Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No degree is better than having one

The controversy over the educational qualification of Union HRD minister Smriti Irani is quite needless. Apparently she hasn't studied beyond Std XII. My take is -- it's good.

It all started with tweets from Madhu Kishwar and Congress spokesman Ajay Makhen, questioning her competence to head the education ministry. And, it backfired, with a barrage of countertweets. Columnist Swapan Dasgupta said: “Someone remind me. Did Rabindranath Tagore go to university? He certainly established one & had enlightened views on education.’’ Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah tweeted: "To say that someone needs to be educated to be HRD Min is like saying one needs to be a pilot for Civil Aviation or a miner for Coal Min".

I wonder when did educational qualification become an imperative to join politics or to become a minister. Not just in politics, elsewhere too everyone is looking beyond degrees. We have infinite examples of under-qualified people doing well, and well-qualified people under-performing.

Let her do her job

As a minister, Smriti and others are more of managers and leaders. What she needs is a good set of advisers. And she should have the will to push the policies that are good for the teachers and the taught, and generally for the educational setup of our country. And for all that, a PhD or an MSc or an MBA is hardly required. In fact, a highly qualified person may prove to be a disadvantage, since he or she won't be able to look beyond his or her field of specialization. Such people very often have a constricted view, while a minister of education of the country should have a very broad view.

Let Smriti be allowed to do her job. If she has come this far, she must be smart enough to figure her way ahead too. If we need to criticize, let us do that for her omissions and commissions as a minister.

(Picture credit: The Hindu)


  1. Without detracting from the merit or capability of Ms Smriti Irani,it is my view that certain portfolios call for specialized skill and competence.True there have been cases of people without formal education who have been in high political positions or great success in business/industry.But for finance,science & technology,
    education,commerce, defense and such departments call for some exposure.It is not my case that others cannot do or supervise them but in the hands of professionals they can be more effective..There are always exceptions to the rule

  2. Yes, definitely, the finance minister can't be one who doesn't understand numbers or an external affairs minister who can't be one who can't make out the difference between G7 and G77, or a railway minister can't be one who doesn't enjoy or appreciate traveling and tourism.

    But that takes me back the original question. Does a degree correspond to an interest in the subject (especially in the UG level in our country, where many people choose a UG course by parental or peer pressure rather than innate interest in the subject)?

    So I guess a more practical approach would be not rely too much on degrees. Use them as indicators, not a final parameters of judgment. Let work, achievements, results etc be the best indicators to assess a person's efficiency.

    And, like your very rightly said, there are exceptions.