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Higher education and success: A face-off

Many students, who go to college, are not clear with their thoughts about what they have to do in life. Many end up taking a different course to study, quite different from their actual interest. Many find themselves once again in dilemma about their career and life after they pass-out from college. Above all, it is not hard to find a boy with a Master’s in Literature working as a Pizza-Boy or even an illiterate girl making great designer dresses. This blog describes what relation does, success share with higher education.
Is it necessary to have a fat folder of degrees to succeed in life? This is an obvious question, which many students are faced with during the critical stages of their career. The answer to this question depends on how we define success. If success is the possession of all desired goods (and services), then it’s required to have huge money. If success is the realization of one’s dreams, then it’s required to work hard. If success is this, it’s needed to do that. But, to succeed in general what cannot be forgone is ‘some work’. We must do something to succeed – and we need to do it well. When we are bad at doing our work, it’s less likely to yield results as expected. All that we need to be efficient and effective at our work is sincerity, necessary skills, and the willingness to learn things which we don’t know. I haven’t heard of any certification of these qualities, for example, certifying that somebody is sincere and willing to learn! Definitely these qualities don’t come with a degree. A degree can certify that somebody has been trained for some work, however, it cannot guarantee that the holder possess the necessary skills. Ultimately, it comes down to the individual to learn and develop these skills, since these cannot be taught and learnt in any colleges. Let me give an example from mythology. Ananda, who was one of the disciples of Buddha, asked him at the time of his Nirvana, that who will guide the disciples after him? Buddha smiled and said “Aapt deepo bhavah” which translates in English as “Be your own lamp”. Buddha said this because he knew that values can be instilled in a student but cannot be installed.

Then should everybody just keep to home and develop the skills by oneself? Certainly it’s not possible, because ‘man is a social animal’ and he needs to learn things with the society and not in isolation. So, colleges can be useful as they provide a proper learning environment and education with peers. But, the same usefulness may not apply to a degree, because a degree is merely a document. The documents don’t work; it’s the individual who has to deliver. Our work is the primary component which configures our success. To improve the quality of our work we need some critical thinking ability, sharp comprehension ability and enhanced communication skills (Smith, 2007). Other important qualities can be honesty, integrity and attitude. Higher education in colleges can help develop these qualities to some extent, as they provide a structured learning environment. But, certainly the education system and syllabus cannot influence much, the overall personality of the student. Higher education can only foster greater learning, but success depends on the implementation of those lessons in life. Higher education cannot be a prerequisite of success, because those lessons can be learnt without going to universities also. In many exclusive cases, the lessons can be learnt better outside the classroom than inside. Given that people have some in-built talent and skills, which they enjoy at a comparative advantage over others, or they may just enjoy it. For them, success means to cherish their natural talents and excel at it. Thus, a person with good poetic capabilities studying medicine doesn’t make much sense. Education is less fruitful if people are not able to use that in their life. For this, it is necessary that an individual chooses a career depending upon his abilities and not any dogmas like ‘everybody should go to college’ (Cynamon, 2006).
Therefore, higher education can accelerate the journey to success for some but not for all. Also, a mere degree doesn’t serve much purpose. While going for higher education it is better to be clear about the objectives. The lessons learnt in colleges cannot alone make a person succeed, as success requires the literal use of what has been learnt. The choice of higher education also depends on the specific needs of individuals. Degrees and higher education are often useful for start-up, but it’s the work which frames the setup of success. People do succeed despite no degrees at all. One can succeed by concentrating more on the work rather degrees.


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