This post follows a “conversation” I had with someone today.
To begin with, I’d like to admit that I’ve whined incessantly, especially during the two years of my coursework here. I’ve talked about how there were some courses which seemed irrelevant to my area of work. And there were some professors who I thought could have done a much better job at teaching the subject.
But at the end of the day, there’s one thing that kept reminding me to suck it up and get to work and that is the fact that I am a research student.
First, I will take the point of the irrelevance of some of the courses being studied. I am getting a degree in the Fellow Programme in Management. So I believe that it’s not too much to be asked of a student to attend a few extra courses outside the purview of your pet area. The standard structure of the coursework is to ensure that most students are equipped with content as well as tools to get through their research phase after the end of these two years and also beyond the thesis. FPM has many people from diverse backgrounds, and these ground rules are set looking at the majority of students entering the programme. If one truly has to nitpick, I can say that except methodology courses, most courses I’ve done are not directly linked to my work since I’ve not taken a single course in entrepreneurship. That brings me to the next part of the argument. The institute has resource limitations. It may not be able to cater to all the diverse topics that the students wish to undertake their research on and therefore, some courses which seem irrelevant will have to be taken in order to fulfil your credit requirements. If one were working in an office and the boss asked you to do an extra bit of work which did not immediately come under the project you were assigned to, would you argue with your boss and throw a tantrum like a child? Also, aspirations and goals are noble things to have. One may dream of building the world’s most fancy hotel. But when you work at an architecture firm and they ask you to design a house, you don’t say that you’re waiting for that particular opportunity to design a hotel. There are some things that you do which may not be directly linked to your area but one can always look at these as wonderful opportunities to learn about something new.
Next is the idea that one would put in the effort only if the teacher puts in a similar effort. One can always blame the teacher when one is in school. But at the level of the highest degree in a subject, if one has to argue that he/she is waiting to be spoon-fed, then one may want to re-think the path chosen. What will be the argument at the end of the coursework when one begins the thesis? The DAC chair didn’t bother so one couldn’t be as well? Some professors have the innate ability to inculcate interest in all students alike. Some are successful with a few and the others may not do such a wonderful job. But if you’re going to choose to put the blame squarely on one individual then you are never going to learn. If only everything was handed over to each one of us on a silver platter, wouldn’t that be great?
The first two years of coursework are just to introduce you to multiple topics and methodologies. You can use them as a time to explore or a time to whine about why certain extra courses are being forced on you. You can take the time to learn a few subjects more intently, skim through the rest to get the required grades or blame the system and ridicule its deficiencies.
There may be many institutes that do a better job than this. But the fact of the matter is that you chose to be here. Constructive criticism of any system is healthy. But when every day is seen as a torture and the system is unworthy of you, then you may want to rethink your choice. One cannot choose to use the resources the system provides and brand the system faulty beyond repair in the same breath. I just think that at some level, we all must remember that we are research students. This is not the end of our research careers, but just the beginning. The system, however messed up it may be, gives us a starting point. And yes, this isn’t the only one. There are many more starting points out there, just in case this choice is wrong.
Standard disclaimer applies: The above is just my opinion. Anyone is entitled to differ. Also, I firmly believe that whining/venting is a healthy outlet albeit temporarily so. It never is a permanent solution.