Without a degree of doubt

Last Updated 27 October 2010, 13:28 IST

Ananth, a brilliant student who had secured more than 80 per cent in his 10th standard, suddenly seemed to go down in grades when he started his PUC. The subjects and college were of his choice, he had good friends and teachers, but somewhere the motivation was lost. He scraped through his first year, but in the second year he bunked so many classes that he was not allowed to appear for his Board exams.

His parents were shattered, but Ananth hardly seemed to be bothered. He had started off with a fascination for computers three years ago, initially playing games, then producing his own games, and now making all types of creative software. He claims he was inspired by Mark Pincus, the inventor of Farmville that now has 70 million players.

Ananth says he knows where his passion and future lie, and is quite okay to stop studying. To his parents’ surprise, Ananth soon started making money by selling his software and computer games. Yet it was very difficult for his parents to acknowledge that Ananth would not be anything more than a “matriculate”. He has had his way so far, and only time will tell whether he took the right decision.

Ananth is not alone. There are many like him who are choosing to give up on traditional graduate studies and pick up skills that they believe will get them a good career. This includes those who do take up a degree course, find that they are not fitting in, and drop out midway, often without knowing what else they can do.

In an era of fast changing technology and lifestyles, it is yet to be seen what the future will be for people like them.  But one thing is certain — to keep abreast of advances, the current generation will have to keep up continuous education and learning, or they will be left behind. While a lot of learning can take place on-the-job, some more will require formal training, either by taking an off from work and going back to college, or through on-line or correspondence courses. Without a university degree, higher education may be off-bounds.

Some professional bodies have actually started doing away with the requirement of a university degree — the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India being a prominent example. Now students who have completed 10+2 can start with the CPT (Common Proficiency Test) and move on to the Intermediate and Final exams of CA. In order to complete their computer and article-ship training, they need free time that would otherwise be taken away by college classes.

Definite edge

Even though graduation is no longer a pre-requisite to become a Chartered Accountant, it is observed that most serious contenders for CA are continuing with their degree courses in the correspondence mode. This is to ensure that, later, if they wish to acquire dual qualifications like MBA, etc., they will not be left behind. A capable youngster who combines qualifications like CA and MBA will have a definite edge over others who have only completed their CA.

Similarly, there may be occasions when a candidate is competing with a colleague for promotion, and if both candidates have similar track record in work, the organisation may promote the person with a degree, superceding the one without graduation.
When it comes to degrees by correspondence, many students are apprehensive that they may not be given the same weightage as those who studied through regular classes. This is true to a great extent. But if the same candidate has spent his time wisely, acquiring experience in the field, then he will definitely have an edge over a fresh graduate who has spent the past three years in the classroom. Incidentally, degrees through correspondence are considered sufficient for candidates appearing for Civil Services and various other competitive exams.

There are some students who wish to take a break after schooling and before going on to graduate studies. There is nothing wrong in that, provided they have a clear focus and determination that they will definitely get back to higher studies after exploring the practical world of work for a year. If they get lured by easy money, move into dead-end routine jobs that pay well, and take up the attitude of “I’m earning more than graduates do, so why should I study?” they may have to pay a big price in later years.

Thinking ahead

For those seeking short-cuts and an easy way to finish studying and start earning, there is one point they need to keep in mind: in this generation, retirement age is likely to go up to anywhere between 65 or 70. So a person who is around 20 years of age now needs to plan 50 years ahead of him. The ease with which he can acquire a degree now will not be so later. And if for any reason he realises decades later that he is not progressing up the ladder of success at the rate he would like to because of lack of higher qualifications, then it may be too late to catch up.

While the three-year basic degree sounds the easiest and simplest, a longer professional degree has distinct advantages — even if one does not pursue the career in which one has qualified.

Since many decades, Engineering has been the foundation for successful careers in a wide range of fields. Not only do engineers constitute almost three-fourths of those who get into IIMs, they are also in civil and military service, banking, politics, creativity, communication, etc. Now the scope of professional courses has extended beyond Engineering.

A candidate can opt for professional courses in hotel management, medical, veterinary, pharmacy, law, paramedical sciences, architecture, and various others that drill a student through projects, group work, presentations, practical work, etc., and hence enhance his ability to take up challenges, build leadership skills, and be successful in any field he eventually chooses to settle in.

A person who has been through the rigorous regimen of a professional course inevitably stands out beyond one who went in for an easier route.

Since the largest employers now are the private sector, and they are focused more on skills rather than paper qualifications, there is a strong lure to quit studies and start earning. Yet the fact remains that many of these entry-level jobs become routine and monotonous, and candidates without degrees or higher qualifications find it very difficult to move to anything better, thus stagnating for long periods of time. A formal university qualification is an insurance against such a mishap.

(Published 27 October 2010, 13:28 IST)

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