True Purpose of Education

We recently came across a very good response on Quora for a question

What is the purpose of education when most of us hardly remember what was taught at the start of the semester when it is about to end?

Here goes the best answer!

How many kilograms of cereals, milk, fruits and vegetables you would have eaten in your life so far? Are those 1000s of kilograms of food in your body? Are they in the same form? Can you find that apple you ate 15 years ago still in your stomach?

Part of those would have become muscles and organs. Another part would have provided you the energy to live your life. But most of the rest would have provided you the fiber to digest the whole thing.

Education is like that. Study of poetry and literature act as carbohydrates providing us the energy. Study of logic, mathematics & critical analysis act as proteins providing us the muscular strength. Study of science act as vitamins helping fight against diseases of the mind. And the study of social sciences provide us the fiber to digest the whole thing. Add art as spices to bring taste and flavor to complete the full thali.

It is not the concepts you learn matters. It is the ability to think that matters. You don’t need to memorize 5+ 3 = 8. You need to understand what addition is so that you can add any group of numbers in the future.

A good engineering education provides you the analytical thinking process that is critical in a lot of fields – from investment banking to management consulting to programming. Those concepts you studied in your various streams are like the fiber – already out as shit. What matters is your ability to put those different ideas together.


On Chasing after Brands and Certificates

“You know I have always drunk Grade A milk from Mother Dairy and my mom always bought vegetables from Super Grocers. You never drank Mother Dairy milk and you wouldn’t stand a chance against me,” said the challenging boxer trying to trash talk the opponent.

[After a loud noise in the middle]

“You might have drunk all that milk and the best of the vegetables. But, it was my knockout punch that was on your face,” said the other boxer victoriously crying over him.

Of course, the quality of food we eat matters to our strength. But, a lot of us take that thing way too far. Just as a boxer’s success isn’t affected solely by the brands of food he ate, the success of an engineer isn’t solely affected by the brands of degree certificates he/she has.

What really matters is:
a) how much of that quality food was absorbed in the body
b) how was that intake matched by exercises to build muscles
c) how was the strength matched by developing boxing skills & tactics

In the same way, figure out how much advantage you can take out of the campus you go to, how you internalize those knowledge into thought processes and finally how you “DO” stuff to put the brain to work. A good diet doesn’t alone make a good boxer. He needs practice. In the same way, keep building stuff. Keep starting small ventures. Some day, you will have your chance to do the knockout punch.

In short, if you are already in a great college, you have a headstart. You are on the right diet. Focus on the three things above. If you are not in a good college, you are just a little behind. Figure out how you can get the good diet and focus a lot more on how you can build the skills to make the knockout punch.

Advice to College Students

Don’t overthink the education system. Don’t get over anxious over things. Life is a long game. Instead, focus on certain critical skillsets that will get you a leg up.

Skills needed by all students

  1. Listening & following skills. How good of a follower are you? That would determine how good of a leader you would become. How good of a listener are you? That would determine how good of a communicator are you. In your college, really hone those two skills that almost every great person is made of.
  2. Writing & presenting skills. Most of us are shit scared of telling our ideas and thoughts to a large population. No need to be. Keep focusing on how you can convey your ideas. Practice writing daily.

Read more from my article here:…

Skills needed from engineers
As an engineer your job is to manage the method of production. Be the creator. Be very busy “hacking” stuff. You could hack your motorbike, connect different pieces of software, build robots, create simple gadgets and so on. You see the sound system giving you more noise? Take it apart. If you are an engineer and you shirk away from breaking things, you need to find a different career.

I have more practical advice here: Is it possible to be successful in life even if one is from the worst engineering college in India?

Skills needed from non-engineers
As a non-engineer, your job is to manage the method of distribution. It is you who needs to figure out how the engineering creations get to the market. You could hone your sales skills. You could learn design. Design is not painting – but your way of representing your environment. You could understand humans – their needs and emotions [this what marketing is all about]. You could learn about finance and play around with the markets.

A new era

For most of human civilization, certificates didn’t matter. Ancient artists were valued by their work and not by where they studied. Kings and warriors were valued by their ability to win battles, saints by their devotion and merchants by the ability to do commerce. Only in the past century, we have placed an excessive emphasis on degrees and certificates as we entered an era of large corporations who needed to hire people in bulk. It became easy for them to get large groups at once through universities. Suddenly, universities became a place to train you for a job and get a job offer at the end.

We are entering a new era in economy. The age of hiring in bulk in big corporations is giving way to hiring smart folks based on their skillsets. People are getting judged by what they accomplish rather than simply what certificates they have. This change is already happening in the US and slowly started in India.

To succeed in this new era, focus on your accomplishments and thought processes, instead of losing sleep over degrees and certificates.


Source : Quora Answer by Balaji Viswanathan