What does it mean to be educated?

Around June this year, a couple of weeks before my 23rd birthday, I expect to be handed my master’s degree in physics. Besides extensive specialisation and research for a doctoral degree, this is the highest honour a person can obtain to signify his mastery in a particular field. In essence, there is no doubt that I, and the many others in my graduating class, would be looked at as “educated”. Things and behaviours will be expected of us now that a formal closure has been made to a two-decade-long journey of learning. But, two decades later, what does it all mean? As holders of such a degree, and, more broadly, as educated people, what should education really mean to us? I think there are a series of characteristics which describe what a truly educated mind is and it takes more than a simple list to understand these. Then again, perhaps it takes one educated mind to appreciate another, but I digress.

A look at the etymology of said academic degree takes us to Latin: the word “magister” meant a master, a scholar who was proficient enough in a field to teach at a university. There are, strictly speaking, only two master’s degrees in the world: Master of Arts (MA, or AM in some countries), and Master of Science (MS or SM in the US, MSc in the UK, India etc.). Everything else (MBA, MFA, MPhil etc.) are “tagged” degrees specific to various fields and any discussion beyond this quickly gets messy. Continue reading

iPad in the classroom: aid, distraction or disaster?

As somebody who is fairly tech-savvy, I am surrounded by people who will take a stand against technology at a moment’s notice. This is especially true when technology seems to be successfully replacing more conventional methods — some even environmentally harmful, such as paper.

When the issue of using technology comes up, though, I would myself strongly back a minimum age requirement. I never had my phone until I was 17 or so. I think that 15-16 years is a good limit, not because of elitist adult thinking, but mostly because the Internet, to the unaware, can quickly become one of those forbidden dark alleys no ten-year-old is sent into at night. Or worse. Continue reading