Knowledge and Value

This Monday, I begin auditing an MPhil in development studies, with a special core in Economics. Indeed, it is an Economics programme, as the faculty pointed out during orientation,with its sociological parameters included. Most thrilled =)

Part of why I love being back home is this relative free and inexpensive access to education — though, admittedly, only for people with a certain kind of social capital. Luckily, I have the more than the required capital in this instance. I have actual knowledge: a grounding in what I think of as ‘soft’ economics — concepts, theories, the history of ideas, some prominent schools of thought. What I lack is a comprehensive idea of quantitative methodology, which this MPhil curricula is designed to provide me with. Plus, their director is a well-established welfare economist, who frequently collaborates with Pratichi, and who is teaching the Economics core this term.

Providence divine? I think so! I am certainly going to tap into his generosity, esp. with designs on designing a self-study. My bright-eyed thirst for Knowledge will cancel out the annoyance of my intrusion into his time, won’t it? Won’t it? *grin*

I am having grey thoughts in the subtext, however. The year (anna half) that I will spend studying, starting Monday, will not earn me a degree. Not even a certificate saying “She paid to attend classes, we don’t know what she actually did during them”. Because, this being a public institute and me not being an enrolled student, I will not in fact be paying anybody. Actually, this concept of auditing-with-paperwork is completely alien to me. We just don’t do that here. The idea that one can wander into any lecture one finds interesting is part of our received academic heritage. This could be because all our best universities are state-funded, and the open-door policy that is now the norm began as an act of conscious public entitlement. Or perhaps it was an act of patronising generosity (or well-intentioned inclusivity) on part of the admin towards the public, since formal entry into these universities is very exclusive.

Either way, the crux of my problem is this: I cannot determine the value of the education I’m so very excited about acquiring, because it will not be institutionally validated. The entire point of this auditing process is acquiring intellectual self-reliance in my chosen field, and as a springboard into more mainstream economic career. But in the absence of formal stamping, will I still have to get a co-investigator or collaborator for future projects with quant. components? Is the metaphysical satisfaction of knowing stuff all I take away from this programme?

It has been suggested to me that by completing this very demanding course, I will acquire greater self-esteem (my interlocutor was American). I’m still not quite sure what this is –if it is confidence and self-respect, I already have a slight surplus. All I’m looking for, I think, is the assurance that despite the absence of a convenient value tag, my soon-to-be hard-won skills be recognised as valid, and not be dismissed.

And this assurance is making itself conspicuously scarce.

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One comment

  1. You don’t sound like a person who’s in need of any self-esteem boosts. 🙂 But it does sound like you will enjoy this program immensely – as frustrating as it might turn out to be at times. This, I believe, should be the main criterion when deciding whether you need something in your life. Will it bring enjoyment? If so, then who cares about papers and things like that?

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