Sunday, June 17, 2007

On the Importance of an Education

I was once treated to an analogy that illustrates the importance of a good education. There is a news item in the Houston Chronicle today that reminded me of it, and I’ll get to that article in a minute.

Envision a long hallway with 50 doors on each side, with each door representing career opportunities and success in life.

If you fail to get a high school diploma, you can open precisely two of these doors. The other 98 are unavailable to you

If you get a GED, maybe another door opens.

If you receive a high school diploma, you can now open up ten doors.


Some time in a trade school or other post secondary education, but without a Batchelor’s degree: 20 doors.

Graduation from a 4 year college or university: 60 doors are available for you to open.

A Master’s degree: 95 doors.

A PhD: 100 doors, although in theory the lower end jobs start to become unavailable to you because potential employers will view you as way too over-qualified for a job as fry cook.

Education is important. Not only quantity but quality.

This brings me to the story that reminded me of the analogy.

As reported in The Chron, Shivcharan Jatav, a 69-year old Indian, an inhabitant of the western India province of Rajasthan, a man with no formal education, has taken and failed India’s mandated 10th grade high school exam for the 39th time since he first took the exam, in 1969.

In 1969 he was rejected from enlistment in India’s armed forces because of his lack of education. He was told at that time that if he passed the 10th grade exam he would be accepted. He was also told by others that if he took and passed the exam, he would be far more marriageable:
“I could not get married as the girls told my family members that I was not properly educated. It's my fate that deprived me of education and a married life”.
I couldn’t help but think about this test, this man, and how this relates to the tens of thousands of high school students in Texas who take a high-consequence life-defining TAKS test every year.

I don’t know what it’s like now in India, but in America, Shivcharan would have no problem enlisting in the US Army – well there’s the age thing, but that notwithstanding. He probably wouldn’t have much problem getting a wife as long as he looks halfway decent and makes a living wage.

And therein lies the rub. Culturally, Indians value education much more highly than some Americans. That Shivcharan could not find a woman to be his wife, in a country of 400 million women, does say quite a lot.

Shivcharan passed only one of the six parts of the 10th grade test, with a total score of 103 out of 600. Which test did he pass?

Early Sanskrit.

Now how many Texas 10th graders do you think can pass that test?

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