Tuesday, May 2, 2006

When will I learn?

    I think there’s a beauty to knowing something new, delving into something unexplored and learning about something that you have never seen, heard or felt before. That’s why I have half a mind to do a PhD. someday in Contemporary Theater or Behavioral Science or maybe even Victorian Literature… (Yeah, I made that last one up…:D. Someday if some of us bloggers do go onto write for magazines or newspapers, I wonder how we would make our readers realize the occurrence of a joke or the failed attempt of one, without these irresistible smileys. Would we stand any chance with the editor? )

    Nevertheless, when I was at SPJIMR we had a programme called ADMAP. Different brochures had offered different expansions of that acronym and since the ADMAP brochure itself has been in WIP since the last six years, we shall never actually know what it stood for. I am wont to believe though since I was personally involved in this committee that it stood for Assessment and Development of Managerial Aptitude and Potential. (Readers from SP are welcome to give me feedback on the different versions that they have heard of…). The concept of ADMAP was to simply take learning beyond the classroom. The first time I heard it, I was fascinated for I had always believed that the classroom learning is shoddily inadequate. All throughout school and college tomes of unnecessary bits of knowledge are shoved down our throats and we are required to barf it out in the exams that follow there from. I believe that education should apart from other things impart skills that lead to employability and if that is not a natural progression, our education system fails us somewhere.

    A recent MeriT Trac survey conducted in 17 different cities states that only 1 in 10 graduates (Engineers included) who apply to BPOs are ‘employable’ and that the demand for quality personnel is already outstripping supply. As a result, companies are now even looking to recruit even under-graduates.

    Now, there are further two aspects to it. If under-graduates do go on to make a mark in these BPOs , there is a likelihood that they are likely to drop their education further since they see easy money in a relatively easier manner. I am not saying all of them will but what they see is difficult to let go off. I myself have been in two world-class BPOs and apart from the fact that there is a fairly decent looking crowd of opposite sex around you, ( never mind their IQ levels…) there is good food on campus , pick-up and drop to your doorstep and a decent and an assured five-figure salary that’s credited to your ATM account every month. Add to it , your own cabin with a desktop in a swanky workplace that’s air-conditioned and serves unlimited soup ,tea or coffee and it’s an enviable job that you have on your hands.

    Now picture a 17-year old in Bhubaneshwar (or any Tier-2 city) who has just finished his Senior Secondary exams and tell me which of these above benefits, would you say, will not appeal to this guy. He will see a world full of opportunities and try to convince everyone around him that he doesn’t need further education. Now, well meaning parents don’t have an option here but likely to counter the arguments of the son with one of the following clumsy arguments.
    “BPOs are sweatshops”
    “No work happens in BPOs, beta. They are sleazy places”
    “How will we tell anyone that you are working in a call-center?”

    Let’s take this story further. Now, 9 of those 10 graduates who don’t see themselves ‘employable’ suddenly find themselves competing with not only their own batchmates from Commerce, Arts, Science and Engineering but also from a whole new stream of undergraduates. And a feasible option that they see to wriggle out of this situation is for them to fudge their existing resumes and get those same jobs. So much so that the IT industry has even coined a new term - "padding" for the now prevalent practice of resume faking. We have been a country laced with scams and probably this was one time when the denizens themselves decided to go for the kill.

    Let’s say, now a company called X, which until now was only too convinced that India is the hub of Outsourcing, stumbles upon a drop in productivity levels because they have either employed those undergraduates or those employees who have fudged their resumes. This company sees the demand-supply gap and decides to go in for no further investment in India and takes the first flight to Philippines, China or Hungary.

    India, as all of us would like to believe is at the cusp of a corporate revolution and make no mistake it was kick started by the BPO Industry and is likely to be sustained by it for atleast the next five years. A chap from the senior management of a BPO once told me that BPOs will revolutionize the purchasing power of the non-engineering graduates, in the manner IT industry did for engineers. Prophetic!

    If my fictitious story above comes true even in patches, there is a good probability that the climax would be as tragic and we would have our in-classroom lectures after lectures of boredom to blame. I can say for a fact that nothing that I learnt in my B.Com helped me get those jobs at those BPOs. In hindsight, nothing would have, I guess. The only thing that I did right was to do a bit of reading, keeping a tab on general awareness and meeting new people at inter-college fests. That’s precisely why I have a lot of faith in those Inter-College Debates, Quizzes Jam sessions ,Sports competitions and Art festivals that overtly seem waste of time but they are the ones that promote a process of thinking in your minds. Burdening those impressionable minds with the Directive Principles of State Policy, The Securities Contracts Regulation Act and the Indian Banking Act is, just not the answer to quality education.

    While on the subject of Banking, we had this curly-haired professor (..All right that’s not a good distinction because every Keralite is, but he wasn’t worth a space in my memory anyway) who would religiously march into the class and launch into his absolutely stinker of a drone of a voice to give us notes on Banking. There is not a single new thing that I learnt that I didn’t know when he was teaching us that. I mean a VII Standard kid would know all that too! What I find amusing today is how, if we missed a word of his daily address while furiously writing, we would frantically look into our neighbor’s notebook to complete our education for that lecture. Then we had a subject called Capital Markets dealing with stocks. That should have been one heck of an interesting subject but this professor.. Well honestly speaking I don’t even remember his teaching style. Sad eh! Considering he spent an entire year coming to our class and my memory fails me even though I haven’t had any bout of amnesia in the recent past. I guess that just about speaks how significant his role in my college education was. What I do remember though is our XII standard trip to the Cochin Stock Exchange. That was education.

    I rest my case.

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When will I learn?

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