The entire process of human evolution has been an outcome of continuous learning and adapting. Our ancestors, the hunters, and gatherers had to educate themselves on new hunting mechanisms and tactics in order to feed themselves. They had to learn novel ways to build a shelter for protection against foul weather and wild animals. During that time, the need to educate oneself was more in line with survival than increasing one’s intellect or gaining a desirable job, as is the case nowadays. However, this reason faded away as humanity progressed and formed civilizations. The need for survival was replaced by the need for prosperity and hence, the education system was transformed to adapt to the new demands of society.

The concept of a learning institution was established, resulting in the construction of several schools, colleges, and other venues of higher education. Traditions of attending learning institutions continue to this day and have been a major catalyst in the process of human development. This practice, though, is facing some backlash lately as it generalizes the entire education system to meet the requirements of the masses, rather than adapting to the learning capabilities of individual students. For instance, in many fields such as computer science, experiential learning is being given more value than getting a degree in that field.

Although it is very common now to attend an institution for higher learning, that was not the case a few centuries ago. From the 11th till the 13th Century, many of the renowned universities that we know today, such as the University of Bologna, the University of Oxford, the University of Paris, and the University of Cambridge, were established. Nonetheless, that did not ensure the overall educational upliftment of society – only the members of noble families could afford higher education. The process of granting degrees was also quite different from the one in practice today. Universities granted Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate-level degrees, but a Master’s degree and a Doctorate were considered to be on the same level. Upon receiving the Masters or Doctorate, the recipient would get inducted into the Teacher’s Guild which allowed them to teach at any university. Moreover, since there were only a handful of universities that granted degrees, a high standard of education was maintained, and holding a degree provided proof of an individual’s intellect in a particular field. On the contrary, due to the overwhelming abundance of universities and colleges today, almost anyone can acquire an academic degree. The increase in the number of such institutions also resulted in a deterioration of the education standards since most of the universities today have been established for-profit, focusing solely on increasing their popularity and demand.

A transformation in the students’ motivation for obtaining a degree has caused exponential growth in the number of universities and colleges. The reasons for higher education have changed drastically now, even if they are compared with the reasons that existed only a few decades ago. Up till the late 20th Century, universities were considered temples of learning. Individuals who attended such institutions desired a greater intellect and more knowledge. The most important reason for this was their desire for social upliftment and development; they learned in order to contribute to society. On the contrary, most of the people acquire academic degrees today for one reason – money. Obtaining a degree is merely a pathway to obtaining a better job. Due to the smothering amount of universities present, caused by the privatization of higher education, it is extremely simple for a student to get admitted to one of them and obtain their degree.

The quality of the education that they receive is the main topic of debate. To meet the requirements of their ever-growing student body, universities have started hiring inexperienced professors despite constantly increasing the tuition fees. If the educators are not competent enough to deliver their lessons, the students suffer severely. Their degree, eventually, holds no importance or value since it is literally a piece of paper that is not corroborated by the student’s actual knowledge in the field. As a result of this excruciating exercise, the student is left unemployed and in debt, notwithstanding their academic qualifications. Despite the shortcomings of the current education model, it cannot be argued that acquiring an academic degree is completely worthless since an individual can holistically improve themselves by doing so. It is, nevertheless, imperative that the process is carried out efficiently and not hastily. The concept of obtaining a degree for better pay has to be abolished from society, which can only occur if the employers start evaluating the applicants on the basis of their practical knowledge, and not just their academic qualifications. As a result of this hiring process, only the ones who are interested in improving their intellectual capabilities will attend universities, contributing to fewer students in institutions of higher learning. This would allow the universities to allocate its funds appropriately and improve its standards, rather than filling the universities with under-qualified professors to meet the count of the student body.

Preferential education is what makes us humans, since animals are hardwired into behaving the way that they do, and humans are not. Our growth and development are completely dependent on our experiences and our findings. Hence, it is crucial that we sustain the practice of specialized learning in order to sustain humanity inside of us. Obtain a degree for the right reasons, for uplifting yours and society’s intellect and morality – in the order to contribute to our civilization in a unique manner. It is essential to the development of humankind that each one of us stays unique, otherwise, we are just sheep, right?

– Shashwat Jha

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