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Quality Education – Why Is It Important?

Whilst interviewing for a Fortune 100 company in India, I still remember, the VP – HR had asked me – ‘Oxford? Why? You couldn’t get that education in India? Why waste money there?‘ I still remember asking – ‘What’s that supposed to mean? Oxford is the oldest university in the English speaking world. Aren’t you ashamed to even ask this question?’

Education – we all know is important. Quintessentially, what makes it special – is the question. A 3rd class graduate from a University college in Delhi; and a graduate from an Ivy League University OR Oxford/Cambridge and the likes of it. What is ‘different’ between the two?

Whilst reading about India’s finest cricket captain, Mansoor Ali Khan of Pataudi, commonly referred to as ‘Nawab of Pataudi, Junior’, I came across a very interesting article about him, as recalled by the Legendary Imran Khan. Imran – cricket’s finest all-rounder of all time (after ‘Sir Garfield Sobers’ of course), recalled about Pataudi. Incidentally, both – Pataudi & Imran are Oxonians.

Pataudi read Arabic and French at Balliol College, Oxford (1959-62); whereas Imran read Politics and Economics at Keble College, Oxford (1972-1975).
I read Sociology at St. Cross College, Oxford (2005-06).

Hanif Mohammad of Pakistan and Tiger chat at Lord’s ahead of playing for the Rest of the World in 1965.

The complete article is a must read. Here’s a few relevant excerpts from it.

“I had an advantage of quality education. I also had the advantage of going to the Oxford University. Quality cricket and education both complement each other.”

“The greatest thing education does it structures your mind. The key behind successful people is how you handle failure rather than success. Power of analysis is sharpened by education. I could analyse my own mistakes so you could correct them.

Imran mentions a few key lines here. Lets critically analyze them one by one.

> the greatest thing education does it structures your mind: means – whether you’re at a workplace, or running your own business some day, or discussing politics, sports and fashion with your friends, you shall see – those who are not educated – come to conclusions hurriedly, feel content with the decision (often ‘wrong’) and then left brooding in the glory of that. Ultimately, when circumstances and situations prove their decision(s) wrong, these people tend to procrastinate, and thus, their self-belief gets destroyed over time. Have seen this happen to dozens during my career of just 5 and a 1/2 years. On the other hand, the advantage of quality education is – you take a step back. Stop. Assess your choices. See the right and wrong. Comprehend the choices and give your brain time to assimilate them and distill the choices down further. Finally, debate over logic, thesis, anti-thesis, hypo-thesis, and higher synthesis evolves from it (from Hegelian dialectic). This thesis becomes your choice, your decision, your logical and rational choice for a situation. Over time, this thesis then becomes higher-synthesis for discussions.

> the key behind successful people is how you handle failure rather than success: means – never to give up. I still remember those days when returned to India after over a decade of education & working in England and elsewhere. Most Indians, by nature – are selfish, self-centered, low-cultured, less educated irrational animals, usually caught up in their daily struggles. Thus, never leave a stone unturned to mock others over their situations and elsewhere – if they get the slightest of chances. I still remember those times when had to interview for positions with so-called, top MNCs in India – have had heard questions like these –

> Oxford? which Oxford? – from the CTO of a Fortune 50 Consulting firm, who incidentally, became CTO cause of his closeness to CPI(M) in West Bengal
> Oxford – why waste money there?
> England – you were good there. Why returned to India?
> Are you sure you can cope with Indian politics, people at work?
> Oxford. How much you paid for your studies? Are you sure you can work here?

And what not. Most of the HR guys – either were not getting laid at home or elsewhere, thus, were either frustrated with life. Or otherwise as I could figure out early in my career in India – Indians have an inherent tendency – if a young guy is very enterprising, promising, and getting paid shit loads, always ALWAYS make sure, you can be-rate him as much as possible. Till he admits defeat. And finally crumbles down. Thus, either left such places, or carried on working, as the situation demanded, neglecting others. Has it paid off? Yes, those 50-year old managers are still stuck grinding the stones, whereas, I just checked my bank balance. Was pretty happy to see what I saw.

