Since launching the Third World Challenge, we at 2 Million Minutes have received incredible response - mostly supportive, occasional skeptic here and there, and some with deep curiosity. Since announcing the challenge, over 1000 unique individuals have taken one or more exams. There is much fascination with English Grammar and History. I would have imagined there would be significant curiosity in Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology exams, but not yet.
I am one of the 'behind the scenes' guy - the guy that gets all the nit-picks about punctuation marks and angry emails as to whether the exact date of the formation of UN matter (when the answer is readily available by Googling). The last time I checked, you are not allowed to sit for a competitive exam like SAT with "Google" next to you. So, I do think "remembering" important dates do matter when it comes to exams.
There is one exam-taker that wrote to us (via the firstname.lastname@example.org). Without revealing this person's identity, I want to copy the relevant text here and then share my perspective on that question - (after all I must know).
"If you are interested: I had a student whose father attended the India Institute of Technology. I gave them the video to watch. She brought it back and told me that there is just one small point not mentioned in the video. She told me that her father said that the teachers in India really do not work that hard. The teachers frequently don't even show up for class, but on those no-teacher days the students still worked at learning physics or what ever the class was supposed to do. In short: the students worked hard, but the teachers didn't."
There was one other person that hinted at this point several months ago. I thought I would use this forum to set the record straight (according to my collective experience).
Let me set the stage for this -
All three of us were born in India, raised in India and educated in India. Each of us have 18, 16, 17 years of schooling and college education just in India.
My wife is Indian and she has 17 years of schooling and college education. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law each have 17 years of schooling and college education.
Amongst my family, we represent the most prestigious of colleges and schools - Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Regional Engineering College, Trichy (Now called National Institute of Technology), NITIE, Bombay, Cathedral High School - to name a few.
Since receiving the email from the exam-taker, I have been talking and carefully asking my brothers, wife and relatives that did bulk of their schooling in India whether their teachers ever went on strike. I personally do not recall the term "strike day" in my years of high school or during my bachelors or masters program. Neither do any of my relatives. My brothers don't recall hearing of 'strike days' - they went to the very best educational institutions - IIT, REC, NITIE.
Of course, there was the occasional political disturbance that would cause entire cities to 'shut-down' for a day - but these were not instigated by teachers or faculties.
Teaching, Lecturing and Professorial professions are indeed considered a "noble" profession in India. These individuals pride in their ability to teach, coach and train students and when their students succeed, the entire community celebrates.
I recall when my brother Venk came in 9th in the ALL India CBSE 12th Grade exam, the entire city was in front of our house...some of the first visitors were our teachers. Everyone found out by reading the Indian Express newspaper. Later that day the Principal (Sundaram) had all the 11th grade students at the center of the prayer hall giving a pep-talk - what did he say? Well, he said, we have a 'role model' to follow now. And I remember, the next few hours was the most nervous hours - many of my friends wanted to come home and borrow my brother's notes from his 12th grade classes (I thought I owned it already)...among the borrowers in line, were a few teachers!
Are there isolated teacher strikes in India? - you bet there are and if one searched for it hard, one can find it. The idea that teachers routinely strike - just like the Indian parent points out to this exam taker - is very very hard to believe. Perhaps times were different then, but my window of time spans from early 60s through late 90s.
I would invite anyone that has a different experience to comment on this topic with facts.
Before one throws me under the bus saying "you all went to private schools" - my eldest brother went to government run school in early 60s through 70s. He stood 9th in his 10th grade final exam across the state. So, my collective reference here does incorporate the government run schools - and teacher strikes were still hard to find.