Sunday, May 25, 2014

Are You Literate, Educated, Qualified or Professional?

When talking about literacy, the first thing comes to mind is those days I spent with old-folks to teach them functional literacy under 'Asaasee Thauleem' program. It was a wonderful experience and the time spent with them is truly unforgettable. I still remember how they reacted towards the reproductive system drawn on the blackboard when they arrived to class. They were very keen to learn what their parents and friends did not share with them.

It was 1980s and the functional literacy during those days and today are very different. Those days people conveyed their messages through radio telephone and letters. Radio telephone was accessible to only privileged few and the public communicated mainly through letters. However, those days of  'haa shaviyagngnaa noonaa raayaa baayaa.... ' has progressed to www dot com and today almost everyone communicates through internet.

Maldivian functional literacy standard today may be; communicate through email, browse the internet and search information, read online local newspapers, install Dhivehi and Thaana fonts on laptop and desktop computers, search and download pdf application forms, fill in online applications, and typing English and Thaana letters and documents. Handwritten official correspondences during the 1980s are printed today and everyone is expected to write letters and documents with computer. Comprehending Quicken generated pay slips and POS generated cash receipts, operating ATM machines, make online payments are skills everyone is expected to know as Maldives has geared towards inline to online.

Coming to educated, let us first see who is an educated person?

An educated person is one who has undergone a process of learning that results in enhanced mental capability to function effectively in familiar and novel situations in personal and intellectual life.
I remember teaching environmental studies for students of grade five where I was teaching a lesson on groupers. I met a girl there whose knowledge on groupers was certainly much superior to me. Once I asked the girl about how she learned about groupers. She explained saying, she has got a thick book of 500 pages on groupers and she read the book in full. Certainly that girl is more educated than me on groupers.

To become educated one needs to acquire knowledge. It may be from schools, colleges, training, experiences, books, journals, magazines, radio and TV, internet etc. Schooling is the most popular mode of education. However, it is not the only mode of education. There are school leavers who are barely literate and there are many educated people with no formal schooling. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable to conclude getting educated is not limited to schooling.

Life experience college credits are given in popular universities today. This means if you are capable of showing mastery of knowledge and skill of a concerned subject you are awarded. This is legal and accredited in many developed countries, that includes but not limited to United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

Qualified people are easier to distinguish. A qualified person, technically referred as QP needs to have knowledge and understanding of the concerned subject. He must have credentials usually referred as degree or certificate by a formal authority recognized by a government or an agency recognized by a government. The credentials must fit in the qualification framework of the society where it is to recognized.

The qualifications framework is an instrument for the development, classification and recognition of skills, knowledge and competencies along a continuum of agreed levels. It indicates the comparability of different qualifications and how one can progress from one level to another, within and across occupations or industrial sectors.

To become qualified it is extremely important for the credential to fit in the qualification framework. I have come across several friends whose credentials does not fit the framework, and are considered unqualified. However, they did studied in recognized institutions and obtained valid credentials.

The Maldivian qualification framework requires to have O Level and A Level before obtaining a degree. This means more than three years of education to reach the bachelors degree after O Level. However, there are institutes in South Asia awarding degrees within years after O Level. They may be recognized in some countries but not in Maldives and many countries.

The term “professional” carries a lot of different meanings and connotations. It’s also connected with a wide range of practices: sports, entertainment, medicine, law, engineering, etc. But what does being a professional actually mean?

Everything is not plain and simple in the professional world. Different people have their own takes on what defines a pro. How many different kinds of professionals are in your business?

A professional is said to have specialized knowledge and skills set that are a product of many years of formal education. A lawyer or doctor, for instance, needs to spend much more time studying than individuals from many other fields. When an expert theoretical background eventually translates to an even stronger set of skills, people are often called a professional.

Some professional titles are restricted because of licensing or permit requirements that are secured from a (usually government) agency. In the Maldives, for example, doctors are required to undergo a licensure before they start practicing.

Society for Human Resources Management of USA, American Psychological Association, United Kingdom Association of Professional Engineers, and Australian Institute of Office Professionals—these are just a few of the many industry organizations that attempt to standardize and professionalize their practices through guidelines and regulations which every member must observe. Membership in such societies can cement one’s professional status.

In most cases, professionals are paid while amateurs are not. Among paid workers, professionals often receive greater compensation due to their specific expertise, great experience, and limited availability. More seasoned professionals tend to receive more money. By this measure, most workers can claim to be a professional something.

During the 2014 parliamentary election, we were a bit confused to distinguish literate from educated and qualified from professionals. I hope this article helps to understand the terms better.