Education, Learning & Certification

Mukesh Garg, Director - IT, AstraZeneca Headquartered in Cambridge, AstraZeneca is a multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company involved in the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines in Oncology, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disease (CVMD), and Respiratory areas.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Education as a process of teaching, training and learning, especially in schools or colleges, to improve knowledge and develop skills. The key words here are ‘teaching’, training’and ‘learning’. Two of these, pertain to the giver (Teacher),and one to the taker (Student). Apparently, a lot of teaching is dependent on the teacher and teaching methodology. Though the definition, is limited to schools or colleges, I feel learning can happen anywhere, anytime and at any age. It is a continuous process during one’s lifetime. I consider myself a student even today, as I keep learning continuously.

What is observed in our education system today is that the teachers are all qualified ‘academically’ through a series of tests and certifications. However, most of them do not have hands on functional or practical experience in their subjects. Practical experience of working in an industry, be a mathematician, having worked in a lab or as an accountant or economist etc. Their source of knowledge is from books and it is the same that they pass on as teachers. Over a period of time the concepts and reality of life change, but the same teaching concepts carry on for ages and passed on to the students, year after year. We need to start facilitating life lessons in our schools.

There is also a difference between education and certification. The completion of class X, XII, College, Engineering, Law, etc. is a form of certification - that one has learnt one or the other skill which is then tested across similar category of people [exams] and those meeting a minimum standard are certified to be ‘educated’. Students have cracked the formula of passing these exams and only do only the bare minimum so that they can earn that degree/certification. Only a handful of people subscribe to real learning and apply them at various stages of life. Now, the real question is, is 'education' happening at the same time as getting
your ‘certificate’? To answer this, not necessarily. Every year, we see thousands of students passing out of colleges, but their employability quotient is so low. Education does not necessarily mean passing-out of school/college. The passing out is a mere formality of having gone through a formal education process. Every single graduate goes through another session of training in which ever company they join. These could be on technical trainings or even training as basic as how to speak, how to write an email etc. When in business environment the communication has to be business oriented and not school oriented. So, during the initial weeks, a fresher in any company does go though these basic trainings or call them learnings to get educated on the business.

When the teachers themselves see what is important to the society and business, they will change their teaching methodologies and give real education to their students and not just bookish knowledge

Besides the formal school education, there is a lot of informal education that occurs at home - even before the child starts going to a school. The very act of the parents is a learning experience for the child, contributing to the child’s education. If a child is taught how to keep surrounding clean, and then see the parent throwing a piece of paper or an ice-cream stick out of the car on the road, then it confuses the child - to learn what is told or to learn what is seen?. When you tell your child to respond over the phone with mummy is not home, that is the first lesson the child gets on how to avoid people and tell a lie. When you visit a monument, and see the fine architecture there, that is when learning happens. My sons tell me that history is his favourite subject when he visits the historical places and in the classroom, it is the most boring subject. He goes to internet to learn about the place, its importance and how it has shaped history. Experiential learning is an important part of education and each one of have to be a role model of what we preach.

Why is education important? Because it makes us more civil, and in turn impacts our society to be a more inclusive and respectful of each other. Education helps us not only to improvise our lives but also impact every one else’s lives as well - be it economically, socially, or spiritually. There is a lot that need to change in our system and personally in ourselves, if we truly want to become an educated society. Our teachers need to invest time in their personal learning by being part of the industry. The industry needs to support the education system by letting these teachers and students be part of the industry through part time roles, during evening hours or during school holiday seasons.

When the teachers themselves see what is important to the society and business, they will change their teaching methodologies and give real education to their students and not just bookish knowledge. Students on the other hand need to spend a lot of time in practically applying the techniques learnt. They need to spend time working part time as well. Parents in India give a lot of financial support to their kids, unlike in the west where the students have to work part time to find their schooling. Parents in India should encourage their college going kids to do part-time jobs, even at Subways; McDonalds; Dominos so that they can learn what real world is all about and what to learn in the school/college. Industry bodies need to sponsor the schools and colleges and there has to be a strong industry-academia connect. We need to change our Education system for better learning to happen.