Friday, March 17, 2006

Education By Proxy

Education by Experience
There are schools now which simply sell you a degree based on your experience. I see the ads for them coming through on email all the time. You send them your resume, and they assess your experience and then offer you a degree based on your experience in any given field. It could be at the bachelor's, master's, or even doctorate level.

That sounds criminal at first, but then, when I think a little more about it, since a degree is supposed to represent knowledge and experience and capability within an area, I suppose the experience actually represents that better than simply attending a few detached academic classes on the subject. Maybe this kind of degree is actually more representative of what the person has to offer in terms of knowledge, skills, and experience. As long as the resume is accurate, of course. Hopefully, those schools check the facts and references, etc.

Education by Proxy
Then there is the opposite case. I remember when I was going to college that there were a number of Chinese people who were "professional students". In other words, they attended college in someone else's name. A wealthy Chinese person in Hong Kong would pay a professional student to register at a college, then take all the classes, take the tests, and get the final degree in their sponsor's name and then give them the degree papers at the end. That way, there are records corroborating the academic experience and dates, and grades, etc. in the name of the wealthy sponsor in case anyone checks reference and academic background later.

I was told this was popular and even common among the children of wealthy Hong Kong families. It's not just Hong Kong, of course, but given the number of Chinese people in that city at the time, those are the ones I saw and heard about the most.

The students are paid all living expenses, and tuition, books and other school expenses, and then a reasonable salary on top of that. For those who enjoy college life, this is ideal. Ironically, since none of the degrees they earn are in their own name, they have all kinds of knowledge, but no actual degrees to prove it.

Since people would not go to that expense unless it worked, I have to assume it works. This of course, renders the whole education itself moot. If a person can get a job and then actually do the job that required a degree - without having earned the degree themself, then clearly, all it is is a piece of paper. What it represents is truly meaningless.

The irony of this second case, is that I sometimes wondered if the professional student had in turn hired another professional student. HE could do the exact same education-by-proxy that the original wealthy kid was doing. And who would know? He could be selling his student imposter services to half a dozen wealthy clients, and then outsourcing each one to another cheaper pro student, and taking a profit.

Ahh the pristine ideals of higher learning. Like everything else, it's just a business.


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