Education Without The Certification, Or Certification Without The Education?

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I have an interesting conundrum for you to ponder today, dear reader, and one that I am going to ask you to answer as honestly as possible.

Take your time to ponder the question, for it is a difficult one.

This conundrum is based on a question, I should state at the outset, asked in an excellent and thought-provoking book by Bryan Caplan, called “The Case Against Education”.

The entire book is worth reading, multiple times, but this question, more than any other raised in the book, forces one to think about the whole point of education.

By the way, the book is dedicated by the author to his children, who are, according to him “the case for education” – a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

Here’s the question: Say you are given two choices. The first choice is that you could go to attend any course of your choice in any university of your choice. You could in fact tweak the course just the way you like it, call whichever faculty you like to conduct the course, have any guest speaker of your choice to visit you on campus – the works. This is the best education you could ever hope to have.

The only problem is, at the end of the course, you will not get a degree to certify that you did attend this course. The best learning ever, but there’s no proof that it ever happened.

The second choice is that you could get a degree saying that you finished a course of your choice, at a university of your choice, and this certificate will be accepted everywhere – but you can never actually attend the said course.– those are your choices.

Which would you choose?

Whatever your answer, here is what I have found upon asking people this question: the older you are, the more you tend to choose the second option. Signaling that you have something, experience seems to teach us, is more important than actually having it.

This also explains why we carefully cultivate our little garden on LinkedIn, and why fake Gucci handbags sell in such volumes – but more worryingly, we seem to apply it to education as well.

Caplan makes the case that we ought not to be worried about it, for education is largely a waste of time, but perhaps that particular rabbit hole we shall go down on a later day.

(By the way, if you don’t believe me, or agree with me, ask yourself if you have insisted on a certificate at the end of a training programme that you attended, even if you missed part of the course. Did you insist with equal vehemence that the parts you missed be taught again?)

So, it would seem, showing that we have an education matters more to us than actually obtaining said education. Which, I agree, is a fairly depressing thought to foist on you, dear reader.

But now what to do? Misery loves company.


Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish is a confirmed Punekar, which guarantees eternal undying love for the city, but also mandates an incurable sense of cynicism about it.

He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
Ashish Kulkarni