Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Education, Knowledge and Degrees

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Recent appointment of Ms. Smriti Irani as Minister of HRD initiated a nationwide criticism of PM to appoint a High-school graduate as Minister of HRD. I do not want to go into the debate whether Ms. Irani is suitable for this complex portfolio or any experienced one should have been appointed.

My point of contention is why a high-school graduate cannot be a good leader. Why a high-school graduate cannot learn the nitty-gritty of one of the most important ministries. Does it mean, to understand problems and issues of higher education, you need to be a graduate or post-graduate or a doctorate. HRD covers all aspects of education in the country including technical and other higher education streams. With the logic given by most of the critics, there should be at least 5-6 ministers of HRD for each main stream of education handled by ministry of HRD. To formulate policies for technical education, Minister should be a BTech/BE or MTech and so on.

All these discussions has raised few questions::

Is a degree a certificate of our knowledge, skills or capabilities?

Why we need more education after high-school?

Why graduation is so prestigious in India?

What should we expect from 14-16 years of education till high-school?

Who can we call an educated person?

This is the time, when we should find answers to these questions.  This is the time when we should define the meaning and importance of an academic degree. This is right time to define the purpose of education. This is the time to define the outcomes of the education at different levels.

In my view, education till high-school is essential and these years of education should not only give enough knowledge to understand the world but also give skills to take decisions, think critically and solve problems. Above all, this education should make a person amicable, who can respect different opinions, who can sympathize with others, who holds peace and humanity supreme. Academic knowledge is must but life skills cannot be ignored at these founding years. Once our schools start imparting this wholesome education, we will produce responsible and capable citizens. We will not have to wait for graduation or post-graduation to start a living, and by start a living, I mean by choice and not by force. We will not look up to government to create jobs;  we will create jobs for ourselves. I do not discourage graduation or higher education but that should be for specialization, specialization in some subject or technology. We indeed need scholars and scientists but this way we can reduce the pressure on students, education system and government.
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Let us put efforts to remove the status and prestige associated with degrees. Let’s remove the awe factor attached to degrees. Rather, we should respect the work done by the person; we should value the capability and contribution of individual irrespective of degree he/she holds.

Krishan B Chandak
MD, Pivotal