Three degrees of separation

Omar Wani

This is how the conversation goes:

Interviewer: “So, tell us about yourself?”

Job Applicant: “Sir, I am 28 years old. I have completed my B.Com and B. Ed. And am now pursuing my M Ed by distance education.”

Interviewer: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Job Application: “At the top”.

Interviewer: “Top of what?”

Job Applicant: No response

Interviewer: “Have you watched 3-idiots (the film)?”

Job Applicant: “Yes. I think I know what you mean!”

The description is of a typical workplace hiring graduates for office work. The thought of acquiring a degree to get a job is a thought across youngsters who aspire to make a career independent of family business or traditional occupation.

But there is a problem with that- with many young people in their late twenties, even three degrees have not brought them anywhere close to a proper job. The separation is painful: a detailed conversation between our two friends above will lead you to understand a few obvious, but clearly dangerous aspects of course choices people make.

First, many youngster choose courses because of peer pressure. Friends want to hang out together and therefore choose a neutral course that all ‘can understand and clear with a pass mark’.

Second, the objective of the course is stated in the mind only to the level of its completion. A formal cost-benefit or risk-return analysis does not form a part of conversations. Several students don’t know the prospects the courses will lead to. “But the course has to be the one that all employers will accept.
Especially the government.” No wonder B. Ed is such a favourite option.

Three, the emergence of career counselling and placement cells within colleges is at a nascent stage. JK BOSE and other regulatory bodies should consider placing such cells at the Secondary School level – especially in the cities, hence, leading to students making informed choices about the subjects they choose in higher secondary school.

The basic scorecard of the education system in our state is flawed. The numbers that progress are comparisons between gender, around what papers were easier – Science or Maths, or even which region is down better. But these numbers are merely an outcome of an education system that still works around books designed in the 1980s (if not before).

The scorecard for a successful system should ideally determine the relevance of courses to today’s world.

Remember readers, we are not here to chase literacy averages; we should instead focus on preparing students in schools for the ‘Education for Life’.

The education for life will cover – one that the individual carries an independent mind, and therefore has a right to identify his or her interest in what he or she wants to do. Leading out of that, enable the student with information and knowledge of the field, at an introductory level, so he or she gains interest and furthers that as the classes graduate.

Two, counselling and placement cells will then have a more relevant and challenging role to play. They will not commit the traditional ‘sell to student what is available’ mistake. They will instead learn the specific requirements of ‘professionals in making’ and make available to them the range of learning and work opportunities which will go beyond geographical limitations.

Having relooked and worked around this, the University interventions will then revolve around letting the individual form their personalities: framing vision of the world, creating opinions, and leading a life full of choices, without limitations.

A greater frustration has set in among youth who have already pursued one or two or even three degrees because of the lack of clarity on where so much knowledge will finally taken them. It is more shocking to learn that pursuing neutral courses don’t really carry any value in the wide arena called the job market, unless of course someone clears the NET and applies for fellowship or becomes a Lecturer.

The policy makers’ complaint that there is a huge gap between employment and employability is justified. But living with the gap would mean accepting inefficiencies and relying on contingencies – for which we are known never to plan.

The voice of youth has to be recognized and addressed through change. A new scorecard around relevant parameters that recognize an advanced world full of technology, innovation, a flatter world and emerging systems that equip 16 year olds to fly planes will in place bring the Kashmiri young closer to leaving a mark. Banihal, in 2011, should become irrelevant as a symbolic door ‘to the outside world’.


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