Very common here in India too. At least when I was studying it was all about, "Get your kid to do Engineering/Medicine and then every thing will take care of itself".
There is a big reason for this. Uneducated people get played for easily and there is that huge disadvantage in non-knowledge driven based jobs. Take for example the job of a cab/bus driver. Or some body like mason, the problem the money you earn is directly related to number or hours/quantity of work you get delivered. And since quantity is largely related to a physical activity in this case. It means you will do a lot of physical labor to earn more money. This is not scalable and becomes blatantly clear to a lot of people involved in this. Add to this that these kinds of jobs don't get much social respect.
My dad was a bus driver. And I know what it was for me as a kid. It was always to study my ass off or be doomed. And yes all other standard social problems apply. You are always considered poor and assumed to remain such till eternity. No one likes knowing that he being a educated white collar knowledge worker, his kids and the kids of a bus driver ultimately get the same destiny. I even had problems getting married. Coming from a low financial background creates big problems. People find it hard to accept if you win, and pass sympathies if you don't.
So the only way remains: Study and fight your way out of the situation.
My teenage through early 20's was the most stressful phase of my life. Because failure was not an option. No money to do business, So if I fail it will going back to same life.
I'm not saying life is rosy as a programmer. It has its own problems both financial and in other aspects of life. But yet its far better than what I saw in early parts of my life(Nothing I will tell you, can explain you what it feels to be in that place- I only hope no other kid goes through that). I don't feel sad that I can't buy an iPhone. But rather its satisfying to know I don't have break my back just to eat, wear clothes and live under a roof.
Its still same here in India for a large number of people. Education and a white collar job doesn't fix all problems. But it does fix enough problems in your life to make it livable.
I can relate to this. I was the eldest of six children and my father worked in an Aluminium fabrication factory. Things were pretty hard and early on, I realized that the only way to change things was to study hard, get to a good college and earn a degree.
Although I was a really good student at school, when I finished school, I was told by my extended family that it was the end of education for me and that I should go find a job (Masonry, construction, etc.)
I had to work hard to convince everybody that I would do well at college and they should bet on me.
Looking back, my family did make a risky bet on me as the amount of money they spent on my college education was way above what they could afford and they had to borrow a lot.
I worked my socks off at college and have been able to change a lot of things in my extended family.
>> Nothing I will tell you, can explain you what it feels to be in that place- I only hope no other kid goes through that ..
I can understand what you're trying to say, the problems, issues and challenges are on so many levels and there are so many layers that unless you experience it yourself there is no way you can put words to it ...
- first of all, parents are uneducated and to motivate them to educate their kids is the biggest challenge of all ...
- then double it with lack of resources (this includes time, money, energy, good schools, good teachers etc.)
- triple this with no free schooling in india, not even primary , there may be few government schools which are like good for nothing (although there might be an exception like one in million)
- then there is peer pressure for parents whose kids are not earning but spending time in school.
- then there is huge corruption and bureaucracy
- then there are other family responsibilities like getting your sister married (when u dont even have money for your kids school fees or even worst when you cant provide proper food, clothing and shelter) OR taking care of your elderly parents when you cant afford medicines OR someone died in the family and you have to burden the burial cost etc etc etc..
And the list goes on and on.....
SO I SALUTE to all those parents who won uphill battle by going against the tide and made sure that their kids are well educated ...
One of the very interesting aspects of Indian culture is that there is (or used to be) a very high social respect for a "well-educated" person. So if you have a PhD, then even if you don't make a ton of money, you get the same social status as a wealthy businessman. I don't know why this is so, but it has led to nearly everyone desiring their children to have a better education than they did and escape from the grips of poverty.
There is a paragraph in Richard Feynman's "What do you care what other people think?" where a carribean cab driver asks Feynman how is it that his Indian neighbor (presumably of the same economic standing) has a son studying medicine at Maryland? Which is when Feynman explains this hypothesis.
There are still parts of India where there is tremendous social respect for "well educated" people. This can be easily seen if you observe Matrimonial ads. It would be clearly mentioned that people are looking for someone with college degrees, post graduate degrees etc.
On a tangential, I have always found matrimonial ads a very interesting mirror on the Indian society. The way these ads show people's ambitions and fears is amazing.
I think China has an advantage here. While most Chinese have only one (or maximum two) children to support, the average number of children is higher in India. It chinese parents can afford to spend more money per child on education and I think on the long term this will result in a higher education for the average person.
That's a good point, but I think that present advantage will turn against China later on when all those only children find themselves having to support two elderly parents, a situation permeating the society on a massive scale.
As they say, China's the first country to "get old before it got rich".