“Enjoying” Education, JNU Style!

By the time I completed my education, I was 23 ½ years old (actually young)! Never in my mind, there was a thought that I should hang around in the college and keep on enjoying student life. I enjoyed my college life. I studied 11 years of school, two years of college pre-engineering, six years of engineering college, taking my Master’s degree in engineering. So totally, I studied for 19 years. The education made me employable, and I already had a job offer before my final examination for the Master’s degree. In the first year of engineering, we had 400 students who joined, but with me, for a Master’s degree, there were about 20 students.  

These days, I am reading about JNU saga. I am just trying to understand what it is all about. My fees for the Engineering course fee was princely Rs.110/; now I am told that it is Rs.10000/. Inflation changes many things, including money earning capacity too! The old problems of many parents not affording fees also remain! In advanced countries like the US and Canada, the percentage of people joining colleges after 12th grade is quite small. Majority of the students who join colleges take student loans and repay them after they get a job. Repaying student loans is a significant problem in these countries They don’t give subsidies for everything!

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The table above shows the number of students in JNU and the trend there is completely reversed. Total joining UG course is 841, PG course the number is double that number and those doing M Phil or PhD is five times the number. The trend all over the world is reverse. For higher degrees, the number of students reduces drastically. But why JNU has this different trend? Do these students want to enjoy student life and not take employment? How long subsidies should be given?

Education should be kept affordable for as many people as possible. The more educated people in a society make the society developed, and the country, in general, becomes an advanced country! But such things happen over some time, maybe a couple of generations.  

But one thing I am trying to understand, why are 3500 students doing M Phil and PhD in Social Sciences, Language Studies and International studies? How will such a large number in these subjects become employableDoes the country need such large number of PhD’s in this subject? Another trend I read was that these people finish one degree and then register for the next degree. Probably idiots like me take 19 years of education earning postgraduate degree and take up a job right away. How many years do you want to remain a student? The grants and scholarships offered for such courses keep these folks living their life without becoming “adults” or responsible citizens 

Inflation over the years is a normal phenomenon. The JNU folks are severely protesting the same. The protest to my eyes at least looks like political rally! I have been observing over some time. What is so special about JNU that as students they want special treatmentWhat great achievements have they shown? Some of the alumni have done exceedingly well in life. But that happens with many institutes. Some of the other renowned institutes have a much more significant percentage of their alumni who have done well.  

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JNU has produced alumni who have been giving support to known terrorists! They have been demanding plebiscite in KashmirThey have been supporting the Naxalite movement. Are these achievements the reason they want special treatment? Just because they are in Delhi, they want to take morcha to the parliament? I have never heard of IIM, IIT or NIT students taking morcha to the parliament to protest against the fee hike!  

It will make an excellent sense to have 3500 well-trained artisans rather than having 3500 PhD in the subject of social science. Probably the “success” of Lutyen’s gang for some period encourages people to become intellectuals. An intellectual is defined as a person possessing a highly developed intellect. But then why only social scientists are intellectuals? Why a space scientist, not an intellectual? Why a Medical Doctor, not an intellectual? Why an Engineer, not an intellectual? In many professions in life, there are people of high intellect, but only the so-called social science people are called intellectuals!  

These “intellectuals” always talk of freedom of speech. But any freedom comes with responsibility. Do they appear to be responsible personsHow the subjects or opinions which are typically considered antinational by the majority are taken up by JNU gang as the subject of national importance? 

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I know the principle that one should remain a student for life and keep on learning new techniques, methods, systems. But this should be done while you are gainfully employed and have become productive. At the age of 70, I have recently done an online course on the subject of my liking. But I paid fees for that and did not expect any subsidy or scholarship, along with whatever freebies I could get. I am showing above a photo of 45-year-old “student” from JNU! I have nothing against age but are you otherwise gainfully employed?  

I have done my master’s degree, so I am aware of how the higher education system works. Add three to four years to your PG degree, why your PhD degree should not be completed by the age of 27 or 28? Why keep on remaining a student beyond this age? When will you become productive? The superstars who have come out of JNU left JNU after their PG or PhD course and moved to foreign countries. They did shine after becoming gainfully productive, earning their own money! Not by expecting subsidies for hostels, and messor by getting the scholarship under some course or the other! At least I am not aware of any alumni doing some path-breaking work while still being a “student. 

Now I have started thinking if JNU is a laboratory to produce politicians. Every dispute, every issue is politicised and is given national importance because the protesters take the protest to the parliament, the highest institute of Indian democracy. Parliament has issues and problems to discuss and resolve, which are of national, and international importance. JNU is not even a small cog in the Indian nation.  

It is high time a serious thought is given how to depoliticise such an important institute! Importantly, it should be found out why such high numbers are doing PhD? Are these degrees useful to the nation? The money should be spent on courses which are of importance to national growth. It should not be wasted on “life long” students taking degrees which are of no real use to India’s growth story!

