Mass Market of professional education


We had an elderly gentleman come over yesterday to till and sow in the garden outside our home. I wanted to ensure that we paid him as per the norms and started reviewing the Karnataka government gazettes for minimum wages. What surprised me is that the systematic grading of work has not led to a varied wage level. Though the gazette has classified work into ‘Dry’, ‘Wet’ and ‘Garden’ land , it has not actually differentiated the prescribed minimum wage. What’s the point in classifying work if you wont modify the pay as per the complexity of work? Another funny thing I noted was that the wage classification includes regions within the state but the actual prescribed wage does not vary at all! Instead the institution has taken an academic approach to determining the payable wage by providing a Cost of Living index and deciding that the final calculations be made by the employer. Most of the unskilled workers cannot even read/write..so what’s the point in asking for such complex procedures to be followed! Anyways, we finally paid the gentleman 200 rupees for the work he had done ; as per the rules we’d have to pay him 130 rupees and some 20 rupees as allowance.

These events set me to think about the mass market of professional education in India – The market for what often gets classified as ‘professional’ labor. Acquiring a professional education is rarely the same as acquiring the capability to use corresponding professional skills. Historically professional education required people to ‘pay the dues’ and entrance to the professional community was a slow and structured process. Mass Market approach to professional education in India has simply meant a sprawl of professional education institutes that have nothing professional about their approach and their capabilities.

Higher levels of education should limit access to those who have atleast the aptitude or the passion essential for furthering the profession. Unfortunately, what we have today is a system that simply elevates people to their highest level of incompetence. Professional education does not translate into professional aptitude, so what happens when someone gets an M.Tech in Semiconductor technology but lacks the aptitude and intellect required to function efficiently in a related role ?? He pursues an MBA from a ‘free-laptop’ institute!! This is the story of mass-market higher education.

As a kid, I remember people making the assumption that anyone who pursued a Masters in India or abroad was probably more intelligent or capable in that profession. Going to the US for an MS was often considered a sign of higher levels of interest and capability in the profession. Nowadays , if anyone tells me he’s got an MS from US or a Post Graduate degree from UK, I do not even care to consider that as any sign of capability. I know enough about most of these institutions and their approaches to ‘selecting’ their students.

What is the point in having numerous M.Tech holders or for that matter even MBAs in a country where we dont have enough people with professional skills in the vocational areas ? In the past 10 years of my professional life,I have met many MBAs and MTech holders in India who fail the basic test of professional aptitude in their professions. As a nation, I’d rather have 5000 gardeners who know their profession thoroughly well and can execute to perfection , than have 5000 MBAs who are out on the street selling soap, frothing meaningless jargon and fundamentally lacking the attitude and aptitude essential to define and deliver creative cleaning solutions for the nation. The critical chain of professional skills is getting buried under the dynamics of mass market professional education.

There is a saying in India amongst those in their 50s today.. ‘Matriculation of yesteryears was worth more than the Bachelor’s degree today “.. I think that’s quite true because we, as a nation, are addressing the concept of ‘education’ .. But a nation is not built on ‘education ‘ , it is built on capabilities. This is the economics of education – When you flood the market with diluted versions of professional education and sell the professional tags at a discount, sooner or later a higher version of the professional tag will arrive at a premium and provide the same capabilities at a higher price. The eventual result is that we’ll have a nation full of degree holders and ‘true capability building higher education’ that is completely out of bounds for the masses!

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~ by exploreamaze on December 9, 2010.

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