western Australia under the IDP Peace Scholarship Exchange Program.
According to me, one of the fundamental differences between studying/teaching at an Indian university and an overseas university is the absence of focus on critical thinking and original research, particularly if you are a student of the humanities. Institutes of higher learning in India often push students/ train students with the aim of producing a high ‘pass’ percentage — focus is on rote learning and sheer mugging up of facts. This is strategically structured to suit the needs of campus placements, where students are recruited on the basis of marks.
One of the reasons for this trend to continue in India is a lack of access to international research journals and the absence of a scholarly atmosphere where students are constantly exposed to research through seminars/ discussions.
The option of double-degree or a double major degree is also not widely available in India as it is abroad. This can restrict intellectual growth of students who may have more than one interest. It’s also difficult sometimes to make a career-choice based on the one major you’ve had exposure to. This is one of the reasons why the liberal arts are sometimes ignored — people tend to pick the course that could yield with a higher pay package.
I believe the need of the hour is to take a serious look at the way we train our students so that we can produce well-rounded graduates.