 

Your Future Self!

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Yesterday Jaya and I were coming back from the airport after dropping our Son. We had travelled using  an Uber taxi. On the way back, we met an interesting driver. I felt that he was quite enterprising. It was evening time and most roads indicated heavy traffic on Google maps. Not only was he using maps efficiently but at a couple of places when the congestion was too heavy, he took U-turn and changed the route. I praised him for proactive actions to reach the destination as quickly as possible. Then he asked me, “If I ask you a few questions, will it be ok?”  I said, “Go, ahead!”

He said that he owned the car he was driving and he wanted to run a fleet of taxis similar to Ola/Uber model. He wanted to give better service than Ola/Uber. He said he had funds, though of course not unlimited! But he had that aim to be better than the giants. Jaya and I probed him with many questions like what his USP was going to be? He had thought about some things and he had not thought about many things. I suggested that he put things on paper and study, create his plan. I said, “You drive your taxi every day, how will you get time to do these things?” He said that since this plan is his passion and he will somehow find the time, and “trouble” some customer like me. He would take advice from various people but will achieve his goal. So, I said, “The time you will be spending on future is going to be unproductive time for your today’s work and will stretch your daily time schedule to the limit!” He replied, “Yes, I know that I will be required to do a lot of “unproductive” work for my future. If I don’t invest in my future who will?” This I thought was an extremely smart way of thinking. Invest in so-called unproductive things to reach the moon in future! This coming from an Uber driver gave me a terrific feeling.

He was not an MBA from IIM’s nor was he highly educated. I did not ask him about his education level but he must have taken a college degree in some subject. What could be the source of his passion? We talk about business families, business communities. This person was definitely not from these groups. He must be reading something, he must be discussing with some people, he must be watching stories on TV which has led to his thinking. When my ride was over, I wished him all the best and told him not to lose courage and focus because path could be tough. He said, “With suggestions from people like you, my resolve is getting stronger day by day!”

You’re busy all day, working non-stop, multitasking in a misguided attempt to knock a few extra things off your to-do list, and as the day comes to a close, you still haven’t gotten your most important work done. Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They’re both running, but being busy is running in place.

If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is what do you want to be? Another question is where do you want to go? Chances are that the answers to these questions represent growth in some direction. And while you can’t spend all your time pursuing those objectives, you definitely won’t get there if you don’t spend any of your time pursuing them.

Key to all this is that you need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you initially need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive.

My daughter Priya is a dentist. She and her family are in the process of migrating to Canada. They were initially expecting that they will move to Toronto. But Priya felt that as a doctor she should also know French, as Canada is a bilingual country. Even in Toronto, you could get French-speaking patients. So, she decided that learning French would make sense. Hence, she joined Alliance Francaise and took a four-month course. She had a tough time managing the course, her Medical Practice, family obligations and her child. But she did it! As the luck would have it, her husband got a job in Montreal and her so-called unproductive efforts will become productive when she joins him in Montreal!

You want to become a writer or a painter or marathon runner, along with whatever you are doing currently. Your busy mind tries to keep you away from the new stuff, you’re not yet good at and which isn’t yet productive. Sometimes you need to be irresponsible with your current challenges in order to make real progress on your future self. You have to let the present just sit there, untended. It’s not going away and will never end. That’s the nature of the present.

You may not end up with an empty email inbox. You may not have the perfect compensation conversations with your boss. You may not please everyone. I am confident that those who want to invest in their future, will be good enough to do their current stuff at 7 or 8 on ten level, instead of their usual on 9/9.5 on ten level. Some of you might get jitters because of a lower level of productivity, but it is simply not possible to multitask things beyond a certain level.

Once you have clarity in mind of what you are doing and why you are doing, tasks become easier. Once you start seeing at least hazy image of your future self somewhere on the horizon, your jitters level will get lowered. This brings me to my latest theory of everybody requiring to reskill themselves. Reskilling in future is going to be mandatory. This is irrespective of whether you want to do it or not! So why wait? It is going to be reverse of “Back to the Future” movie where the person travels back 30 years in a time machine. Now you will have to visualize yourself ten years hence.

In case of training for Marathon, you may first start with 5 km then 10 and so on! Similarly, the writer in you may be able to write a few things initially. You may paint a few things after 3 months! This step by step progress is what you are looking for! Do it as a passion, but don’t forget that you may have to do it in future, anyway!

Your original training as an engineer, architect or whatever will keep you going. But in both these professions, you also want to add subject knowledge of Costing. This knowledge may put you on a fast track in your future career! The future costing engineer will have to take efforts, today, then you will get the fruits in the future! Don’t lose track of “Your Future Self!”