When degrees lose their worth

Source– The post is based on the article “When degrees lose their worth” published in The Hindu on 3rd January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues related to development and management of education

Relevance– Higher education

News– The article explains the phenomena of increasing emphasis on gaining more degrees and certificates.

What is the reason behind the increasing proliferation of degrees in our educational system?

A vast and varied market of qualifications has grown since the mid-1990s. Its growth feeds on itself. If a greater variety of qualifications are on offer, their demand grows faster. A young candidate enrolled in one course wants to enrol in other courses. Permission for dual degree admission has further boosted the urge.

The driving force of this urge is located both within and outside the system of education. Internally, the system encourages students to gather additional qualifications by defining course content and its aims narrowly. It is known as specialisation. This phenomenon is a response to the understanding of skills as distinct from knowledge.

The external driving force is the economy. Economic growth has not resulted in expansion of satisfying employment. The fear of joblessness fuels the urge to gain new eligibility. The volatility of the job market also implies that no job can last for long. Hence, candidates want to become eligible for as many types of jobs as possible.

Why has the experiment of delinking  degrees from jobs in 1980 has not been successful?

It was believed that delinking degrees from jobs will reduce the pressure on institutions of higher learning. If jobs were delinked from formal qualification, it would discourage the young from accumulating certificates and degrees.

But, the pressure to enrol in one course or another remained high. Correspondence courses proliferated. Later, the Internet also enabled the self-learning market. It has boosted self-employment to some extent. But, the lure of formal jobs has not diminished.

In fact, it has maintained remarkably high growth in the coaching market. Competitive exams now attract countless youths.

How the emphasis on degrees and qualification has impacted our educational system?

It has led to lowering of standards in the field of higher education. When a course does not give expected benefits, students go for a higher level of the same course.

Public institutions of higher education have suffered due to it. These are unable to maintain standards while being forced to accommodate an increased number of students. It has resulted in the mass exodus to foreign systems and expensive private institutions. Students from deprived strata can’t avail of these options.

It has led to a fall in standards of teaching and also in the expected diligence of students. Digital technology has made its own contribution to the noticeable changes in student behaviour.

A plethora of reforms introduced may not succeed in resolving the basic issues and tendencies. There is a considerable gap between the discourse of reform and the reality of our higher education system.

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