Wednesday, 23 May 2012

People of Indian origin in Europe choose prestigious courses like law, medicine and engineering, and their decisions are influenced by the family’s caste status, even if they are miles away from sub-continent

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: People of Indian origin in Europe choose
prestigious courses like law, medicine and engineering, and their
decisions are influenced by the family’s caste status, even if they
are miles away from sub-continent.

“A high caste status can be a motivation killer. Belonging to a high
caste can have a negative influence on children’s academic ambitions
and performance. The family’s status sometimes gives children an
excuse to lean back a bit and put in less effort at school than their
classmates, as they have already “made it”. Parents may fail to
motivate their children to pursue sought-after careers such as law,
medicine and engineering as they look to past glories rather than the
future,” says researcher Mariann Stærkebye Leirvik.

Leirvik, who works at The Norwegian Police University College,
conducted the research work on people of Indian and Pakistani origin,
at the University of Oslo, Norway. The study was published by

Marte Dæhlen, assisting editor at, told this
correspondent that the caste system also affects their position in
local minority communities and what subjects their Norwegian-born
children decide to study.

The study revealed that the families of Indian and Pakistani origin
fail to realise that their caste status is of little value in Europe.
They continue living their lives as if their high position in the
caste hierarchy is a guarantee for a prosperous future.

Leirvik calls this a “Don Quixote effect”. The term refers to the
classic novel in which a middle-aged man’s obsessive reading of
chivalry books makes him see the world as if he were a knight.

Stating that a high caste status can also be a resource, she said
several of the interviewed young adults said high-caste families care
most about castes after settling in Europe. “In some of these
families, the high caste status is used as a motivational drive for
their children: they are encouraged to study prestigious subjects to
live up to and validate the family’s status. Unlike those hit by the
Don Quixote effect, these families have accepted that the value of
their caste background is greatly reduced here,” she added.

The go-getters in school are from lower caste families, and that they
are better integrated than high-caste youths. She found that not all
daughters of Indian and Pakistani immigrants are allowed to go on to
higher education. “People from low castes have this extra drive as
they have the opportunity to break with the social structure of their
home country,” she said.

The research study found that for many people of Indian origin,
studying political science is a “luxury”. Several of the young adults,
who participated in the research, said getting a vocational education
with good prospects for employment is essential as they are
second-generation immigrants and their parents struggled to find jobs.

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