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Purpose of Education
In the summers of 2011, I was completing my checklist to leave India as my husband got an admission in a prestigious MBA program in USA. To click a right in my list, I went to my husband's hometown to meet my in-laws and relatives to make necessary arrangements for them in our absence. I met my relatives and my nephew. And he asked me a question? Why does uncle want to study more? He already has a post graduate degree and have worked in different parts of the world. You are well settled in New Delhi. He said your life is set why study more and take the pains to get a third degree?
He was right in the sense that why to take pains when life is set? And he was also linking education with jobs. In a way he was right to say people study and go to good universities to get the job and earn money. And in our society we still notice that as soon as you get a good job parents force you to get married and settle. Ok, that is somehow managed; the next pressure is to have kids… and then eventually a bright candidate end up in mundane things around him. That’s why I agree with my nephew. Our idea is not to run away from those responsibilities but to highlight what people think the purpose of education in our society is.
Is there something beyond just a job that education serves?
The answer is yes. Education gives a bigger and open view of the world we live in. It gives us the ability to make better decisions in our lives and for those who are dependent on us. It gives a strategic tool to fight for justice, rights, and responsibilities. It enables us to think just not about immediate but for future as well. What is good for our society and for our kids in future? Is it possible for a person to judge the pros and cons of policy changes in retail business? What about nuclear power stations? Should we invest in or not? Is genetically modified seeds are going to help us fighting rampant starvation across the globe? Can we reach on an answer of unplanned development in thousands of cities? Should we stop it or not? Is it more important for me to vote a candidate who is of my caste or another who talks about creating employment opportunities? Unfortnately, in India people still follow the practise of giving vote to the candidate of their caste irrespective of how beneficial the other candidate may be! What’s more important? What about problems of drinking water, power rationing, healthcare, and thousands of other issues?
Can anyone answer to these questions without even knowing about them? Can we relate our growth with those inevitable changes happening in our surroundings without being a part of them? How do we make ourselves knowledgeable enough to make decisions for our current and future benefits? If we do not take those decisions, someone else will do and often the decisions will not make us happier. That said, so am I expected to remember sin2x+cos2x=1 ? Or have a debate with economists on the ways to further increase GDP growth rate. May be or may be not? The objective is to understand what and how our legal, political, and economic systems and processes make a difference in our lives? Do we want local governance to be more accountable for development or spread corrupt practices? Does education help us here? Of course yes! We at least know there are ways to fight. Now if we follow or don’t, they are separate questions altogether. And there are whole sets of other challenges on why people don’t follow when they know there are benefits. My response to that is individual benefits vs. collective losses.
I remember when I was a kid, probably in class 9th, one of my uncles asked me to read editorials in new papers and magazines. And another asked me to watch the Indian budget live on the TV sets. I was stumped because I could not understand a single word. But, since they asked me so I followed them to show gesture of respect. My trouble continued for next several years but there was something good happening. I learned about many more new ideas and complex thoughts and views of highly educated people. This was indirect way of knowledge transfer enabled by my basic education. And now whenever I read any newspapers or magazines those ideas, words, and theories pops up in my head. And to my surprise I started getting answers of my doubts and queries and misunderstandings. And my basic education helped me to connect those dots and developed my understanding about how logically connected those dots are.
So now I have my view points about governance, democracy, poverty, science and technology, research and development, economics, employment, tax systems, and vision of a better life. These understandings are helping me to develop a vision of what is possible with tight budgets and scarce resources. Imagine two groups one not educated at all and have traditional thoughts and the other equipped with information, education, and ability to make decisions. Who can make better decisions for future growth and well-being of all? I guess the answer is obvious now.
But my nephew’s question is still unanswered? Why does my husband need to have third degree or higher studies or for that matter anyone who has already obtained a decent level of education? Ok, so do you all agree with me that life (professional or personal) is all about decision making and often without perfect information? Agree? Now think about society as various levels of decision making, hierarchy of a society. And as we move up in the hierarchy of decision making it gets more grey and imperfect as opposed to bottom where information is more perfect, black or white. The education pushes one to move up in the hierarchy. At higher levels decision making is just not to weigh good vs. bad but about what has more likelihood to be true, immediate vs. future benefits, sustainable development, and what is needed by our trees of society and specially those who are at the bottom of it? And if so happens that outcome is not in our favour what should we do? At this level, more education helps to understand leadership from various perspectives, risks management, and bring prosperity for everyone. So education has many purposes to serve in our society including employment for all.