An engineer from Cornell University, Viral Doshi began his career at a bank in the US and returned to India to setup a super alloys manufacturing company with his father. When they closed down the business after an internal strike in the late 90s, he decided to turn his interest towards the field of education which he used to do as a hobby during his manufacturing days into full-time work. He started off by offering advice and mentorship to his friends’ children to enter some of the best colleges and universities in the US, UK, Canada, India, Singapore, and other countries. Today, his firm Viral Doshi Associates is billed as one of the top educational consultants, preparing around 150 students every year to secure seats in the right universities. With offices in Mumbai, Dubai, Singapore, London, and New York, he says it begins with “psychometric tests for 14- to 18-year-olds to analyze a student’s strengths and weaknesses”, thereby “helping them choose the best possible career and then mentoring them for a period of 3-4 years in high school.”
What do you feel are the key areas of improvement in the Indian education system?
The Indian education system can be divided into two parts: the schooling and the higher education/ college stage. The various Indian boards at high school level arequite good, I would say. They surely prepare a child to study abroad and in India and also providea good foundation for higher education. The quality of education and the cost that we pay for it are also all right. These days, international curricula are available in India and are mostly seeping into the urban areas. However, the conventional state boards, ICSE, and CBSE still remain strong in terms of forming a good foundation for your child.
Having said that, a key improvement in the Indian education system is to bring in more creativity, critical thinking, and applicationof the mind. The present system doesn’t make children think and apply their minds compared to the systems in other countries. This attribute is vital for innovation and development. Nonetheless, I’m happy that these boards have identified this lacuna, and are trying hard to bring in a change.
Now let’s look at some challenges the system is facing at the college level. The number of high school students has increased exponentially, whereas the number of new colleges or higher education institutes has increased minimally. As a result, the gap in the number of applicants applying and number of good universities/colleges has increased tremendously. Although the quality of the universities like the IITs or medical colleges remains the same as it was 30 years ago... getting admission has become a virtual nightmare.
There are also various private universities that provide an equally-good standard of education. But with the clutching control of the government over the education system, private universities are not able to flourish the way they should. They can’t offer a four-year degree when the government permits only a three-year degree, which is one of many examples. Parents are forced to send their child abroad to avoid the rut of getting into good universities and surviving in the college system.
Another challenge is that since the college feeis not very high, they’re not able to attract faculty that takes an interest in teaching. Hence, giving back to the child is not very high. So the need for creativity, critical thinking, and application of the mind applies at the college level, too.
The government has to look at them much more seriously. A lot more needs to be done in this field and both government and the private sector should work hand in hand to change the scenario. There should also be common eligibility for all the students, where there’s survival of the fittest. This will also allow students to follow the curriculum they like.
What advice would you give to parents about choosing the right school/college?
As far as schooling is concerned, I’d suggest parents go for a school or curriculum where their child will blossom. It’s not that international is better and Indian is not; it’s about what’s best for you. The international syllabus is good if you want to send your child abroad. But if your child is interested in CA or medicine, staying in India and opting for a national or state curriculum is best. The right college depends on what the child wants to study. Also, don’t go by the brand; it should come in at the postgraduate level. Go with the college your child will be happy in. Of course, you can aspire for Ivy League colleges, but why push your child for it? All top colleges in any country give quality education. The idea is to get a great education and be happy. If you’re happy, you’ll do well. And if you do well, you’ll get into a good postgraduate college.
What are some of the challenges you face in your field?
Rising applicants from India, ambitious parents, and those hankering after branded colleges. I try to counsel parents to let the child decide and to not impose their decision on him or her. The world today has changed – you can do well in any career! Educating parents is my biggest challenge.
What’re your hobbies and interests?
Music! I have a huge collection of western classical music. But in Mumbai, the joke is, if you want to catch Viral Doshi, meet him on the first day (Fridays), first show of any Hindi movie!Movies and music are my two biggest interests.
If you could turn back time and get to be a young student again, what’s the first thing you’d do?
I would request my parents to allow me to explore the careers where I can do my best. I would also seek a guide to mentor me. I became an engineer because my father was an engineer. That probably would’ve changed. – as told to Sumana