Put your hand on your heart. Ignore political correctness for a minute. And answer this question honestly. Of the two people i mention next, who do you respect more? One, a Bachelor of Arts graduate. Two, a 12th pass, in-demand electrician in one of Mumbai’s neighbourhoods.
Or say, if your cousin was looking to get married, which of the two would you recommend?
The answer, in almost all cases, will be the graduate. A sociology graduate, or an English (Honours) passout, or even a BA (Pass) degree holder from an unbranded, unknown university (known as simple graduates) is way better for middle class Indians than ‘just a 12th pass’ electrician.
Now, here’s another fact. One can hire a ‘simple graduate’ in India for around ten thousand rupees a month, maybe even less in smaller towns. An in-demand electrician in Mumbai, say Bandra, could easily make eighty thousand to one lakh rupees a month. The simple graduate will have to struggle to get a job. The electrician would have to turn his phone off because too many people would be calling him for work.
But yet, when it comes to telling your sweet little sister who she should marry, you are more than likely to say – ‘Of course, go for the graduate. You can’t marry someone uneducated!’
Therein, ladies and gentlemen, lies a big problem. This is what is making it difficult for skill based learning to grow and become widely accepted as mainstream. We talk about the need for skill development, draft policies and allocate a lot of money for it. However, we haven’t discussed enough the single biggest impediment to skill development in India – our mindset.
The mindset that believes spending three years in a random college, attending pointless classes, reading outdated textbooks and obtaining a degree at the end of it should be the aim of life. We have literally millions of graduates passing out every year (the number could be close to a crore, according to some estimates). More than half those graduates are doing non-professional BA type degrees. I am not dissing any subject. There is value in learning anything. However, in a country starved for employment, what is the point of collecting useless degrees?
Only to tell the world that your child is a graduate – and hence, “educated”? As if education only comes when you spend 14 years in school, and then another three or four years in college reading books that were not updated since the last two decades.
Sure, you get the stamp of a ‘graduate’. However, isn’t it time we changed our attitudes towards these ‘stamps’ of approval, particularly when they are of questionable value?
Please note i am not talking about the top colleges, where graduates have three jobs waiting for them by the time they graduate (that’s very rare by the way, even at the elite colleges). I am talking about the ordinary Indian graduate, who pays serious money, spends serious time, at a non-reputed place; studying subjects that he or she will never use in life.
How many BA Sociology or BA Philosophy graduates from non-reputed Indian universities go on to become sociologists or philosophers? Instead, if they spend three full years learning the most popular computer software – Tally, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Photoshop or many such others, won’t they be far more in demand?
For that matter, even if a skill is not as sexy as computer graphics, why on earth do we always value it less than almost any graduate degree? Because of this terrible social stigma, our youth doesn’t dare to go in the direction of equipping themselves with skills. Instead, they waste years collecting useless degrees, find themselves out of the job market and then beg their uncle’s friends and contacts to give them a job.
Why do we love graduates, and look at plumbers and electricians with disdain? Why do we treat any BA (Pass) as more accomplished than a top Mercedes mechanic or an excellent iPhone repairperson? Is it because we think the graduates are more civilised – speak better English, dress in better clothes and are more ‘like us’? Isn’t it another form of racism?
It is time we put an end to it. Realise that graduation can be pretty pointless, even harmful in some cases, if it only means wasting time in a useless college. The same time can be used to learn skills, become an entrepreneur and gain experience.
Sure, some colleges and the graduation courses they offer are excellent. For those who get in despite the difficulties, great! For those who don’t, it is really worthwhile to evaluate all options. Rather than judging careers like a caste system, go for what will make you most in demand.
The Skill India campaign was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 15, 2015, to train 40 crore people in India in different skills by 2022. There are multiple policies and schemes under these programmes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) and the Skill Loan scheme to name only a few.
There’s a good intention behind this. However, in order for all this to truly work, we Indians need to change our mindset. We need to respect people with skills just as much as people with degrees. There is no less honour in having skills, as in possessing honours degrees.