HERE is startling news: According to a report in

The Times

, prominent firms are finding graduates of British Universities less and less suitable for employment and last year, a third of the employers had to leave vacant posts unfilled since the candidates were not of acceptable quality, even though they were holding academic degrees.

Half the number of firms were pessimistic about seeing any improvement in the situation this year as well. "Britain's biggest companies gave warning... that, despite a record number of graduates entering the job market this year, many will lack the basic skills needed for employment," says the report.

The main reason is that colleges and universities have become mere degree factories, with the system of education and methods of teaching designed exclusively for passing examinations.

The result is that there is very little effort made to equip the students preparing for degrees with the skills necessary to generate interest in issues and problems, communicate their ideas effectively and develop the right emotional quotient (EQ) for maintaining mature and purposeful relations with those with whom they have dealings.

The employers in Britain have also been shocked at graduates making basic mistakes, "writing illiterate memos" with poor spelling and grammar, and wanting in analytical ability, logical thinking, the right attitude and the required aptitude for work.

Recruiting such persons purely on the strength of their degrees means spending a lot of time and energy in counselling, training and supervising them.

The employers are in a Catch-22 situation. There is no way they can dispense with the minimum qualification of a degree as that is the only basis available for measuring intellectual attainments and screening candidates. On the other hand, they have been reduced to winnowing, not grain from chaff, but chaff from chaff!

If such is the predicament of Britain, known for its high standards, is there anything to be surprised about the generally poor stuff Indian universities, barring those with a long and proud tradition, are churning out?

As anyone who has been on recruitment boards would testify, not only the so-called graduates but even the post-graduates fail to make the grade, even for entry level jobs. It is high time a National Education Commission was set up to go into the entire education system and suggest reforms.

B.S. Raghavan

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 10, 2006)
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