Higher Education –Some Myths

Indians in general must go for a change in perception about education and its various aspects. Some myths must die.

Every student and more so his parents do everything to get his ward admitted in the best college, say IITs for engineering. It’s stressing both physically and mentally. It’s a drain on hard earned money too. Same is the case with those joining medicine or other professional institutes for higher education. Does the name of college that one student attend matter? I shall like to narrate my story. I wish it provides the guideline.

While I graduated from IIT, Kharagpur and my eldest son followed me by getting in there after 28 years, the second one went to BIT, Ranchi and the third one through state JEE got admitted in REC (Now NIT) Kurukshetra. Perhaps as I was in manufacturing sector, they all picked up mechanical engineering. After graduation, while the eldest got a job offer from Bajaj Auto, the second one got into Tata Tinplate and Tata Elexi, and the youngest in L&T. All the three are in 40s today. After finishing their MS in different subjects from Purdue, San Francisco and Arizona University, they all are engaged in US. My eldest daughter-in-law graduated in metallurgy from REC, Jamshedpur, did her MS from Dallas and presently working for an Irish company from US. She might be in the best in status and the best paid among them.

I don’t think the college they graduated mattered nor did the marks they obtained in school and board in the professional careers of all five. Even if they would have decided to remain in India, they would have been well off but for the quality of life. Why do we, Indian parents worry so much about the marks or grade differential even beyond decimals?

I have some more engineers from the private institutes of India in my extended family. The two sons of my cousin in Vadodara studied and passed out from government and private engineering colleges of Gujarat. They completed their masters and now employed. To my surprise, one of them plans to join faculty of engineering college. They are hardworking and leading a pretty well life. Let the parents and the students understand that the institutes contribute pretty little. The important for success is one’s hard work, perseverance, will power and self confidence. My advice is to work hard to get into the best ranking institute. But do not unnecessarily stress yourself and get worried if you fail to get into an institute of your choice. Don’t waste another year for getting into that.

I have seen parents and students both grieving over the branch of study that are available in the institute they have got. It hardly matters if you get into chemical, metallurgy or even agricultural engineering. Why should you not get into three years physics course in IIT, if you have been offered one? Take any branch that you get but do really good in that. What is important is the intense learning of the subject that you are pursuing and be the best in it.

Except for few, all the professional institutes, even in private sector, provide ample opportunity to master the subject and achieve excellence. However, one must get into the best available and affordable.

However, every one today need excellence in certain soft skill on which some institutes are still not focusing. For a successful career or perhaps even for succeeding in one’s own business, the skill in communication (speaking, presentation) particularly in English that has become the language for business, and sufficient working knowledge of computer applications are essential. If the institute doesn’t have the facility, one must join some good institutes in the locality that provide it and be proficient.

I don’t agree with dropping out for getting into business. The examples of Apple’s Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Bill Gates or Face book’s Zuckerberg who didn’t pursue the formal higher education need to be taken in right spirit. Education must provide the passion for knowledge and its application. It comes from within. It can happen with anyone.

It is unfortunate that many in industry hardly pursue the passion of keeping themselves in touch with the latest trends in their areas of activity. Indians are worse off.

In years to come, the certificates, marks and grades or the institutions will hardly matter. The selection will be entirely on the basis of the capability to perform the required assignment well.

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