Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Education....are we going in the right direction...

Yesterday, I overheard my Mom say that one of my cousins joined the BBA course in some college in Chennai. The moment I heard it I knew he had made a mistake, he should have at least given me a call considering I did the same mistake 6 years back. But isn't that like a fashionable degree nowadays that can guarantee you an awesome placement, you may ask? Well it was fashionable 6 years back when i took it, would have been so maybe 10 years back when they first started it and will be, quite frankly, in the coming years as well. The course is meant for this world, it creates the most perfect specimens of the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none' model.

The first thing I noticed when i received my final mark sheet, was the number of subjects that we had to go through,I actually counted 37 subjects...yes 37 subjects were taught to us in a span of 3 years. Man, I cant even recollect the names of these subjects now, so forget what was taught in them. And in the 2 years I worked, I can safely guarantee that I must have hardly put in practice 2-3 ideas mentioned in the textbooks of those 37 subjects. And this being a so-called 'Management' / 'Understanding how an Organisation functions' course. No wonder most of my friends from college have quit their initial corporate jobs and have ventured into fields like yoga training, photography, tour coordinator, wildlife enthusiast, or civil services in my case.

 But that's the case with every course you can argue. There are people who have done their engineering and are into film-making,(lots..mind you), Commerce graduates who are radio jockeys, Bio-Tech grads who are project leads in a finance firm. People do their degrees and later find the jobs of their liking and move on, that's life right?? No! If that was the case, why waste those precious 3-4 years of your youth studying something that you will never utilise in you professional career?

Most of us make a choice of entering into the commerce/arts/science streams just after we finish our 10th boards. This compartmentalisation is supposed to decide what we do with the rest of our lives. (Few of them do change their streams in college, but it just gets more tougher for them)We take this decision based on some fantasy job that each of us must have been dreaming from our childhood...maybe to be a doctor, lawyer, actor..whatever, some of us even get into any class just because our friends are there...but can you imagine a 16-year old to plan for and take decisions on the career path he wants to follow for the next 40 years! Most of our counterparts in other countries would have just started out on algebra then or maybe working out simple equations.

But then how else can this be worked out? We will have to take that decision at some point. I am one who thinks education has to be slow and at a pace a student is comfortable with not what the system demands off the student. In the west, there is a practice of high-school students to take off for a year to explore the world they live in and based on their experiences they decide what they want to do in college. Now it's two things here, firstly they are to make a career decision only after they pass out on high school( the avg age then would be 18-19) and some of them take a year off after that to decide. And as far as I know, there is no bogey-travel education there, students can choose any subject from the arts, science or commerce streams. So in a sense, they have 2-3 more years of life experience and varied knowledge than us before taking crucial career decisions. And 2-3 years at that critical juncture is valuable deciding time.

Again, coming to Undergraduate education, the average period for completing a degree in our country is 3 years. That is 37 subjects in 3 years (at least in my case). In the west its usually 4 years, there was a study that said 57% of four year degrees are actually completed only in six years time,but that's a different issue altogether. So that's one more year of preparation before you enter the 'cut-throat' job market. Will that help?Maybe it will, if lesser subjects are taught in a more meaningful ways then it definitely would. And Post-graduation, phew, how can a 23 year old fresh MBA grad be given a management level post at any organisation without ever stepping into one before in his life. It happens only in our country. Work experience, a minimum of 4 years, has to be made compulsory for such courses. Just imagine the discussions in a work-ex completed Organisational behavior class with the same in a fresher MBA class.

So if all we were to do was to take our education at a slower pace and give the kids more time to decide what they want to do, why hasn't it been done yet? In our country where each of us compete against 1.2 billion people,we just don't have the time. My dad cannot wait to retire and end his corporate struggle, so he wants me to finish studies soon and start working. My dad is freaked out by the fact that if I don't give my entrance exam this year the competition will increase exponentially the next year. My dad cant afford to let his son/daughter take a year off from their studies because kids of his colleagues have already purchased textbooks for the next course. To put it in plain and simple words, we just don't have time. Every year I wait, it just gets tougher for me.

But we can change this. Small steps at a time. For starters, we have to end this ‘bogey-travel’ education system. A student should be allowed to take the subjects he wants in his 11th and 12th standard. I liked Indian Polity, but since I chose the Commerce stream I could never explore the option of studying Political Science in school and now it’s too late. This should never happen. A student can always take a Bio, Maths or Accountancy that would fetch him a sure shot job, but he should be given the option to explore other options as well! And as a parent if you can afford to let your child take a year off from studies after high school, let him do it. Let him explore the world he lives in and then decide on his career path based on his experiences. Let him pursue his passion and I’m sure he will do it passionately (that does sound like a cheesy T-shirt line). It’s better that the kid is confused at this stage rather than after 3-4 years when he realizes that he has gone down the wrong path.

So all those who have gone through the grind, and feel that it shouldn't have been this way, please do let me know. Any feedback on our education system has to be brought up and discussed so that the coming generations don't go through the same grind. Change is always slow and rewarding, wish our education was as well.