Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pursuit of Excellence vs Guzara: How to teach excellence through everyday examples

This is late 1979, I had completed my intermediate, and my father had retired from his government job in Islamabad. We were moving back to Karachi from Islamabad via train in a reserved coupe of the economy class. The train system was already in a fast decline then. Gone were the days when the reserved compartments only had passengers with confirmed seats. Our
Coupe of the Train
reserved compartment was full of people standing and sitting on floor without reservation or even without tickets. My father had already complained to the ticket checker several times but to no avail. We had put a bedcover in front of the coupe as a curtain to gain some privacy. There were people standing and slowly nudging closer and closer to our reserved seats. One of them asked for the  space to sit on our reserved berth saying "guzara karna hai" (need to just get along). The word "guzara" somehow got my father to explode and he viciously turned the person down. I did not understand why my father, who was otherwise so considerate, got so much angry; after all it was just a matter of some space on the berth for a few hours. I could not understand then that it had to do with the use of the word "guzara", and the attitude associated with it. But, now several decades later, having seen the continuous decline in the quality of the services and products all around, whether government or private, I have come to the conclusion that this word "guzara" has become the bane of our existence, it is a malaise that is afflicting our society and eating its foundations.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why PhD is Difficult to Complete and Why there are so many ABDs and PhD Dropouts

Adding to what does it mean to be a PhD and PhD myths related to specialization and departmental scope of expertise, here are some more myths that often discourage many to pursue a PhD:
  1. Myth: PhD is hard because doing it is very technical and complex. 
  2. Myth: A PhD degree requires a lot of intelligence and smartness. Holders of PhD are at the top of the intelligence pyramid. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What does it Mean to Have a PhD: Myths of Specialization and Departmental Expertise

Following are the myths about the PhD degree that have created an aura of difficulty around the PhD degree that discourages many from undertaking the plunge.
  1. Myth: A PhD in your subject of specialization makes you the expert of the entire area i.e. department to which that subject specialization belongs. 
  2. Myth: PhDs are department specific specializations. Hence, a PhD faculty can only serve in the department of his specialization. [departmental turf wars].
It is interesting to note that these myths are also subscribed by academics of universities and even authorities dealing with higher education such as HEC and PEC in Pakistan.