Tuesday, September 26

Don’t take the shortcut to that ‘pot of gold’

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Many usually take shortcuts to speed up the process and put themselves on the fast track to the future, where they hope to find their ‘pot of gold’ and proclaim success.

IF you want to find gold, you’ve got to love the process of digging. Gold never comes to the dreamers – except in dreams. The desire for gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit. — RW Emerson.

Life is full of twisting and turning roads. Even as the weary years take their toll, the challenging terrain remains unrelenting, and the pursuit of the proverbial ‘Holy Grail’ is unwavering. There are ups and downs. Crushed one moment, lifted the next.

For some, the claim to imagined glory was snatched just moments before celebration turned into pure disappointment. These and many more are the bitter and sweet realities of life that you only get to experience and savour once. Many a time, we raise our hopes and our expectations higher than we achieve.

Some are blessed with a straight and smooth path that leads them to the highest level of academic achievement with little misgiving.

Others toil amid constrained resources, clearing hurdles along the way and treasuring success attained at every step to reach the ultimate destiny. The latter may take a little longer, pausing along the way due to financial constraints and family obligations before resuming his or her academic journey. It is a tough journey, but it is a journey that is just as educational as the one offered in the formal lecture hall, if not more.

Life is never fair to all

Life can never be fair. Opportunities can never be the same, no matter how hard you argue from an egalitarian standpoint. In education as in business, commerce, agro-based industry and a host of other activities, there is no shortcut. You cannot beat the system, much as you try to do so, and circumvent the rules and processes to emerge winner at the end of the line.

Even if you surreptitiously do so, the fear of being labelled a fraud will haunt you. The term ‘shortcut’ hardly exists on the learning curve and it generates unfavourable connotations. If it does, it may involve the silent intervention of an unseen hand with authority, particularly in business.

Many usually take shortcuts to speed up the process and put themselves on the fast track to the future, where they hope to find their ‘pot of gold’ and proclaim success.

Is that a well-deserved triumph?

Learning is the journey

Is it the ‘pot of gold’ that matters most in the journey, rather than the experience that enriches the man and strengthens his foresight of the future?

The learning is in the journey.

But shortcuts are dangerous; we cannot delude ourselves that our knowledge is further along than it actually is, writes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2014).

Focusing on the future too much causes you to lose touch with the present, lose your bearings, and your training to become erratic and disconnected.

With the passage of time, little progress is made, disappointment sets in, and your efforts become a never-ending cycle of failure by seeking more shortcuts.

So, as you train, live in the moment day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year, and you’ll achieve your goals when you’re supposed to – when you’re ready.

Instead of looking for shortcuts, increase your effort if you want to reach your goals faster.

The community that endorses such behavioural tendency of indulging in shortcuts is guilty of encouraging quantity instead of quality in the production of professional and skilled manpower. There is arguably much in the way of social cosmetic display, but little in the way of in-depth capability and character building.

Making sacrifice

Pursuing an education or a degree of quality necessitates the sacrifice of time, resources, and many other aspects of one’s life.

How many people are willing to make the sacrifice? Is there anything that you must do in order to obtain a degree? What are you willing to sacrifice?

We’re accustomed to getting what we want right away. We expect instant gratification, forgetting that the most important things in life take time, patience, and sacrifice.

The term ‘sacrifice’ refers to the act of giving up or destroying something valuable for the sake of something or someone else.

Giving up? Destroying them? Those are not words we frequently use. We’d rather talk about gaining, winning, creating and producing.

Privilege comes to some, whilst hard work and patience that may not necessarily pay off, remain the mainstay of others.

Gap between success, happiness

The gap between success and happiness is widening. The amount of Google searches for ‘success’ has been growing at a faster pace than for ‘happiness’ in recent years. We are all striving for success. Education success is no exception.

Most people, on the other hand, seek shortcuts.

Shortcuts will get us nowhere. Shortcuts are an illusion. Instead of moving quickly, we will become stuck. Your desire for shortcuts makes you an easy prey.

Miracle workers will promise you quick solutions. The only quick win will be theirs. The path to success is fraught with peril.

The local education scene is not without its share of ‘shortcuts’ although the institutions involved are quick to deny. At the moment, SPM holders are expected to sit for STPM, A-Levels, or matriculation before beginning their degree programmes. They are expected to spend at least a year completing such a foundation programme before beginning their degree studies.

As a result, following the SPM, all degree courses will require a minimum of four years to complete before they can graduate, or their qualifications will not be recognised by the government or even the private sector.

Some less reputable colleges promote a three-year degree completion plan, leading parents and prospective students to believe that their degrees can be completed in three years.

What is concerning is that some of these educational institutions are using this as a gimmick to attract more students despite the fact that their graduates’ qualifications are subpar.

Quality is sacrificed

On the academic altar of venerable institutions, quality is sacrificed. As thousands graduate, with as many as 500 receiving PhDs from one public university in one graduation year, quantity is celebrated and hailed as a social indicator of the country’s progress.

Many in positions of power and knowledge are aware of this and are known to stay clear of making adverse comments for fear of cutting across the grain of political correctness.

Never mind the graduates’ written and spoken English skills, many of whom are the result of a rushed delivery system. Worry more about the overall quality and their acceptance in the labour market and for further studies in foreign institutions.

It is as much a social issue as it is a systemic problem. It calls into question the quality and integrity of the learning process, as well as the scholarship tradition. If left unchecked, these shortcuts will be responsible for generating cross-generational pride of achievement whose value may diminish in the coming years.

If time and money are limited resources, faster shortcuts can be advantageous.

However, they usually necessitate intense concentration, which limits people’s ability to experiment, make mistakes, or change programme.

Shortcut proponents tend to make extravagant claims. They encourage unrealistic dreams by arousing hope. Most people should learn to be wary of inflated appeals designed to get their money.

Those who are chasing titles through shortcut at minimum affordable cost should be wary that they may be chasing worthless dreams.

* Toman Mamora (PhD Nottingham, UK) is a communication and research consultant. He comments on contemporary social and political issues, and seeks to raise public opinion on subjects of societal value.