Mark Twain famously remarked that he never let his schooling get in the way of his education. In a society where education is the key to success and schools and universities claim to help you find that key, where do you draw the line of distinction between a degree and an education, if there is one?
A degree is the result of a formal process associated with the institute of education, a graded certification of how good you are with facts, figures, grammar, and writing. An education is a culmination of facts, experiences and thoughts, gained throughout a lifetime. The most useful part of a learning experience is questioning what you are learning in the first place, and an education is the means to equip you to do precisely that. It is far beyond brick and mortar and books and lectures, it is what urges you to change the wrong ways of society. It teaches you to be tolerant or intolerant selectively – intolerant to justice and tolerant towards religions, ethnicities, and countries. Where a degree earns you money, enabling you to lead an everyday life as an adult, an education makes you wish the world was a better place and pushes you to work towards enabling others to lead comfortable everyday lives.
A degree is necessary, today, more than ever. In a world full of people who compete fiercely to get ahead and rise to the top, sacrificing everything and anything on their way up, a degree becomes a bare minimum requirement to make you a functional person. It gives you the pieces of the puzzle of life. Then, you go on to live your life and gather your experiences, when finally, your education helps you put these pieces together to better solve the puzzle with each passing day. Your degree, therefore, becomes a part, sometimes small, of your education. It makes you well-rounded, analytical and participant in the world around you. One should not limit their definition of education to a qualified ask for a bigger dowry.
Now that the line of distinction is drawn, it becomes essential to understand the extent to which education can uplift a society. Somebody interestingly noted that a nation’s land is defined by its boundaries and its people, by their tradition, culture and education. More knowledgeable the people of a nation, more respect the nation commands on the global platform. But, how does knowledge of its people transform a country?
It’s simple. People are equipped to make better decisions. They create a culture that demands improvement and advancement. They begin to understand their world from different perspectives, gaining insight from discussions and pragmatism from problem-solving. A country without an educated population sees a lack of people who cannot even set targets for the future, forget executing them. It becomes a society void of efficient use of its most precious resource - human resource. An educated population, on the other hand, creates a society that is not communally divisive, not a marginalised or casteist vote bank, less corrupt and one with a better grasp of the policies it is subjected to and the promises it is entitled to. Ultimately, the only way a country can improve is if it knows how to improve.
In India, the focus of education is limited to getting good grades and earning a good job. As important as those two are, it should not be at the expense of striving for a holistic approach to education, one that gives students the skills to differentiate between right and wrong, gives them the character to do the right thing and makes them good citizens with the right social behaviour.
The Indian education system needs to see changes in curriculum, improvement in the quality of colleges and making quality education affordable to one and all. For starters, that would curb the brain drain that we so often complain about, keeping our well-educated minds at work towards creating a well-educated society.
For these reasons, I can proudly say that my degree is my own, buy my education is for an emerging India, and so should be yours.