On Education and Academia

Education, in the general sense, means the act of imposing or acquiring knowledge, and is a vital building block of society. Why, then, do we not give it enough importance? It may seem like we do with all the “study hard”, “get good grades”, etc., but I would like to disagree with this notion.

Education is about knowledge and knowledge spans a wide range and so should education. It may be there, but we do not yet encourage it wholly. A few years back, it was all about Engineering and Medical studies. Now management, especially MBA, and Accountancy have been added to the mix of widely considered area of focus. What about physical education? What about sports? A proper physiotherapy can cure some recurring health conditions, like pain due to postural defects for example, with the remedial effects lasting longer. Why don’t we consider physiotherapy? Why don’t we give physiotherapists enough importance? Why don’t we prefer their opinion while working out for better results? Why is “Art” as a stream not encouraged to “good” students? Where would be history, culture and the things we admire from the past be if not for art? Talking about the past, why not archeology?

Then comes the actual teaching and learning. We have become so focused on clearing tests and getting good grades that we have pushed knowledge to take the back seat, more often than not.

Students are not focused on learning. They’re focused on getting a certificate and getting a job. The “getting a job” part is of course reasonable. But they’re not interested in the subject because they are not interested in that area, all they want is a job. Then the teachers are not interested in actually teaching. They just want to complete the course. They just want their students to pass. When asked a question to get a better understanding, the “… and that’s the kind of question you’ll get in the exam, don’t worry” comes up.

Now, studying to get a job and teaching because it’s perceived as an easy job, those I understand. People want to make a livelihood; they have to. Here’s an instance. If a guy had to go through getting a degree in engineering and then an MBA to get into sales, why not go for a BBA and get into sales? Why force the idea of engineering at all? Why do professors encourage the so called weak students to go for MPhil (or something similar) and then go for teaching?

Why is writing “papers” less encouraged and more forced on student? An example is here on Internships. It is supposed to be for the interns to learn. Why is it that when they return to college, they’re asked to write a report resembling a research thesis?

Now, some of the points I’d listed for this article can be clubbed together as “facts and reasoning later, decoration first”. This is about Academia now. Things are explained too little or too much. An instance can be as such. A marketer can be put in charge of researching and analysing a historical market segment. He decides to go with factor analysis, so to say, but he cant design a model for the survey because he doesn’t know how to. All he’s been taught is how to reduce the number of variables with factor analysis. I encountered a similar situation the other day during tax calculations.

I encountered a system of dividing students into sections not based on name or sequence of registration, but based on the way they learn, the way they perform in different tests and on the rate of change of their performances in the tests. Why can’t such a system be implemented in higher education systems, say MBA, where students are sectioned based on three results of tests like personality tests as well as the previous mentioned? It’d be good for learning, teaching, and scoring jobs as well.

Why do we focus on decoration so much, more than facts and figures? Why do we encourage presentation more than the analysis? Both are as important. Why do we focus on jargons so much, more than the underlying meaning and concept? This trend can also be seen in the corporate world as well as in the Academia, as far as I’ve observed. I remember reading a published article once where similar statements were repeated so much that I lost interest. That was also the time when I lost interest in PhD.

Why are students offended when a teacher reasonably criticises them for lack of effort? Why do teachers get offended when a student asks a question that they cannot answer at that moment and shut the student down? Reason should triumph Ego when learning, no?

Now, I can go on, but I think I’ve written most of what I intended to. This is a continuous topic though. If I find or think of something else concerning this matter.

What do you think?

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