They’re India’s nationwide faculty board toppers over 20 years. So it’s no shock that one’s a cancer doctor in New York; one other is a PhD fellow at MIT; one is a Harvard professor; one a hedge fund supervisor in Singapore — and as many as 11 are working for Google.
Every is a narrative of particular person expertise and energy, excellence and achievement, outliers all. However taken collectively, as an investigation by The Indian Express reveals, the arcs of their totally different lives — and careers — inform vital tales of a era coming of age after India opened up within the 1990s. Of how some aspirations endure, some don’t; how some divides have crumbled, some stay as intractable as ever.
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Greater than half the toppers reside abroad right now, the US being the vacation spot of alternative. Most are in science and expertise with IITs their most favoured undergraduate pit-stop; greater than half of them grew up outdoors metros, in Tier 2 and Tier Three cities, and just one is a minority — there’s not one Dalit or tribal. And in case you are a woman topper, you’re a lot much less more likely to transfer abroad than for those who have been a boy.
These are among the many key findings of the four-month investigation by The Indian Categorical that tracked down 86 women and men who stood first in India, between 1996 and 2015, of their Class 10 and 12 exams performed by the Central Board of Secondary Training (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian College Certificates Examinations.
Amid hovering cut-off marks based mostly on Class 12 Board exams, as the federal government, in tune with its new National Education Policy, units up a panel to discover a nationwide take a look at to rejig the faculty admission course of, the findings from the investigation are tips to the challenges forward.
Over half the toppers reside or work overseas
Greater than half the toppers — between 21 and 42 years of age — are in international nations, most of them are employed, 1 / 4 of them are pursuing superior levels. Three of each 4 who’re overseas are in the US. Whereas the US stays the popular vacation spot, others are based mostly within the UK, Australia, Singapore, China, Canada, Bangladesh and the UAE.
Of these employed overseas, most work within the tech sector, adopted by drugs and finance.
4 out of 10 working within the US are in Silicon Valley. Like Biswanath Panda, who graduated from Little Flower College in Jamshedpur in 1999 and is now senior director of engineering at Google in San Francisco. Certainly, Google is residence to 11 toppers, probably the most in anybody firm.
Karuna Ganesh, 37, left the nation quickly after topping her Class 10 ICSE examination in 1999 to affix United World School (UWC), USA, a global boarding faculty that brings collectively 200 college students from 80 nations. She is now a physician-scientist on the Memorial Sloan Kettering Most cancers Heart in New York.
“My dad and mom have been supportive about my transferring overseas since UWC has a powerful observe report of sending college students to prime universities world wide, along with the worldwide, multicultural schooling it offers,” stated Ganesh, who subsequently earned a BA in Biochemistry, MA in Medication, PhD in Molecular Biology and MD from Cambridge College.
Most went overseas to review citing higher ecosystem
Greater schooling is the first purpose why toppers left the nation. Of these dwelling overseas, over 70% left India to pursue both their undergraduate or postgraduate research — solely a dozen of the 86 went to take up a job.
For instance, Somnath Bose, 40, left India in 2008 with an MBBS from Calcutta Medical School and an MD from AIIMS, to pursue coaching in crucial care. Immediately, he’s an assistant professor at Boston’s Harvard Medical College and workers anesthesiologist at its educating hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Heart.
Bose says that when he left India, programmes in crucial care have been simply beginning to open up. “The US… had well-established scientific coaching pathways in that discipline, plus afforded alternatives to combine scientific work with concentrate on analysis,” he stated.
Janaki Sheth, 28, who studied at a faculty in Thane and aced the Class 10 ICSE exams in 2008 with 98.6%, has a BTech in Engineering Physics from IIT Bombay. In 2014, she left for the US for a PhD in Physics on the College of California, Los Angeles. On why she determined to review overseas, Sheth, now a postdoctoral scholar on the College of Pennsylvania, stated, “Six to seven years in the past, scientific analysis was not very well-funded in India. So whereas I had some invaluable experiences at IIT, it was not enough for a PhD. Within the US, science will get an awesome coverage thrust which suggests there are extra locations to do good work, and there may be fixed upgradation of expertise,” she stated.
For Arkya Chatterjee, 24, who topped the Class 12 ISC examination in 2015 from a Kolkata faculty earlier than graduating from IIT-Bombay in Engineering Physics, the transfer to the US revealed a unique aspect to the teacher-student equation. “(There’s) extra honesty about collaborations — professors encourage college students to speak to one another and work on homework collectively. This reduces the motivation for tutorial dishonesty. This sort of belief was largely absent at my undergraduate institute again in India,” stated Chatterjee, who’s now enrolled as a PhD scholar at MIT.
Greater than half the toppers (48 out of 86) selected engineering as their undergraduate diploma — solely 12 did drugs. Amongst those that studied engineering, six out of 10 did so at an IIT.
Many, nevertheless, confessed that an curiosity in engineering wasn’t all the time the motivation behind the choice.
Sundaresh Nageswaran, 32, who topped the CBSE Class 10 examination in 2004 earlier than learning Mechanical Engineering at IIT-Roorkee, stated it was the “societal norm” for many who did effectively in class to review engineering. “Engineering, or extra particularly IIT, was the rule… I later realised I wasn’t fascinated with engineering and moved out to different fields,” he stated.
