Thursday, 4 December 2014

Do traditional courses offered by colleges in India equip students for life?

In times when the gap between skill sets provided by traditional courses to students and the skill sets actually required by employers keeps growing, it has become pertinent to question the validity and appropriateness of such courses. Take for example the traditional B.A. Pass or the B.Sc. General courses offered by colleges, these courses which are traditional in nature would perhaps never equip the graduate for a job in sales or even public relations. Take another example, does a B.A. (Hons.) degree in English equip a graduate to work in a call-centre? I guess, a student of high school, who is fluent in spoken English might not even require a degree in English to be skilled enough to take up a job in a call center! A school education that provides for ample opportunities of spoken skills in the form of debates, speeches, elocution, and JAM sessions might be all that is required for a job in a call-centre! So then is the expense for a college degree course in English and the time spent to acquire the degree worth, especially for a person who is interested in joining a call-centre? The answer, unfortunately, is a harsh, No! So then, why did the student who wanted to join a call-centre waste three years in order to acquire a degree in English from a college? The answer is probably that he wanted a paper degree, a validation that is required by the society. In many cases, it is the industry's requirement that the incumbent job-seeker should a graduate! The fact is that while a traditional degree puts the stamp of being a ‘Graduate’, on the person, it doesn’t necessarily equip him for a job that requires job-specific skills. So then what does someone who has scored very high marks in his Graduation in English, but has poor conversational skills do if he wants to join a call-centre? Some of my students who achieved very good marks in their B.A. Pass course or B.A. (Hons.) course in English did call me asking for help in enhancing their spoken skills. Having joined a school in Gurgaon and being at a distance from them who were in Delhi, I could only suggest that they speak to themselves in front of a mirror, and when they were done, I suggested that they join the British School of Languages. As a teacher at the Senior Secondary School level of English, I felt at a loss because the syllabus at the school level is focussed more on the theoretical component and thus, it promotes rote memorization. Rote memorization enables students to get the required marks to join a traditional degree course but does not, in any case, equip them for a job in a call centre. One of my suggestions to such students to join an English language certificate course at the British Council in Delhi!
An interesting case in my case was that after I had acquired my Masters in English, I went on to do a one year post graduate Diploma Course in Journalism,  from the YMCA Centre For Mass  Media, Delhi, which I felt would would equip me for a job as a Journalist. What happened next was that I appeared for the entrance test for the B.Ed. course offered by The Delhi University. I got selected and then went on to do my B.Ed., followed by my M.Ed. from the same institute, known famously as The Central Institute of Education. What marked my education at C.I E. was the research skills that were developed in me. It was while I was doing my Masters in Education that I was offered the post of a Post Graduate teacher in a Government School in Delhi. I went on to serve the school for seventeen years, but then decided that I had enough of a job that didn’t offer much in the form of professional development. Today, I am grateful for the skill sets that my education in the Centre For Mass Media had offered, and the research skills that I had developed as a student of the Masters’ level (My thesis paper at the Master’s Level was titled, ‘Task Analysis Techniques in the Development of Instructional units for Grade Nine, and excerpt of which exists to this day on Google!). Today however, the exponential growth of the number of institutions offering the B.Ed. degree, a necessity for a job in a school as a teacher has resulted in a lowering of the quality of skill sets imparted to future teachers. A large number of the graduates produced by these institutions however find it difficult to cope with actual day requirements of the job in schools. A large number of these graduates continue to struggle as teachers, and many find it difficult to cope with the demanding environment of some of the progressive schools. The fact of the matter is that a large number of the institutions that provide professional degrees like those required to teach in a school do not equip their graduates for jobs in schools!
This brings me to the question of whether the traditional degree courses followed by many of my students really equipped my students for a professional life? The answer is a straightforward, No! These students had to do a Diploma or Certificate course aligned to their professional aspirations in order to equip them for the job that they had aimed for. Another question that crops up in my mind is whether it was worth the time an money joining a graduate course at the graduate level! The answer, again is an emphatic, No! The three years that the students had been a waste of three whole years. They could have started in their jobs earlier, and they could have built up a portfolio of experience which was worth more than the  money and time they had spent in acquiring a college degree. A strong proof of the uselessness of doing a traditional full time graduation course is that some of the most successful professionals that I know didn’t even do a full time degree course in college. At the most, they did a correspondence course to get a paper degree stamp of being a graduate, and all the while they did a Diploma or a Certificate course, in a year or so, and went on to enter a profession well before the mandatory three years were over. A sad fact is that a large number of my students joined a B.Sc. Degree course in one of the Science streams and then they went on to join jobs that didn’t require an understanding of salt analysis or even Newton’s third law of motions. What a waste of time I’d tell them to spend all those hours in the laboratory, only to become sales executives!
Was it therefore, worth the expense and the time doing a traditional graduate course at the college level? No, it wasn’t! Did college education equip the incumbents with twenty-first century skills? The answer again, unfortunately is an emphatic, No! Isn’t it therefore time that universities and colleges aligned their courses to suit the needs of the time? The answer to this question is an emphatic yes. There is a strong need to re-align the courses to the need to equip the students for a professional life. In times when the economic implications of spending a lot of money and time in acquiring a degree at the graduate level is concerned, it is simple not worth all the trouble in going for a college degree, prestige apart! So then what should colleges and universities do to make their graduate programs successful? Well I personally feel that they need to cater to the times – develop competency  based skills in their learners, develop research skills, the ability to solve problems, and most important of all equip learners for real life situations, to justify the expense and time spent on the courses, and to make their learners successful professionals.Colleges and Universities need to make their courses economically viable in times when the efficacy of the course is measured in terms of the income that the learner would earn after having graduated. What matters today is that these colleges cater to learning outcomes that are tailored to support, and provide skill sets that are meaningful to employers! The fact of the matter is that college education does not today cater to the requirements of competency based education or CBE! In contrast to the traditional courses offered by colleges in India are the slew of MOOCs or Massive Online Courses being offered today. The popularity of MOOCs lies in the fact that these online courses seek to address the gaps that exist in education at the higher level! The potential of MOOCs lies in their ability to bridge the widening gap between traditional education after school and the demands of the workforce at the industry level!

1 comment:

  1. Good post! I am also going to write a blog post about this... thanks 

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