We are happy to present to you this issue of INI, dated April-June ’23 on 1 May, May Day that calls us to remember the workers – those who labour and so are weary and burdened.
Students are not workers yet, but in these months of April and May students and teachers in India brave the heat-wave conditions in many parts of the country to prepare for and then sit for their exams. For most of them these are the most stressful months during the year. They slog, hoping that a college degree will eventually bring them a job.
This is why I was surprised to learn that the present situation in the U.S. is quite different. In an article in TIME (10-17 April 2023) titled, ‘The Point of College’, Jenny Anderson says, “Soon after the 2008-09 financial crash tanked the economy, Americans’ unflagging faith in higher education started to falter… In 2009, 70% of recent high school graduates enrolled in college. In 2021 that figure was 61.8%, about where it was in 1994.”
If 70% students enrolled in colleges about 15 years ago, it was because of a vigorous campaign that proclaimed that a college degree will enable them to work “smart” rather than “hard.” The images of a dirty plumber next to a shiny college graduate showed what the campaign slogan meant.
But now they are asking, ‘Does everyone have to go to college?’ Employers as well state governments are dropping the requirement for a college degree. According to an estimate, over two-thirds of Americans do not have even a bachelor’s degree. Why would they slog for a college degree if 1.4 million jobs would be available to workers without college degrees? In Germany and Switzerland one half to nearly two-thirds of students pursue vocational education. These men would say, ‘What if I don’t have a college degree? I have a job. If I can have a job, why would anyone want to sweat for a college degree? What I studied has earned me a job.’
Here in India the situation still favours higher education. Students are convinced that it is the college degree that would assure them of a decent job and a handsome salary. The problem is that what they are after is just a degree. Do they imbibe values? Is their faith in God strengthened? Does their college education make them immune to viruses like communalism, casteism and chauvinism? This is why the challenge all our educators face is how to make them men and women for others – how to help them see all humans are their brothers and sisters. Read Cedric Prakash’s article titled, ‘Rich in diversity, equal in dignity, united in solidarity’ in this issue. Happy reading!
– M.A. Joe Antony, SJ