Hundreds of students and academicians from some of the top educational institutes in the United States gathered at Yale University last Friday to witness a Hindi debate on 'Uchch Shiksha Deti Kam Aur Leti Zyada' (Higher Education Is Not Worth It). The participants were mostly Americans and non-Indians.
The universities that participated included Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, New York University, Wesleyan University, Wellesley College, UT Austin, University of California Los Angles, University of Pennsylvania and University of Texas.
"The fluency of the non-Indian students was amazing. They may not have used very formal, Sankritised Hindi, but their Hindi was quite good," said Seema Khurana, senior lecturer of South Asia Studies at Yale University.
The annual Yale Hindi debate competition began in 2009 with the efforts of Nikhil Sud, an undergraduate student. "That year, just 12 Yale students participated. Today, we have 11 universities of the US participating," said Khurana.
Nicholas Titelbaum of Yale University, one of the winners, who began learning Hindi just a few months ago, spoke against the motion. "Uchch shiksha leti kam aur deti bahut zyada hai," he said, adding that his grandfather once worked in a butcher's shop but later joined the navy and then went to college.
His grandmother, while raising five children, went to college and became a doctor. Thus, his family members went on from being butchers to doctors and engineers within just three generations - all because of higher education.
Other students who spoke for the motion gave the examples of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Dhirubhai Ambani, who - even though they didn't have any higher education degree - were extremely successful in life.
They also mentioned the burden of educational loans and the high rate of unemployment amongst college graduates, stating that higher education cannot guarantee a job.
On being asked whether an Indian university would be invited to take part in the debate, Khurana said: "Interesting question. I haven't had the chance to look into this. But right now, we are trying to see how best to include other places in the United States."