Tuesday, May 18, 2010

education or experience?

I consider R to be one of my closest mates in Blore. She is a women of substance with immense life experience below her belt and is someone who has consciously stayed away from the main stream and the rat race.

The above statement implies, that she choose to not undertake a structured route of formal education, learning her way in life from experiences and self reading, as skills she is a photographer, an excellent child counseller, an artist, potter and a crochet designer.

As we sat and spoke I was asking myself the question. What is the importance that I as an individual place on Education? As an Indian, I have been doctrined to believe that education maketh the man, degrees secure your future and the having the name of certain institutes on your resume gives you credibility.


If someone was to tell me that they have graduated from an IIM, I would mentally classify the person with a certain level of intelligence and his/her entry barricades to most commercial opportunities would be easier. But casting the “degree” value aside, what did my education provide me?

These are the degrees that I have.

  • ·         A graduation in B.Com (Hons) from Jesus and Mary College, DU
  • ·         An LL.B from Faculty of Law, DU
  • ·         A certification in Yoga, from Sivananda and Bihar School
  • ·         MBTI accreditation
  • ·         Misc courses in Transaction anaylsis, pranic healing, reiki, some other spiritual courses.

A lot of paper is what the above translates into. In my job today, as a consultant there is no use what so ever of even one of these courses. Yet what the above permits me to do is only ONE thing; lets me gain a semblance of immediate credibility in front of any client that I may be interacting with… But is that enough of a value add given that I spent nearly SEVE N years getting this knowledge? I wonder.

As a teenager, there was no questioning the fact that I would go to college. Amongst the list of givens, that Indian students have a Graduation and a Post Grad are assumed we all shall be doing.  The only choice remains what we choose to graduate in.

Sadly, this too is often not a choice, as much as a cocktail of events ranging from, your marks, the cut offs that the colleges decide, the depth of capitation fee you may be willing to pay, the desperation to secure your future and the commercial viability of the course balanced very lopsidedly against the “passion/desire” to study a particular stream

Result – Often the routes of Higher Education are chosen, not from a sense of ACQUIRING LEARNING, or a pursuit of KNOWLEDGE; but a means to secure a stable future. Perfect, no problem with that at all.
Yet, this attitude somehow ensures that the doctors, or the engineers that come from these colleges, are not driven to really pursue their fields. Recently, governmental medical colleges have made it mandatory for each doctor to spend 2 years in rural projects or pay Rs 2,00,000 and escape, guess what route is being chosen?
What is the point of this blog post? A reflection more than anything else for me to list down what I have got from my education.

- ---     in the Indian context an easier route to establishing credibility
----      7 years of SCREENING- Under the guise of “I am a student” both as a graduate and a law student, I got years to explore and dabble in several activities that today defines me in some manner. It permitted me to read Freud, or to try and understand Keats, to smuggle into the Economics class and appreciate something about Keynes points of view, to enter training and from the tit-bit conversations of people around me expand my threshold of curiousity

But then a nagging question worries me, would I have not sought this out for myself even if I was not in college? I have left formal education 5 years back, 3 of the degrees mentioned above were self acquired for no reason but the desire to do them.

In which case? What is this craze for education/degree gathering about? From my circle of successful  friends and family,  it would be immensely difficult for me to cherry pick even 2 people whose work is linked to the education that they did.

But here is the tricky part, despite intellectually appreciating the above. Would I as a HR manager, hire someone with the correct attitude, maybe even relevant experience but with no graduation certification. Even if I did, would the organization I was hiring for (i) agree to keep him on the rolls and (ii) permit him/her to rise to the highest level within the business.

Maybe not.

But maybe it would be good to survey and see how many of the Ambanis, the Gates, the Bransons, or the Jobs are “educated” in the limited term of being degree holders or how many of them are truly “experienced” in terms of making the world go as per their demands.

Between a well certified college ivy league professional and a person with the most diverse stories of life experiences that are shared in a calm voice by a hastily lit bonfire, I hope I have the wisdom to consistently choose to live with the latter.