“Catch a man a fish and you can sell it to him. Teach a man to fish and you ruin a wonderful business opportunity” – Karl Marx.
The biggest goal Education should serve is to act as a powerful medium to teach an individual to create opportunities, explore unseen domains, solve problems, and find one’s own identity.
There is an inherent issue, if this utopian model succeeds, industry model of replicating and creating large labor force to serve, would collapse miserably.
For instance, If I have an mobile application development company, with many employees, I produce mobile applications that the market needs. But if I tell how I produce these apps, the market no longer needs me. In fact, many individuals in the market are now my competition.
Indian undergraduate colleges has faced severe criticism for lack of industry focused or job focused syllabus. Even though a lot of colleges in India focus on in-depth knowledge of a field with very specific specialization and not a broad understanding of various subjects, this hasn’t served the purpose of industry demand. Most common complaint being lack of quality among the students who appear for placement services.
If the current undergraduate curriculum is revised with focus on job based education, it defeats the whole purpose. I think specific skills are the key requirement for any job role, but these skills can be acquired along with education, but the purpose of education goes beyond just acquiring the right skill set.
While the current system is in transition between the old school ideas of highly specialized curriculum and modern need of one catering to industry demands, it certainly is not gearing towards providing the right armament. It is quite obvious to give in to the temptation, as it solves a crucial problem of unemployment. But is this the permanent solution, is the question we need to address?
Possibly, individuals can upgrade their skills with the changing demand of industry, yet if there is a vacuum bubble, like in the case of saturation in the demand, does the proposed capitalistic model of education prepare individuals for such times of crisis?
Undergraduate courses except a few broad liberal art systems in India and several in America, fail to broaden the knowledge scale of the student and inspire a student to pursue a particular field. Education should open young minds to various possibilities, nurture a constructive, creative, methodological cognition and effective communication, help them realize their unique potential and prepare them towards building their own holistic and integral understanding of the society and find their own place in this system.
But a job focused education would do just the opposite, firstly, it would isolate individuals as the skillets are unique to a particular field, there is no integral knowledge since the understanding is limited to a particular domain hence lacking holistic approach of looking at problems. Secondly, it would divert individuals towards a capitalist need based system and more often than not replicate skill set rather than tapping their unique potential with the inherent danger of the process being regulated by the market.
Individuals become like commodities, industry, for instance, demands a few skill sets, so some of the students are trained and once the demand is fulfilled they are pushed out for a newer demand, much like commodities, skill sets will be attributes needed for the product, in this case students, and education would be machine to provide these attributes.
This certainly leaves a very unnerving and a disturbing picture in my mind. Before we revise our current undergraduate system for an industry focused system, we need to collectively reflect on what purpose should it serve? What sort of education do we want to pass on to the generations to come – an education that serves the industry or an education that aids them to realize their potential?
Prama Neeraja is a fellow from the Young India Fellowship programme of Ashoka University (Batch 2014-2015). Views expressed by the author are personal.