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What Good Is Your Degree If You Have No Idea What To Do With It?

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By Bala Sai:

It is increasing. It is increasing at an alarming rate. I am not referring to inflation, or to farmer suicides, or corruption. Those are all frequently hollered about. I am referring to the number of engineers it takes to change the metaphorical light bulb.


The flawed Indian education system has received phenomenal attention in the past few years, among talk show hosts, balding middle class dads and every single person preparing for competitive exams, ranging from Bank clerk to Civil Services. Everybody clamors for change and writes passionate articles and applaud ‘3 idiots’. All, except our policy-makers. In reality though, all our non-plans are coming to fruition.

On paper, India is teeming with doctors and engineers and lawyers – the well oiled education machinery rolling out our country’s intelligentsia by the lakhs each year. Our streets are filled with smug faced aunties whose sons and daughters are doing MS in the States. We produce more engineers than any other country in the world. Our medical facilities are top-notch. India is one of the youngest countries, with 33% of the population just out of school/college and immediately using their education to help the country onto a steep growth trajectory. Right?

Now, sample this. According to the India employability report by Aspiring Minds for the year 2013 conducted among 18 states and involving more than 520 engineering colleges, a paltry 5.97% graduates out of college are equipped with the skills required to work in the IT and IT services industry alone. The figure drops further to 4.22 when IT product companies are considered. In states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which boast of a plethora of institutions and more materializing each year, the employability totters around just 1%. Considering that IT companies make up a gargantuan bulk of the recruiters irrespective of discipline, the low figures are even more depressing.

Our system of education that depends so much on theory and exam-oriented learning, has long been held accountable for such a drastic decline in the quality of education. Under-qualified and straight-up incompetent teachers have plagued the system right from the grassroots to the UG and PG levels. A ridiculous student to teacher ratio further raises concerns.

Prolonged inaction by our policy-makers has given rise to a new class of unskilled, unemployable graduates that throng our job market like swarms of locusts we aren’t prepared to handle. A strictly quantitative outlook adopted by many state governments on education is to blame. It spells a sorry tale when you consider that so many families look at higher education as a means of elevating their social status. Higher education is a costly affair, and with return on investment slowly diminishing, it becomes tougher and tougher to pay back educational loans.

India prides itself on its so called ‘creative capital’, as it looks up to our aforementioned intelligentsia to bring in the revenue and boost our economy. However, whether our system has equipped us to utilize our vast potential is open for debate, or rather, an equivocal shake of heads. Our institutions are better at producing hard working robots for MNCs than vibrant entrepreneurs who can create jobs and lend strength to our economy.

Our young minds are not encouraged to think out of the box and are given zero opportunities to exercise their problem solving capabilities – perhaps the single most important quality desired for in a graduate. Minimal importance is given to practical training and therefore you get hefty scorecards and graduates having no idea how their knowledge is relevant.

Fact-based learning should make way for idea-based learning, and students should be tested for their presence of mind and not their memory. The government should take steps to introduce new, exciting, and diverse courses that find relevance in our demographic, cultural, economic and geographical context. Entrepreneurship should be aggressively entertained, and a proper framework should be put in place to identify and groom budding entrepreneurs.

It is, perhaps, time for a massive overhaul and resuscitation in the way our teachers are trained and evaluated. From being considered as a profession reserved for the slowest in the rat-race, teaching must be regarded with the respect it deserves. With more incentive and encouragement, there will be a renewed interest in the profession, and the resulting competition will iron out the incompetent. A passionate teaching community can uplift and empower our youth.

All this calls for a government that is sensitive to the needs of the young population, receptive to the influx of new ideas and innovations in the education sector and bold enough to implement sweeping systemic changes that will drastically alter and modernize the state of education in our country. Before any of this, they must realize that there is no worthier a cause to spend our taxpayers’ money for than this. Let us hope that the new government that will be elected to office come May the 16th will make a difference.

You must be to comment.
  1. annajohn

    This is a topic that has me harrowed at odd hours of the night. Studying in a National Law School for the past 4 years has meant that, I have been plagued daily by the futility of the effort I put in for the exams, the manner in which I learn the law and sometimes (almost inevitably) this leads to string of questions in my head about existentialism).

    I completely agree with you on the pertinent need to overhaul the system.

  2. Rahul Maganti

    I am really sure if the policy makers and the teachers are thee reason for this. I personally believe that the parents peer pressure (To take up a more lucrative career option than the one their ward is interested in) and the students are more responsible for the sad state of affairs.

    1. Bala Sai

      While I cannot agree more to your view about peer and parental pressure playing a huge role in the students’ decision-making, that doesn’t justify the plummeting quality of education or the callous regulation and monitoring of such institutions. If anything, an increase in demand for a particular course should trigger more interest and attention to its quality. Sadly, this demand is only met quantitatively. When the government does not want to open up its education system to private sector, and when it insists on such stringent control over them, then they must rise up to the challenge of changing times. That is the point of the article.

    2. Neha

      It has to be a combination – only changing the system will not solve the problem and neither will reducing parental or peer pressure. If we really want the youth to get the most out of the educational system, we need to drive a change in the system coupled with a change in mentality.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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