In this era, time is of the essence and efficiency is the mantra. Our society has been growing more oriented for end results, placing process and creative identity at second place. Bachelor degree, which used to signify competitive edge, has been ubiquitous and even graduate degree will soon be set as a standard of competence. In the United States alone, college students made up to 6.7% of population age 3 and up. This translates to 19.9 million of prospective graduates fighting for a much smaller pool of professional workforce1. The competition for employment has never been steeper.
If we are objectively weighing qualification as the sole consideration, a meticulously tailored master degree provides adequate breadth of knowledge for practical application compared to PhD, which is highly specific on particular research topic. Higher degree does not guarantee employment, let alone success. However, looking at the trend mentioned above, it is clear that the majority of students are more concerned about the effectiveness of their academic footprint for employability rather than the value of learning. They adopts simplistic perspective that education is a necessity process for employment instead of being an avenue to gain knowledge or become more informed in certain fields.
The seed of favoring instant results can actually be traced since early stages of academic learning. Our current education, especially in many developed East Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong and Japan where national grand exam is heavily emphasized, makes it easier to target ‘good-enough’ standard which rewards an ‘excellent’ grade, sidelining the value of performance standard that reflects the depth of critical thinking. Singapore, emphasizing on ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level exams, takes it further by streaming educational tracks, which detriments and stigmatizes weak academic performers in their chances of future employment. This creates a vicious cycle of dependency on grades and degrees that strays our generation from the true value of education.
It is easy to overlook that education does not stop outside the walls of classrooms. While having deep knowledge is immensely beneficial, it takes years of tireless trial-and-error for an individual to be able apply his/her knowledge efficiently. Malcolm Gladwell in his famous book ‘Outlier’ stated that the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for about 10,000 hours, where merely grade will fail to suffice2. Truly trained recruiters and top headhunters from top companies obviously understand the necessity of working experience and not just lengthy, decorated resume. Bruce Lee accurately remarked, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
I strongly recommend students to take a broader mental view of education, especially for tertiary education. It is difficult for students to truly appreciate the purpose of being educated if they are simply looking at it as the cradle of academic milestones. They should instead embrace an attitude of humble lifelong learning and practice entrepreneur curiosity.
One distinguishing and somewhat paradoxical sign of an intellectual person is being able to understand that one simply cannot master everything. This quality drives these highly educated people to value originality, exchange ideas and in turn foster unquenchable thirst of learning. They are actively utilizing different platforms to enrich their vision, such an networking sessions or seminars. Some of these recommended venues would be Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading, Management Exchange, and Quora. As a result of such consistent interactions, they are more aware of their strengths, more resourceful and more conscious with their surroundings.
I believe that true purpose of education is to unlock abilities once thought impossible and inhumane. It is a guiding light that illuminates the mind, as when it was founded centuries past. It is supposed to invoke our understanding of morality, gives birth to ideologies and understandings, alters perspectives and challenges human intelligence. It is when we are driven by the sincere desire to unravel the mysteries of the unknown will education has justly served its purpose.
1 “US College Student Demographics in 2012.” MarketingCharts, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015..
2 Group, Wisdom. “10000 Hours of Practice.” 10,000 Hours of Practice –. Wisdom Group, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.wisdomgroup.com/blog/10000-hours-of-practice/>.
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