Sundresh later pursued an MBA from the Indian College of Enterprise, Hyderabad, and till September, was common supervisor (enterprise growth) at Sea6 Vitality, a platform that harnesses the potential of oceans. In his function there, he admits, there was no direct use for his mechanical engineering know-how. He’s now engaged on his personal enterprise.
To make certain, few remorse their undergraduate diploma in engineering. Nevertheless, many want they’d publicity to different professions or profession counselling at that age.
Lekshmi Vaidyeswaran, 29, who topped the CBSE Class 10 examination in 2007 with 99%, and is presently a senior product supervisor at ICICI Prudential Life Insurance coverage in Mumbai, has a BTech diploma in utilized electronics and instrumentation from the School of Engineering Trivandrum.
“My household needed me to go for Commerce. I insisted on engineering as every other alternative was perceived as one thing opted by those that couldn’t make it to engineering,” she stated. “In hindsight, sure, I’d have gone for Commerce and pursued Chartered Accountancy.”
Subhojit Ghosh, 29, who topped the ISC Class 12 examination from a Kolkata faculty in 2009 with 99.25%, has a BTech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kanpur.
He later did an MBA from Harvard Enterprise College and is working as senior product supervisor at Amazon in Seattle. “Whereas the IIT model was undoubtedly an element, there was no household strain… I appreciated math and science, and agree that I didn’t know a lot about different non-IIT choices at that time, in all probability because of lack of profession recommendation at a faculty stage. However in hindsight, a greater consciousness on how your undergraduate diploma hyperlinks to varied varieties of future profession roles could have altered my resolution of selecting mechanical engineering,” he stated.
Those that stayed again in India
Amongst toppers who stayed again or returned to India after their greater research, most have chosen a profession in finance, adopted by the tech sector, consulting, and enterprise. That is not like these settled overseas, who largely labored within the tech sector.
For Parnil Singh, 27, the CBSE Class 10 topper of 2009 from a faculty in Visakhapatnam, there was little incentive to pursue postgraduate research in administration overseas since, she says, premier enterprise faculties in India supplied extra worth for cash. Whereas she was at IIM-Calcutta, the place she did her MBA, Singh was supplied a job by Kearney, a worldwide administration consulting agency, and joined them in Delhi as marketing consultant this month. “Whereas an MBA overseas has its deserves, it’s too costly. And right now, India has numerous nice jobs and alternatives within the non-public sector,” she stated.
Tackling social, financial challenges
Of the 86 toppers, just one belonged to the Different Backward Class (OBC) class. None was Dalit or tribal. Of the 76 toppers who responded to this newspaper’s questionnaire, simply 5 have been first-generation college-goers.
THE INVESTIGATION, THE METHOD
The Indian Categorical obtained names of 86 toppers of Class 10 and 12 exams performed by the Council of Indian College Certificates Examinations (CISCE) and the Central Board of Secondary Training (CBSE). Of the 86 names, 62 graduated between 1996 and 2015 from faculties affiliated to the CISCE Board, and 24 have been nationwide CBSE toppers from 2004 to 2015. Some years, the Boards had three and even 4 joint nationwide toppers. For CBSE Class 10, there was no topper from 2010 to 2015 for the reason that Board had switched from marks to grades. To trace down the toppers, The Indian Categorical checked newspaper archives, social media websites, contacted faculty principals, lecturers and alumni associations. In a single case, assist got here from a financial institution union in UP, which tapped its community to find a retired worker, who’s the daddy of an ICSE nationwide topper. An in depth qualitative questionnaire was despatched to every of the 86 toppers. Ten didn’t reply, however their tales are a part of this collection. Of the 86, 74 have been Science college students in Class 12, 12 did Commerce. No topper was from the Arts/Humanities stream. 12 months 2015 was chosen because the cut-off 12 months to make sure that all college students featured had, by 2020, accomplished or have been near finishing their first undergraduate diploma.
Mohammad Ismat, 29, from Imphal, Manipur, topped the Class 12 CBSE examination in 2012. Ismat, who says his trainer S M Singh paid his Board examination payment since his household couldn’t afford it, went on to review BSc (Honours) Physics at Delhi’s St. Stephen’s School, funded by a company home.
A private disaster at residence meant that Ismat needed to put his profession aspirations on maintain for nearly 4 years after he graduated from Delhi College. This 12 months, he began getting ready for the united states examination. Of the 74 toppers who shared their household earnings with The Indian Categorical, just one got here from the bottom incomes quartile. The scholar, who didn’t need to be recognized, stated his dad and mom earned lower than Rs 1 lakh every year when he topped the Class 12 Board examination.
Nearly three-fourths stated their dad and mom earned over Rs 5 lakh yearly on the time of their Board exams. The remaining reported annual household incomes of between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh.
Greater than half the toppers are from Tier 2 and Tier Three cities akin to Dehradun, Dhanbad, Asansol, Jamshedpur, Trivandrum, Lucknow and Meerut — cities the place English-medium ICSE and CBSE faculties have ridden on the ambition and aspiration for a greater future in these components. These are additionally the cities hardest hit throughout the pandemic, compounding fears of job losses and faculty dropouts.
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