Wednesday, 22 June 2016

NWAC Board! Do you really think you know...?

Interviewer: What K12 board or qualification is valid in Thailand?

Respondent 1: Thailand??? Do people study there too? Oh really? Hmmmmm……. Well, I have been to Thailand twice in a span of 2 years, but…….it was for a different purpose….. I can tell you many more things about Thailand but, you have to promise me that you would keep it a secret.

Interviewer: Leave it Sir. Thank You very much….

Interviewer: What all countries have you been to?

Respondent 2: Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Dubai

Interviewer: Can you please tell me a little more about the schooling system and valid boards in any of these countries.

Respondent 2: Well, I went there for my holidays… what a stupid question you are asking

Interviewer: Sir how many times have you been to US?

Respondent 3: Twice, each visit was about a month long

Interviewer: Did you visit any schools there?

Respondent 3: Schools? Why would I do that?

Interviewer: I though you are in the ‘Business’ of education… so may be….

It would be tough for anyone to believe that all the above are excerpts from real interviews. For those of you who would believe that they actually are, you would point out the interviewer as a stupid and distinctly absent-minded fellow. It is so uncommon for someone to ask such stupid questions. Why on earth would someone know about the schooling system or valid school boards and qualifications in some other country. Why exactly? And that is my point.

Let me introduce myself as a 28 year old US born and educated fellow of Indian origin, now back in India for 3 years on a work assignment with a leading design firm. I am a Masters in Designing and specialized in plastics and moulds design. As I was having a light Friday lunch with some 15 or so of my colleagues, who questioned me inquisitively about my education, I was made aware of the presence of US qualifications in India as well. My assistant Sameer, a newly graduated designer, highlighted his qualification from Northwest Accreditation Commission Board in India. I was taken aback. I asked him immediately “How long have you stayed in States?” He told me that he hadn’t been beyond the Indian shores ever. His qualification “American High School Diploma” was from an Indian school authorized by NWAC Board. “We call it Northwest back there”, I said. “And by the way I am from a Northwest school in Idaho”. I could feel a stronger connection almost instantaneously. What we do back (home), is present in India as well. I was feeling a little proud, not sure whether because of my Indian roots or my US upbringing.

A couple of minutes later, he also apprised me that a lot of people here in India, were considering NWAC Board as not valid. I was surprised, least to say. In a world where we talk of diminishing boundaries and shrinking borders, how could someone even think of questioning the validity of a 100-year old hallmark of school quality. And to top it all… A US school body? I wanted to believe Sameer after this short conversation about his American qualification through NWAC board. However, I still thought that a country whose schooling system produces the world’s best doctors, engineers and IT professionals, ought to have more informed individuals. I though an attack on ‘NWAC Board’ was like an attack on me as an individual.

The 3 excerpts from interviews above are my reflex-action to validate Sameer’s claims. And should I say how disappointed I am. It is disappointing to notice how we gather impressions about ‘foreigners’ within minutes of landing on foreign soil. I have seen and met a lot of people who think they can write a book about Germans because they could observe so much during their two-hour transit at Frankfurt Airport. It isn’t uncommon to come across swarms of 40+ middle aged men at Indian dhabas, who know how to counsel and guide almost any student in their vicinity or acquaintance. It’s just that they seem to know so much. We somehow spread the wrong information so easily and without any verification. We don’t realize the kind of impact that it would have on others. We so easily brand things and people as genuine or fake. Oh come on….. I am still to fathom how people who don’t know 10 per cent about the operation and structure of Indian Education System, comment so freely about foreign qualifications. I wish I could confront all of them through a debate platform, as I owe equal allegiance to both US and India, for all practical reasons and purpose.

NWAC Board (and by the way, there are 5 other US Regional Accrediting Agencies) has presence across the globe, and they have done it through a journey of 100 years or so. And I am told that people don’t even spend 100 seconds to verify about its illustrious history and legality. That it was formed by the US Federal Government is enough to justify its status and validity. I urge people to be more informed and objective in their approach. I am sure that the expanding network of NWAC Board in Indian schools would help to educate all a little better.

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