Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Responsibility of Education

Why do we find so many people in our country not satisfied with the state of education? In fact 5 mins ago, I was one of them, I too believed that education is something that should be pristine, unadulterated & of extremely high quality which would actually add some value to our lives. But what is this quality of education & how do we measure it? Is it that the premier institutes are the benchmark for the quality? Can't there be quality of education in terms of degrees of quality?

In a video my Malcolm Gladwell, from TED 2004, he cites an example of Howard Moskowitz, who single handedly changed the way we perceive the customer satisfaction levels from a given product. He said that not all people like the same flavour of products, people have different preferences & companies should cater to these differences of opinions. For instance, sweetness of a cola drink. I like my cola to be less sweeter than the average cola available in the market, some people like it extremely sweet & I am sure there are some people lying in the middle of both these preferences. But does the cola company, who's product we prefer to consume, cater to these differences of preference? I doubt, but they must be, since I dont drink colas, i wouldnt know. But the point is, do all the people/students who choose an institute for educating themselves or even have to attend an institute to educate themselves, really know what quality of education they actually want? In fact if they know what quality of education they want, they will constantly compare the current quality with their previous experience of education at the last institute they had attended. This choice of quality becomes even worse when parents have to choose an institute for their kids. How do they know that the school they want to put their kids into is of a particular quality that they seek, infact what quality threshold
do they actually have & how does it affect their choice?

Do they compare the institute of choice with the really pathetic institutes out there? How do they decide that the institute they have compared is pathetic or excellent? I think it is a really skewed decision, in terms of naivety of the people, when it comes to choosing the right kind of educational institute. They almost always go by the opportunities that the institute might make them available with. An MBA from the IIM's will give them the assurance that they will be in the company of some of the intellectual elite of the nation, or it might open up placement / partnership opportunities for them in the future & so on. So compared to that, a lesser known B-School in some suburb of some town, whose name people wont remember if you told them you are from that place, is this b-school any less better or worse? The problem with this comparison is that the result is always going to be skewed towards the IIM's since they have a consistency in the quality of their output, unlike this B-school. So ultimately, the questions of choice boils down to the quality of people you are going to learn amongst. Again, you visit this institute & you have a dialog with one of their existing students, depending on the responses of that student about his own institute & his personal opinion, you might pull the trigger. So isnt the choice skewed again to the direction of someone else's quality opinion?

Then there are always those articles in the newspapers & leading publications about how the industry is not satisfied with they way the institutes are churning out people with no knowledge & no expertise whatsoever. The real talent crunch that they feel is not because of the institute or the high (supposedly) expectations of the corporates. I think, it is purely because of the way each individual student perceives what education is all about & defines the quality threshold for itself.

What I mean is, it is the student's responsibility that he can make the most of what it gets. If the student would always rely on external factors like, professors, company of classmates, popularity of the institute, location of the institute & so on, the degree of satisfaction from the education received will always vary. But if the student thinks that it its personal responsibility to educate itself, to learn from whichever resources available & to cope with whichever people it meets, I think the whole point of educational institutes being pathetic goes out the window.

I sulked a lot during my graduation for not being at a good institute, not being able to learn to my full potential. In fact sulking had become a way of life for those three years. But along with that I engaged in really nice discussions with my friends, classmates & also learned many things on my own, by reading what my peers at the college werent reading from my field of study. I subconsciously, had decided to educate myself. I did not readily realize it, but I had inherently set a pattern of self education & had taken up the responsibility to learn on my own. Surely whatever doubts that had surfaced, I had visited countless forums on the internet to sort them out, since I was sure, i wasn't the only one who had that doubt. I had taken charge, but I still sulked, since I was fixated on the concept of someone teaching to me, someone had the responsibility to make sure that I get somewhere in my life. I felt it wasnt just a monetary obligation for them to teach me well, but a moral one since it's a teachers duty to teach.

Morality shorality goes out the window, I now realize that every student should think practically towards his own education, surely if the external factors are good, it can benefit the student in more ways than we can think of, but just waiting on things to fall into their places is a sure way to fall back in the race.

Like Tom Cruise's lawyer, Thomas Tipp, in the movie Vanilla Sky tells him at Tom's bday party, "learn to be an asshole, claim your life", obviously the context differs, but thats what you need to be, a little bit of an asshole to accept the fact that its not people who will mold you, ITS YOU.

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