What matters is not learning, but the degree
December 5, 2003
If it was the old days, the new school year, which started on first
of Mehr-23rd September, would come to the end of its first term
soon and students would be busy getting ready for the first term
Recently, I have being having a cyber discussion
with a friend far away. Our discussion evolves around how things
here. He believes that a better and fairer distribution of wealth
will solve it all. I agree that although this is most desirable,
even if it was possible. However, in itself it will not be sufficient.
I think that to maintain socio-economical parity, we must work
on other groundwork issues. The most important of which is education.
Once all children have been properly educated, it
is a good bet that, social, economical and political progress would
follow. When we can earn our livelihood, from some work that we
know well and is in demand, we feel good about it. Once we feel
positive and good, we may refrain from blaming everything and everybody,
and take responsibility for what happens to us and that we care
about. Since, we realize that, we can make a difference.
Education in my opinion in divided into two types,
formal and informal. Academic education is the formal one where,
at low levels,
we learn to read and write use our brains a little. Through higher
education, we learn a trade and means of earning a living and hopefully,
how to engage our minds.
Indirect education is more subtle. It
involves what we learn collectively and individually. This may
come from families, society and lessons from experiences that we,
and maybe others, go through.
Here, I would only refer to the second part of formal
education, higher education at colleges and universities. What
I call JAM on
top of the bread and butter education.
With such a young population, Iran needs more and
better schools, universities and of course teachers. We need teachers
at all levels of education
who are, not only well trained and familiar with new techniques,
subjects, issues and approaches needed for a modern world, but
also look upon their chosen occupation as a career rather than
and enjoy doing it too.
I am sure we all remember such teachers
in our past, and the affect they had on our education and our lives.
When I went to school, being a teacher was one of the most respectable
professions one could choose as a career. We can only hope that
teachers would soon find their proper status again.
The education system that presently prevails in
Iran does only partially accomplish its intended task. The higher
we go, the shortcoming become more visible. The system produces
many thousands of graduates each year; some have actually learnt
do something with their degree. However, majority of graduates
fails to earn their living from the studied subjects. This is a
great tragedy in a country with limited educational resources.
At present it costs a
great deal to get an education but in the end it is hardly useful
or put to use. Social science and art courses flourish. One
reason is that
institutions. Students study and read many out-dated books. They
sit and listen to the lecturers, instead of being encouraged to
engage their minds, learn new ideas or have a go at
new things to entice their interests further.
The reason for this national disaster may rest in
education policy. Even if there is such policy,
it has many holes.
Students sit in class not because
they actually like the subject. They
sit because they were among the smartest 10 percent who got accepted
after taking the university entrance exam. It is not
surprising that their learning and achievements are not optimized.
All they are doing is chasing after a certificate.
is so strong that it is sickening. Families go into a great deal
to make sure
that their children get a university degree. It is not the education
but the degree that matters. Even if this means they
will never work in the related field of their study.
How did we get to be this way, I shall never understand.
I know of a woman who finished medical scool, got her work license,
and then handed her degree and work papers to her father who
wanted a doctor in the family. Since then she
has been involved with childrens books and translation, and has
never practiced medicine.
I know of another,
who got his PhD in geography and now writes pop songs for local
artists. Those who are lucky or clever enough to be studying the
subjects they want have another story. About half of them end up
leaving the country either for further studies or for another type
of life. Most never come back to work. This widens the gap in
respect to the required technical expertise in the country. Our
educational resources are limited, so one can only cry when we
hear such cases.
Although there is a serious shortage in manufacturing
experts, our universities produce armies of graduates with
I love art and art subjects. But, generally speaking,
students are subjected to the old "maktab" lecturing
method where there is very little room and time, if any, for discussion
Exams do not assess knowledge on a subject
but rather short-term memory. Worst of it all, when students graduate
from universities, for some strange reason, many are under the
now they are artists and have great talent! Graduates
with a degree
in art or graphic design pour out in hundreds
every year. It is no wonder that one of the biggest and busiest
sectors of the economy is advertising.
We can hope and pray that policy makers realize
these obvious shortcomings and invest in technical courses that
badly needs. This
must be done vigorously, through building better institutions,
more advanced hardware and software, new laboratories and educational
approaches and learning/teaching methods. This
may be achieved by employing lecturers
in related fields whose knowledge is up-to-date.
so, we need to create an encouraging atmosphere
for those who have left the country,
and at the very least for those who graduate and want to
stay and help build
a better place for all.
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