Education – Whither Bound?

CPE Results 2012

By Murli Dhar

Nations that have made breakthroughs in the global economy are those that have used to the maximum the advantage conferred upon them by their education system. By ‘education system’, it is not meant the formal schooling and training and academia. The skills of those who have been taught to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and to innovate are part of it.

German engineers caught up and proved to be smarter than their British counterparts in a short lapse of time even though the Industrial Revolution began in Britain. Right real education gives those it trains up the pragmatic faculties to extricate themselves from difficult situations in a bid to rise to a higher plateau or, if need be, to jump to another occupation if the current one is facing serious risks.

We have been witnessing a continuing deficit among the cadres of different key components of the economy in living up to this challenge. Several management shortcomings were observed which accentuated the stress of certain specific sectors in the prevailing difficult international economic situation. The concerned sectors will no doubt get their head above water with time but had they anticipated correctly, they could have done better.

Air Mauritius, the State Trading Corporation, the tourism sector and, to some extent, the textile sector, have all suffered to an extent from not having chosen the right strategy or not having applied the correct judgement to extricate themselves from difficulty before the tide turned. This kind of re-positioning starts with the mind. One has to be wise and flexible, anticipating events and making the right choices by drawing on the kind of education received. This is where our education system holds the key to the extent we can keep our economic activities vibrant and improve the inroads we can make internationally.

The Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) results for the year were out on Tuesday last. The focus has, as usual, been on the percentage of passes secured. Normally, the percentage will be lower the more difficult the questions and the less lenient the marking. The converse is equally true. That applies across the board to all levels of formal education. If Cambridge were to bring down its standards for our Higher School Certificate, there would be more passes.

If our own University were to be lenient and it were to generalize exemptions when it came to complying with laid down rules for passing exams, several of those who will embark on the market from the University will not be able to handle their jobs efficiently. The University’s image could suffer a blow out of this.

In simpler terms, any generalisation of a tendency to relax educational standards will finally make us poor competitors on increasingly globalising international markets. It is in this wider perspective that one should go about gauging the impact of vocational and academic outcomes from our learning institutions. The situation is such internationally that you can make inroads on condition you are at one in terms of capacity and skills with the best at the international level. This quest is altogether different from that of drawing satisfaction at a maximum number in the pass list.

There are different standards of teaching in different educational establishments of the country. With time and to give every child as equal a chance as possible, the distance in terms of standards among educational establishments should have been collapsed, lifting standards of teaching at the same time across the board. The same process could preferably have raised the national platform to a stage where it could vie with the level of education dispensed in the better performing educational establishments of the world.

Certain countries which had a good start in the field of education in the past have neglected this factor at heavy cost. Apart from negative long term consequences, investment in education goes waste when standards decline in such circumstances. Frustration is also created by way of putting on the market increasing numbers of unemployed graduates not having the fundamental practical knowledge to cope with the realities of the workplace.

The finality of education is not necessarily to equip the individual with sheer materialistic pursuit. Its aim is to get to an individual endowed with a sense of fulfillment. This kind of objective is achieved on as broad a base as possible so that there emerges an all-embracing outlook in the person moving out of academic life. The one being trained up this way should exude a strong dose of self-confidence. An enduring spirit of enquiry and a willingness to give up unnecessary baggage taken up at different stages of the education process will help create a fuller citizen ready to adapt to this world of perpetual changes.

We can only hope that the master plan for education aims to achieve this kind of objective rather than seeking satisfaction in the sheer numbers who get through exams. It will take time, no doubt, to come to this point. But do we have the choice?


* Published in print edition on 14 December 2012

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