Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Formal Education Vs Practical Knowledge

There's a raging debate going on regarding the relevance and irrelevance of a basic academic degree, say graduation, to be successful in life. Does one really need a college or university degree to get recognition? It's indeed a debatable issue. Those, who are of the opinion that degrees are of no use and they don't have a say in a person's worth in life, cite the examples of Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Rabindranath Tagore, Bill Gates, Dhirubhai Ambani, Adani, Pritish Nandy, Dilip Kumar, Amir Khan, mathematician Ramanujan, polymath Rahul Sankrityayan, to name but a few.

All these stalwarts never required a school or college degree to reach the soaring heights in life. The problem with all of us is that we equate (formal) education with knowledge and wisdom. It's an outright erroneous belief. Conventional education doesn't even equip us with commonsense, let alone knowledge and wisdom. Greek philosopher Socrates and our very own Kabir, two of the finest and most perceptive minds in the documented history of mankind were unlettered. Both couldn't even read or write. But what they taught is still relevant and will continue to be relevant till the human civilization lasts on earth.

'Schooled in life's vicissitudes, my Bard of Avon never required formal education. It's people like me, who require a college degree to succeed in life,' wrote the great Victorian poet and a critic par excellence Dr Matthew Arnold about William Shakespeare. Though it must be mentioned that Arnold himself was highly educated and was the son of a famous English public school Rugby's headmaster. Once we come out of college and university, we realise that what we learnt at academic institutes was woefully out of sync with life's varied problems and issues. Formal education just trains us to do a particular task in a specific manner. It often blocks lateral thinking and closes the various unconventional doors to tackle a practical problem. The events of life are unexpected and are often of unprecedented nature. How to handle a particular issue/situation in life is never taught in a school, college or varsity because it's seldom foreseen. One has to acquire that prescience on one's own.

What we mean by knowledge is all about survival, the survival of a human being in a ruthless world. This is not taught at any school or college. This has to be learnt in the school of life. Life regularly throws at us a legion of problems and unheard-of situations. We've to negotiate them and overcome. No school teaches you how to face life's innumerable problems. And when we learn to cope with them successfully, comes wisdom that's far higher than knowledge. The whole process of acquiring post-academic knowledge for mere survival in the rat race paves the way for wisdom, the ability to see things as they are. Tell me, can this be taught at an institute? Never. The real education starts when one leaves the textbooks and dares go beyond them. Had all school, college dropouts, who later achieved great success, continued to study, would they have been so great? Had Einstein completed his formal education, would he have been able to think so radically, rationally and comprehensively? And what's formal education? It's nothing but cramming. It kills an individual's creativity and incarcerates his mind, body and soul. All over the world, it's like Macaulay's lopsided education system which had and still has just one objective: To churn out unthinking and docile babus,who are unable to think independently.

Education is actually meant for those, who're mediocre. An inborn brilliant mind needs no stultifying education that actually stymies his/her independent thinking. So the very thought that a lack of formal education results in an unproductive mind is seriously flawed. Remember, degrees only inflate our ego and do nothing better than that. Dispense with them and dare think beyond classrooms, which are veritable prisons.

                                                                               -Sumit Paul


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