About a year and a few months ago I embarked on a journey to get myself an ‘advanced degree’ commonly known as a Masters. I joined this online programme, completion of which would grant me a Master of Science in Management and Information Systems: Change and Development – I know, that’s a rather long name for one programme. One year down the line, two modules out of seven completed and almost empty bank accounts, I’m not so keen to go on with the programme anymore. Why?
For starters, as an ‘International student’ (concept which I didn’t know existed for online programmes), I’m charged twice as much as a ‘national’. I don’t know who came up with this concept and why, but to me it’s a form of discrimination… though I’m yet to figure out against whom it is directed. I guess it can mean one of two things: either the host country considers foreigners richer than nationals, or it’s a strategy to keep foreigners away from their schools (whatever happened to globalisation?)
Anyway, even if I were to pay at the ‘nationals’ rate, it would still be a lot of money, once converted to Burundian Francs. I may have a good job and a very good salary (Burundian standards), but our British Pounds exchange rate makes our currency somewhat worthless. Well, I could actually tighten my belt a little bit and proceed with the course but I’m not quite sure if it’s worth it.
Which brings me to my second point: I don’t quite need the qualification right now. I happen to work in an organisation where a Masters won’t make any difference at all, considering pay or evolution of my career. Then there’s the fact that I’m not quite studying what I actually want to study. At this point, you’re probably wondering why I started the programme in the first place, but you’ll get that answer later… Right now I’m thinking about the people who aren’t as ‘lucky’ as I am. People who actually need advanced degrees to ‘progress’ in their careers but either don’t have access to them or simply can’t afford them. They constitute a large majority of the employed (and unemployed) population.
There is this new trend that I’ve started to observe around the World: a lot of employers – private companies, NGOs and International organisations – are recruiting on a post-graduate diploma basis. As far as Burundi is concerned, I think it’s very ridiculous. First because one can count on one hand the number of RELIABLE and relevant post-graduate programmes available in this country. Second the few programmes that we have are very expensive for the Burundian market. Third, it’s clear that not anybody can afford an education abroad. Fourth, anybody will tell you it isn’t easy and straightforward to get a scholarship; and I’m not referring to the official terms and conditions. Fifth, salaries and work conditions aren’t quite competitive and interesting to people with advanced degrees: proof is that very few of those who go abroad to study return to Burundi after they have completed their programmes…. And I believe a few other African countries face the same issue as well.
Whatever happened to professional experience priming over education?
It really makes me sad when I see advertisements for positions requiring candidates to have ‘Advanced degrees’ knowing there are so many people out there who have more than enough skills but lack that little paper which doesn’t even justify on-the-field, practical skills!
I have a feeling that employers have gone too far ahead of themselves looking for something that we’ve been made to believe is perfection, and ignoring what they’re really looking for: people who can do the job! I wonder if they realise that they are discriminating against a large proportion of the population that cannot afford these qualifications they’re looking for, but don’t lack the skills nevertheless. I wonder if they realise that they are promoting the devaluation of the real worth of further learning, which is… learning! And not a ticket to promotion!
What do further learning institutions have to say about this? Or is this whole trend just a scheme designed by a secret society of University Chancellors to rip us off our money in the name of education? What do Masters Courses really teach us actually, other than give structure to concepts and ideas already known?
My observation may be biased, but I’ve noticed that many post-graduate institutions in ‘first World’ countries are actually full of foreign students especially from ‘developing’ countries? What’s the deal here? Is it because ‘third World issues’ more complex to deal with and need ‘further education’?