This was a question asked on Quora- but the real question is “Are we doing something wrong?”
One answer to the question on Quora was –
- When I was studying in class 12, everyone asked me to go for engineering, and I did.
- When I was in the 2nd year of my engineering, my well-wishers advised me to prepare for GATE/CAT, and I did.
- When I was in the fourth year of my engineering, my near and dear ones advised me to prepare well for campus placement, and I did.
Is this story just mine?
The crux of the problem therefore lies in the question,
To put it another way, “Why do so many students end up unhappy with their choice of academic stream or career? Why do you find qualified engineers working in banks or medical doctors selling medicine?”
An article in IndiaToday reads “93% Indian students aware of just seven career options: What are parents doing wrong?” The seven options cited include –
- Accounts and Finance
- Computers and IT
These are actually broad categories, and there are a host of courses, specialties, and subspecialties available and many more evolving. Take for instance engineering – what was once considered a single field now has many sub-divisions and inroads within it and a learner can specialize in any of these depending upon his aptitude and inclination.
Read our article on Types of Engineering Courses.
A Case in Point
Let us consider the fictional case of a student who has completed SSC (Grade 10 or high school). In India he is faced with three choices – Arts, Science, or Commerce – and he must choose one among the three. But is that a fair choice?
Let’s say the student’s ultimate goal is to become a Psychiatrist – a mental health care physician who prescribes medicine for mental health problems. To pursue the profession of his choice he (or she) requires an understanding of the human being at an emotional level – true but is an understanding of physiology (biology) not equally important?
Taking this a step further, if the student aims to set up his own counseling center, will he not need to understand Finance? Does he not need an understanding of technology – not just computers but also for his practice? Does he not need knowledge about the legal aspects of his business?
True, all of this may be taught at some level during the course just as psychology is a part of the study of medicine. Yet, he may want to explore any one area more deeply. For instance, a better understanding of the physiological condition (anatomy) of the patient may give him better insight into the psyche.
Such a student is at a crossroad – to study Psychology, he must pursue his BA (Bachelor of Arts) and MA (Master of Arts) and eventually do a PhD. To gain a better understanding of physiology (read anatomy or biology) however, he must take Science – which brings us to the second issue –
Taking the example cited at the beginning of the article – the answer given on Quora, – many students simply indulge in herd behaviour – go with the flow and follow their peers, older siblings, or the wishes of their parents. To such students we say find your passion. Teens today are immersed in technology. Rather than becoming concerned about the negative impact this can have why not leverage it to make the student more aware?
For instance, what if the student in our case above took up Arts and Psychology simply because many of his / her school friends were doing so or it was a popular choice in his family, locality, or social circle? In such a situation, he may not even be fully aware of the career options he has or what he would be expected to do in his chosen career let alone job satisfaction and financial benefits.
How many people know what a Psychiatrist is or what he does?
Career counseling and guidance is an important part of education that is often overlooked and this brings us to the third most important reason why students in India often go astray in academics.
Another big reason why students in India and other developing countries are directionless is because of the low literacy levels within the country. Literacy in India stands at 77.7% which is significantly lower than the global average of 86.3%. While the new generation is educated, the earlier generations are not – except of course in urbanized areas and even there literacy is not what it should be.
They are often unaware, uninterested, and insensitive to the need for direction, guidance, and focus. Even when they are aware, affordability is often a big obstacle as is the mindset. Only now are things changing with the millennial youth demanding more – but not knowing where to look.
Yet another important factor is the level of corruption that has penetrated into the education industry. With illiterate parents, and directionless students, colleges, schools, and other educational institutions, are demanding high fees and giving little in return – particularly when it comes to high-school and college. Hopefully, the National Education Policy 2020 will make a difference in this direction.
So what needs to be done?
The problem must be attacked on all fronts. The new policy mentioned above, envisages a radical change in the system and structure of Indian education as we know it today. How this will be implemented remains to be seen – but from the reactions to the NEP 2020 so far, it is a step in the right direction. At the very least the poor student in our fictional case will not be bound by a rigid system and get much more flexibility in his choice of subjects. Meanwhile, educated parents – and even many illiterate ones – are now appreciating the need for career counseling and guidance.
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