Are you amazed at the quick calculations your vegetable vendor does simultaneously for several customers? Do you know how educated s/he is? How does s/he manage to remember the selling price of each vegetable and add up numbers so quickly without the help of even pen and paper? Is it something to do with the fact that s/he is Indian?
One third of the rural population and around fifteen percent of the urban population in India is still illiterate, says a survey. If you analyze the literacy rates of other nations, these statistics paint a very poor picture of the state of education in India. You may be left wondering how so many people manage to go through their lives without a decent education. However, this does not seem to deter the Indian population in any way. They go about their business without much problem!
Even uneducated Indians can count
Young children who don’t go to school often assist their parents in their professions. This gives the children hands on training in a real world. So even though they may lack theoretical knowledge, their practical understanding is sound. Such people may not be great mathematicians or understand complicated theorems and principles of mathematics but they can definitely count to make a living, without any formal training. For example, though my house help cannot read or write at all – she cannot even sign her name on paper – she is good at calculating small figures. She can count her salary and manage her household budgeting. She is one of the many street-smart Indians.
India shares her analytical skills
India’s contribution to mathematics is phenomenal. “We have to be grateful to the Indians for teaching us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made” – these are the words of Albert Einstein. Today, Indian teachers are exporting math tuitions to students from developed nations like UK and USA. A US study revealed that around forty percent of thirteen or fourteen year old children in USA do not meet the grade in math.
Educomp Datamatics, a company that delivers online academic content to overseas students, is a good example of successful outsourcing of education to India. The reason behind this new form of outsourcing is obvious isn’t it? Indians are generally good with math! This could also be why we have so many Indian software engineers all around the globe. Outsourcing of software projects to India could also be attributed to the natural mathematical skills amongst Indians.
Why do you think Indians are good with numbers? Is an emphasis on academics intrinsic to the upbringing of the Indian child? Having gone from the stereotype of the snake charmer through to the newsagent and motel owner, are we now stuck in the new pigeonhole of the geek?