Higher Education for all: Blessing or Curse

Education, the word that makes this article possible. It’s one of the greatest gift human’s possesses, it standardizes common practices, it enables people to think far and big; in a single word it’s what drives an economy. The world knows and agrees education is important but sometimes we become so biased and relaxed with what is assumed to be the norm we fail to deliberate on an issue and fail to make it better and that’s what I will try to do. I shall begin by saying that I am for pro-education for all person, living in a third world country where still millions of people are uneducated, I have seen through my very own eyes what education does to a person’s outlook, his ability and more importantly to the society in and around him. Education as a single instrument can be the cause of upliftment for an entire economy, the developed nations of the world as we know such as Germany and Japan is built on a solid foundation of knowledge and skills which is obtained through education. So, there is no denying the far reaching impacts of education on a society and this basic fact in known to all of us. The problem that I wanted to emphasize is very India specific, it affect our country more than any developing nation. As we already know we are a developing economy with thousands of people uneducated and living under poverty. The education system of India is still in a developing stage with many of the people being first generations of school and college goers. The reason why I say that education in India is very different can be explained by the following reasons.

Population

India has one of the largest populations in the world which in turn has both the good as well as the bad side to it. Good in a sense that a large young populations means a larger number of work force being available to drive the economy. The negative side to this picture is a large uneducated and unskilled work force becomes a burden on the economy, causing massive unemployment, increased pressure on the government for public spending, lower tax base due to unavailability to formal sector employment and growing inequality. This makes providing education for all an impossible task which in turn leads to the cyclical chain of unemployment, poverty, rising government schemes and low probability of future generation going to school.  

Archaic System

The education system of India has failed to evolve with globalization. The same old curriculum with the outdated teaching methodology, and the lack of skills based training. The education system of India can be traced back to the era of socialistic India, where Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to develop India through education, creating an elaborate system of colleges and Universities to cater to the future needs of India. Most of the top institutes of higher learning in India are state run bodies with highly subsidized fees structure. There are very few private run institution of higher learning in India making India follow a structure very opposite to say USA, where the most of the higher learning takes place in private run universities and colleges (Harvard, Yale are some of the examples). Now many of you will say being in a developing economy with lower per capita income it is but natural that government encourage state run education system, but there is a flaw in the process and it’s in simple economics. An economy is made of various parts and each part is needed in a limited amount and you need a limited amount of people to run that particular part, the problem with India is that it has the world’s highest number of graduates passing every year and just like every other economy there is a particular number of jobs available for the graduates who pass out, leading to huge number of qualified unemployed person. The problem with the system is that instead of strengthening the middle and high school system and imparting skills based knowledge what the government is doing is to provide subsidized education to millions of students leading to an overabundant unutilized talent. Now compare this system to USA, there only the well off or the meritorious students are able to afford a college degree as the cost of education is pretty high leading many to drop off after school to get skill based training leading to higher prospects of employment. So the government of India instead of providing subsidized college education to millions of students can incentivize on field job training and strengthen the schooling system to create better set of less educated yet highly employable people. The higher education if unsubsidized or left to the private will lead to lowering in the amount of enrolment but will result in better conversion into suitable jobs , because the economy generates that much amount of high skilled labour job (i.e. that require college degree)

Human Psychology

Unemployment can be because of three reasons a) Lack of jobs b) workers not willing to work at the current wage rate c) in between job transition. The problem of lack of job is something related with the entire economy and is not easy to explain. However, in Indian context people not willing to work at a particular job or wage rate is a rather important point to take into consideration. A college graduate in India is rather unwilling to work as a mechanic or a shoemaker giving his level of education and position in the society even if we consider the pay package is quite acceptable to his demands and this is where the part of psychology comes in. In India by promoting higher education (quality of which is questionable), we are invariably moving the labour force from an area of large requirement such as manual labour to a small and fiercely competitive highly skilled job market which are limited and only few can attain, leading to a glut in one section of the economy and an oversupply for the other. Let me explain you through an example: consider that an economy requires 5 Bus drivers, 5 managers, 5 janitors and 5 engineers, it’s a very simple form of economy and the number of person in such a country is let’s say 20 (equal to the number of jobs available). Now if such a country follows and education system like India where higher education is highly subsidized then the people of the country would like to highly educated and attain the most elite jobs in this case managers and engineers. Now let’s due to this system 17 people of this country go on to achieve higher education, but there is a problem the economy only requires 10 highly educated individuals (5 engineer and 5 managers), the other 10 jobs are up for grabs which 3 individuals happily take up as they are not qualified for the other jobs, this leaves us with those 7 individuals who are highly qualified yet there are no single high paying worthy jobs for them. They either have two options:

  1. Choose a low paying career option (Janitor or Bus driver)
  2. Choose to remain unemployed.

Now this is the basic problem with India but imagine it on a massive scale, leading to college graduates choosing low paying jobs or choosing to remains unemployed. And this is something which is happening in India on a real time basis.   With this I just wanted to point out some of the flaws in the education system of our country and what must be done to reduce the levels of unemployment and lead us into an era of prosperity.

Muzaffar Waris

www.beingpanache.blogspot.com it still a mystery

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