I mentioned in my earlier post that Lynn - one of the participants in the webcast of Two Million Minutes (on Dec 11, 2007) posted on her blog following the webcast.
While I take no issues with her observations, I do want to respond specifically to her one comment -
The US still produces an impressive number of graduates in science, engineering and information technology the majority of whom earn bachelor degrees. China and India have roughly four times the population of the US.
One should remember that a very high number of enrollments in the under-graduate, graduate and doctoral programs come from countries such as India, China, Vietnam and of course, the European nations. We should not forget the 'second crisis' (maybe, I can convince Bob to embark on a 2MM sequel) that might be taking place - and that crisis being, many foreign students (typically) come to the US for higher studies. With the excellent infrastructure our universities offer and the generous financial assistance qualified students can get, the competition to get into 4-year engineering programs, and 2 year masters' program and the 6 year doctoral program is ONLY increasing.
In my numerous trips to India, I often find many bright engineers deciding to return to India - when I get into discussions about 'quality of life' , 'access to capital', career growth etc - their answers are strikingly different from the days I made the trek to US. India and China are 'welcoming' these ex-patriots. Just by way of an example, let me make my point - my dad was 50 years old when he was able to 'take a home loan' in India. He was repaying the loan well after retirement. That was 25 years ago. Now, young professionals in India can get a car loan, home loan (second home loan) -so, if one is able to put up with a bit of infrastructure nuisances, quality of life and professional career growth in India is VERY appealing to returning engineers.
I personally know several dozen Indians who decided to return to India in the past 3-5 years. This reverse-migration only increases the challenge for the American economy - the few venture capital investors I have spoken to in Bangalore readily admit there is a "wealth" of GOOD managers in India - and if you trace the route of these, these are silicon valley managers/entrepreneurs that were 'educated' in our best engineering schools and then decided to move to India. One can easily understand the economic loss in a situation such as this.
A casual scroll down the halls of universities such as MIT, Stanford, Purdue would (anecdotally) reveal the number of foreign faces in each of the classrooms.
So, in closing, while I respect the report authored/supported by Vivek and Duke, I invite the readers to consider the following:
- What the % of foreign students enrolling in the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs - specifically related to Engineering, Science and Math?
- Hypothetically speaking, if the answer to #1 happens to between 30 and 40%, should that raise an alarm again on the preparation of our K-12 children? - if we don't increase 'supply' of good / well educated 12th graders, won't the enrollment at the college level drop off for the Americans?
- What happens to these 40% foreign nationals that obtain advanced degrees ? Should we as Americans create an environment where these nationals can stay here in the US and contribute to the growth of our country?
One final point - as I traveled through the schools for the film, I often heard the seniors say "Oh, we have many entrance exams to prepare for" - a typical student like apoorva or rohit will prepare for : 1) their high school final exams, 2) entrance exams for IIT, 3) entrance exams for Medicine/Dental fields of study, 4) entrance exams for GRE (Graduate Record Exam), TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language). It was clear to me that higher education in US is still a sought after path for these 18-somethings.
I hope this sparks more discussion on the 'second' part of the crisis - at the College / Advanced education level.