The best example is from Imran Khan’s life himself. On his first-class debut for Pakistan – just at the age of 16 – he had everything – raw pace, length, movement off the pitch; but lacked discipline. Hence, more often than not, used to get hit around the park by class batsmen. In the early 1970s, he had already played for a few teams – Lahore A (1969–70), Lahore B (1969–70), Lahore Greens (1970–71) and, eventually, Lahore (1970–71) but lacked the ‘self-belief, self-assessment & quality’ to become the greatest All-rounder ever. What changed him?

His life’s 3 years at the Oxford University.
> He learnt to swing the ball late.
> He realized – its good to have pace. But ain’t everything. Movement is required, deception is required.
> Most important of all – that changed his life forever – he changed his run-up. Shortened it.
> And most decisively, added the ‘lethal jump‘ at the end of his run-up, that made him immortal.

Imran’s lethal jump, just before the delivery. Added pace, power, and the deadly swing. Notice the slightly ‘out-swinger’ grip on the ball, pointing away towards the slip cordon. His stock delivery, this delivery kept Imran at the top of his career for most of his cricketing life.

Imran was part of Oxford University’s Blues Cricket team during the 1973–75 seasons. From 1976 onwards, Imran was untouchable – simply world-class. In 1980-83, he was the world’s best and probably, the fastest bowler of Test cricket at that time. A mediocre first-class cricketer had transformed himself into one of the fastest flat-out Test bowler of all times. His self-belief brushed onto others – and rest is history. Pakistan beat New Zealand, Australia and India in Test Series at home. Almost beat West Indies at home, led by Imran from the front. Led Pakistan to their first ever World Cup victory in 1992. Established Pakistan as one of the finest cricketing nations ever. One man gelled a team to make it a single unit.

Moral of the story – Education makes you strong. Makes your mind razor sharp, which makes you stand apart from the uneducated Indian massses.
In short, “education breeds leadership“.

> I could analyse my own mistakes so could correct them: everyone makes mistakes. All of us do. But education provides one with the analytical and non-procrastinating mind, to sit down – reassess the situation(s), consider options, and look for the probable solution(s), if any. Imran made a few important changes in his bowling, during hours of end-less bowling practice at Oxford nets; and thus transformed himself, and thereby the game itself – to a large extent.

In a nutshell – even if you’ve not been able to study at Oxford or Cambridge, or at Stanford or Harvard – respect those around you having quality education; try to learn from them, see how they see things, assess situations, and come up with solutions. Most importantly, open your mind to new ideas, creations, and of course, discussions. I often come across people at my workplace, who are so self-centered, so touchy, so short-tempered – they get ‘jumpy’ at the slightest of criticisms of their work. I often take a step back and understand the reason – they are ‘jumpy’ cause they are uneducated. Feel insecure about themselves, their very own existence, and thus, take every criticism/advice as negative.

My father always used to encourage me to play sports. He often used to say – ‘A man who doesn’t play a sport, is not a man after all. Cause, sports teaches you to COMPETE in the SPIRIT of the GAME, to WIN, to LOSE, and to be GRACEFUL in defeat.‘ Whilst playing cricket at Oxford University at the First XI level, and at the OUICCL and Cuppers, those words used to keep reminding me of the ‘importance of education’.

After my cricket match at the OUICCL; after rains at Exeter College Quad. Meeting friends and foes after the match.
Inside the Exeter College MCR (middle common room). A few laughs after my name came in the student newspaper, saying – ‘middle order of our team not clicking’. Yes, I had scored a few consecutive zeroes that summer. 🙂

I wish to thank my parents for the opportunity of a lifetime that they provided me with.
Education left an ever-lasting impact on my life.
In short, thank you.

PS: 2011/2012 World University Rankings: from Times Higher Education Rankings 2011/2012

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