An Honest Attempt in….Tomfoolery

Education never gets old and never does the discussion on its effect, on the minds of people who seek it. It is and will probably always be “in fashion”. People receive it in different ways, though. Some treat it as a bandwagon and some take a conscious effort into becoming aware citizens. . But if there ever was an iota of truth – everyone is keener to achieve an end goal but “the act of learning” is almost always sacrificed.

Over the years, citizens, institutions (profit-centered or otherwise) and governments have ensured that the upcoming generations are equipped to receive education. These entities are mainly guided by the metrics they are measured with. Governments disseminate education to “showcase” their own capability and be counted among the top governing groups. Other institutions seem to serve their own objective based on which they ever began to exist in the first place. And we, the citizens, are wont in addressing our own social and peer pressures.

Getting “educated” is a common occurrence likened to a natural phenomenon of witnessing sunrise – but “learning”? Talk about an elusive goal!

Now, let me throw some facts on the results of current approach to education (reproduction from analyses done by Lant Pritchett’s recent book and work done by Center for Global Development):

  1. An average Haitian or a Bangladeshi had more years of schooling in 2010 than an average Frenchman or an Italian in 1960.
  2. Population of labour force age in developing world (reproduced more for lucidity of our discussion) has now completed 3 times more years of schooling than in 1950, when 60% of the labour force had no schooling at all.

And back home..

  1. Between 2007 and 2011, India increased expenditure on elementary education by 80%, but average learning outcomes reported by ASER surveys[1]  have slightly declined.

May I venture a guess at the risk of being wrong? A lot of it seems to be influenced by the common expectation from education institutions of making students ready for immediate employability. Aren’t organizations themselves responsible for that? When did that ever become the core agenda of an education institute?

“Oh, but the economy is run by organizations and they are entitled to get a ready resource from an education institute! Otherwise what are they there for?”

So, doesn’t this undermine  the way in which organizations have trained its workforce in the past?

Should not our “on the job” training assume more importance than putting this seemingly “pressurized goal” on our educational institutes? And how will they ever keep up with the pace with which these organizations work?

How about this: ensure every student gets the basic education (writing, reading, forming thoughts, science, history, economics, sociology, technology and the like) right on the dot and let organizations take it forward and train these students the way they want to? This training could be through other specialized institutions.blackboard-lightbulb-300x200

I am saying this because so often the employees in organizations have had a “water cooler chat” in which they openly agree that they are not using their complete education in the work they do. If that is the case then why do we even waste our efforts in acquiring knowledge that too for which we are tested and rated, and aren’t even  applying?

“Oh, but then what about the specialized skills in engineers and we need MBAs, come on!”

I have seen and experienced the services that people with these specialized skills bring to the table. Sometimes, they don’t even match the elementary standards set by schools (or actually which is presumed to be set by schools). Considering the number of years I have spent in a corporate environment, it will suffice to get a task done with the help of individuals who have obtained solid foundational education till high schools. Beyond that, something else governs the development of the careers of individuals, which is tough to define and more to experience!

Can we just focus on getting the basic standard of education right first and increase the “learning outcomes”?

In any case, I am just fooling around…. or am I?

Note: This blog was largely influenced by a recent podcast at Econtalk.org (http://www.econtalk.org/archives/_featuring/lant_pritchett/)

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By Tarun Abhichandani

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5 thoughts on “An Honest Attempt in….Tomfoolery

  1. 1. Think about the end state (or even mid-career state) for those that got into schools and colleges and grad schools to “learn” vs. those that got in to get trained to get a job. Does our country offer salaries / position / perks / social standing for scientists and researchers as it does for VPs and CEOs of private firms?
    2. Also factor in that no matter how much our schools educate, a lot of “learning” happens at home. If your father, uncles, brothers etc have made their money by Eng + MBA + Bank = Success formula or High School + Business + Contacts/Jugaad = Success formula, what will you be inspired to do? Learn or earn? No coincidence that the two words differ only by the leading letter 🙂

  2. Learning is only about civilising people’s minds but unfortunately in this age, where businesses dictate everything incl. societal values, learning is all about L-EARN-ing.
    Pretty depressing affair indeed.

    On MBA, you should read Prof. Mintzberg’s book “Managers not MBAs.” You will see the pernicious impact of over rationalisation of everything incl. life itself. Intuition and feelings come a distant loser. It will only result in Enron, Wall Street crash and so on.

  3. i think you are hitting the nail on the head. Our current approach to education, which seems to be geared to passing tests and showing marks, is falling way short of accomplishing a mindset of rational thinking. It needs to be re-visited.

  4. Current education does not prepare anyone for the fast changing world we live in. Am sick of hearing the MBA jargon which goes for knowledge these days. Am worried that all these formative years of our children are spent in rote learning and focused on creating drones for the current job market. One size fits all is the educational mindset.

  5. if you were to look at the other side, would you or i as say potential entrepreneurs have the courage or innovative DNA to hire people who are not say ‘educated’ as per the norm? would we put out recruitment notices stating need people who did not learn by rote …i mean the solution to issue if any at all, by far is how employers look at recruitment procedure, I am hopeful that many new entrepreneurs would go ahead and take a leap of faith in giving opportunity to talent than degrees, but we are still far away from getting there. End of the day all of us want to play safe by going by hiring degree holders and very few want to experiment; as ironic as that sounds. I believe if were to move away from the idea of a job or a career and adapt newer benchmarks such as say happiness or contentment may be there is hope on the horizon.

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