Tuesday, 10 June 2014

University education- does it really make you better?

The recent controversy about the new Human Resource Minister's educational qualifications has only managed to make me more sceptical about the value of University Education and the burgeoning amount of money required for University fees for my teenage children. How many of us use what we learnt at University? And does a few years of student camaraderie, late night clubbing and weekend pubbing have to come at this enormous cost to me, the parent?

BBC recently reported that student complaints against Universities were up 10% since University fees went up. The reason has been stipulated to be because students considered themselves consumers and demanded more in value for the money.

One of the opposition leaders said about allowing private players in higher education- "American dream has become an English nightmare" Huge debt, low standards and poor attendance.

Poor attendance is not surprising. Not a week went by for me in college, without bunking an afternoon lesson to catch up on sleep, which had been lost chatting, watching movies, attending college festivals or at different times studying last minute for a tutorial.

 With so much information now available on internet in the form of articles, videos, presentations, podcasts; surely the way education is imparted and the way it is imbibed has to be different to create value. Why would you opt for sitting in a huge lecture hall with a few hundred students if it didn't actually make a difference! It is not surprising then that many Ivy league Universities are running online courses, which are oversubscribed.

It has always been fashionable to talk about how cheaply we (the older generation!!!) seem to have acquired professional education, as opposed to today's highly marketed, website advertised expensive courses, which don't seem to live up to the promises made, a lot of the times.

Mums and dads wonder why courses are stretched over three years with weeks worth of holiday in between, when they could have been made more compact and thus less heavy on the parent's purse as the cost of accommodation in University towns ends up being barely covered by the student loan and even after summer jobs, most parents have to shell out quite a bit for living costs.

But then the question is why do so many of us need degrees? I know Bill Gates and Dhirubhai Ambani are exceptions, but look around.

Look at how the lawyers and their degrees have made society into a mistrusting bunch of people paying out loads and loads of cash for motor insurance, health insurance, professional insurance, travel insurance etc etc while the lawyers laugh their way to the bank.

Look at the doctors, who were over run by the vested interests of the pharmaceutical companies, devices, scanners, diagnostics, with the result that most countries are struggling to provide a safe and effective health service at a reasonable cost and litigation costs are skyrocketing.

Then there are the Engineers, who are creating the tallest buildings, fastest cars, most luxurious aeroplanes and the most violent video games, even as natural resource rich countries  become poorer or are engaged in corruption and armed conflict. The world's growers of food have been worst hit, have become the victims of climate change and environmental destruction.

There is a crisis of values today. University education with its incumbent costs reinstates the crisis of values and perpetuates the same consumer mind set in people receiving it. It does not and will not make the world a better place, if the only aspirations we have are bigger pay packets, bigger cars and bigger houses.

Sadly nobody gives out degrees in values, ethics and responsibility. And anyway, why would I incur a student loan to get a degree which wont buy me the world, which I can then proceed to destroy?