Most students aspiring to pursue university education locally (and even internationally) after they are done with their high school studies apply for degree courses in medicine, law and engineering. Traditionally, these courses are considered to be more prestigious than humanities and social sciences. In a country where higher education is wrongly perceived as a ticket to well remunerated white collar jobs and ultimately, prosperity in life, many parents coerce their children to apply for the degree courses above, irrespective of whether the latter are passionate about them. It has therefore become a common trend for graduates in let’s say engineering to opt for careers in music or journalism as prompted by their hearts after spending many years in the universities, leaving their hapless parents dejected.
It is in this regard that we wish to share our views regarding the ongoing debate that was triggered by the unfortunate remarks by Professor George Magoha, the Education Secretary, that degree courses that fail to attract applicants have lost their relevance and they should therefore be scrapped. To start with, the notion that degrees are solely tickets to highflying careers is a misnomer. On the contrary, degrees are universal qualifications which open doors for graduates to share their knowledge and professional skills at the global labour market. They also arm graduates with the ability to think critically and tread new paths in their careers as they acquire more knowledge and experience.
In particular, it has been noted that social science degree courses like psychology and sociology are beneficial to people in leadership positions because they equip them with critical skills like empathy and discernment. Languages on the other hand make leaders effective communicators and they are therefore able to articulate their visions.
Even as we encourage our youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), we should temper the courses with units that will arm them with soft skills so that they can become all rounded professionals. Such units can be in communication, language, philosophy and psychology. Cases abound whereby individuals with excellent curriculum vitaes (CVs) fail while being interviewed for jobs that they are highly qualified in going by their academic papers, because of being poor communicators. Viewed holistically, there is no degree that can be said to be ‘useless’ unless one has some biased views.