The Folly of Mass Production of University Graduates

Jul 10 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew

Oftentimes, when people meet, what they want to know is the person’s profession and level of education. Once I answer, it is possible to see in their faces as they size me up – like I could be any less human if I did not have a master’s degree.

In Ethiopia, we value a person’s educational status more than their emotional maturity and intelligence. We often overlook other things or qualities a person can possess – like having degrees somehow makes up for everything else a person lacks. Sadly, these degree certificates are often a poor measure of a person’s skill. Many of us know highly educated people on paper but who are clueless when it comes to putting their knowledge on the ground.

A couple of years ago, I met an English teacher. He has his master’s degree and was teaching at a private school at the time. Ironically, his English was terrible. When speaking, he used to make many grammatical errors, leaving me feeling sorry for his students. This is not about his lack of English fluency, which is acceptable – it is by no means a measure of success on its own. But it was entirely unfortunate and a disservice to his students that he was the one hired to instruct them in the language that is the lingua franca of the 21st century.

It does not help that we tend to trust people that claim to be educated. Meanwhile, we do not even give the benefit of the doubt to “uneducated” individuals who could be more intelligent, learned and mature than those with degrees. It saddens one to see people that did not get further higher education being labelled as ignorant folks.

A better way of seeing education would be to consider it as a mindset instead of certificates or accolades. Education opens the door to a better understanding of the world around us and to adapt accordingly. This does not include rote learning, memorising enough formulas and sentences to pass an exam and obtain a piece of paper.

The education system is also at fault here. Quality has been sacrificed for the sake of mass-producing higher tertiary graduates. At the same time, it has devalued the importance of liberal arts education or vocational and technical training that form the backbone of a skilled labour force.

“Back in the day, when someone said they were a professional, they knew their subject matter,” some older people say. “Nowadays, it’s just for the credentials.”

I agree. Making matters all the more mind-boggling is how the price of tutoring and educating children has escalated. Private schools have gone on to raise the price of schools without really increasing the quality of education. Sure, international and private schools provide an excellent education that matches their names, but most leave a lot to be desired.

Schooling has become the most costly part of raising children, but this has not grown in proportion to the quality of curriculums or even the teachers. Parents are being swindled, paying higher and higher prices for an education system with marginally poorer returns every other year. With population growth at around 2.6pc, it may well be the government's policy to try and "educate" as many as possible at the expense of the quality of the education.

How can we educate our children and citizens to not rely on certificates but rather on knowledge? How can we create a nation that believes in the importance of true learning even if it means not having credentials?

This is a question that needs to concern us much more than it currently does.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 10,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1106]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Put your comments here

N.B: A submit button will appear once you fill out all the required fields.

Editors' Pick


Fortune news