Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Educated, but Unemployed

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” - Will Durant
I have pondered over this subject for the last few years without reaching a rational conclusion. Surely, the educated peoples of the world are the architects of the future. On the other hand, traditional methods of teaching are unable to hold the fort against a rapidly evolving realm. Let me digress. My manager (a proven professional) lamented on the inefficiencies of fresh graduates. The raison d'être of the theory was strongly (and controversially) backed by the propaganda that tutors (at these colleges) were guilty of being ignorant to corporate norms, and specifically quoting that “lecturers would remain lecturers for the rest of their lives.” A recent introspection by a KPMG consultant seemed to justify the above statement.

It is clearly debatable on the lines of our “tried and tested” mode of education. Professors and lecturers have always been highly regarded in our society for various reasons. The most important thing being that they were the “cream of the crop” on the education ladder. Inarguably, teaching is a highly noble profession, and the stalwarts ensure an important contribution to society. But where are we losing it?

“Education... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” - G. M. Trevelyan

Reiterating Mohit Chandra’s article (An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Classes), the issues with our system have been there forever. Our culture demands unthinking compliance with the orthodoxies set in concrete by our elders (I, for my part, have posed far too many uncomfortable questions to my elders – with due respect). Eventually, the latter part of our collegial education cannot reset the habituation that society had done in our incubation.

Moreover, we have an educational system that has a fixation with process rather than significance, and theoretical explanations over practical insights. We condemn and discourage “thinking out of the box” as riotous. I recently read an article that humorously defamed our communication skills. Our regional languages are important, and every student has to learn his native language. But, we are not China yet and cannot rid English from our diet. I’ve been warned by relatives (thankfully, my parents didn’t think on the same lines) that reading an “English novel” or watching an “English movie” would corrupt my mind.

At the deep end of the rat-race, academics are of highest priority. Students are undermined on the basis of a few test scores and the bigger lessons of attitude and ethics are compromised. Recently, Ernst and Young asked executives all over the world if they would pay a bribe to retain business. Globally, 15% of surveyed executives said they would. But in India, 28% said they were ready to bribe for business (India performed worst).

The headline in today’s newspaper was surprising, but honestly not unexpected. One-tenth of our graduates are unemployed (specifically 9.4% of our graduates & 10% of our post-graduates).

In India, the illiterate are the poorest, and the poorest simply cannot afford to be unemployed, so they do some work, even if they are under-employed, explains a new research.

When faced with a proposition of being unemployed at the end of my incomplete engineering degree, my choices were limited. To get a job; be financially-independent or rue my failures. It meant working shifts, and compromising on watching movies or partying in the evenings, so be it. And I managed to build a career out of it. Eventually the work that I do has no correlation with my four-year engineering degree. The parameters are stipulated; Good communication skills (I sometimes wonder if my language has waned over a period of time), reasoning ability, and a boisterous defiance. The one notable thing with over-qualified folk is that the employment options are narrowed down to a drizzle. A batch mate of mine who couldn’t beat the amazon of examinations decided to start his own firm, and has been highly successful at it (he has started his own web designing/development firm; surprisingly the university didn’t deem him fit for similar academic subjects).

It was highly hilarious to read about the person who had outrageously bamboozled two major corporations over a 5-year stint with forged documents, and worked himself a hefty pay-check. Eventually he did get caught (after marital discord - hell hath no fury like a woman scorned) but the bigger point is that he would have never been hired for these companies otherwise. Talent wasted due to an incorrigible scholastic labyrinth. Education is important, but it shouldn't be restricted to glorious academics. There has always been some other incorporated values that get you further in life. And you can always look so far as a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates to prove that theory right.

“No man who worships education has got the best out of education... Without a gentle contempt for education no man's education is complete.” - Gilbert K. Chesterton


  1. An enlightening and entertaining post! Brings to mind Mark Twain's famous quip: 'I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.'

  2. There needs to be a change in the corporate world/or the so called MNC's were Lakhs of "EXAMINED" youth of India try for a job.
    When the corporates themselves keep cut off's and also have written exams to be qualified for a job, education system alone cannot be blamed. You have landed a job which had nothing to do with the 4 year engineering, neither do I apply any Integration/differentiation in my work, but what has made us land in these careers is that 1 certificate "ENGINEER".

  3. Point Taken in your case more than mine :)