SYED TANVEER AHMED is Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s (JIH) Education Secretary and chairman of its Markazi Taleemi Board. He holds a degree in agriculture sciences as also a degree in Master of Business Administration. He is a management and leadership expert with more than 20 years of experience. He is also the CEO of Brainy Stars, which manages 30 pre-schools, also called nursery schools, in India. He is engaged in various educational activities such as teachers training, conducting parenting counselling, students counselling and career guidance. He has been honoured with Ambedkar Award for his contribution towards Dalit Literature and Sadbhavana Award, etc. In an interview with MOHAMMAD NAUSHAD KHAN, he suggested establishment of at least one centralised unit equipped with all the information on career advancement in each and every district. Here are the excerpts of the interview.

Question: First of all, I would like to know what is career guidance and why do we need it?

Answer: Career guidance is about informing the students with regard to various types of careers available when they complete their school studies. Most of the people are aware of only two disciplines as far as career making is concerned and this is medicine and engineering. But that should not be the ultimate goal. We need to tell the students that there are career beyond medicine and engineering also. There are many other courses available in other areas in which they can make good career and serve the society and the country in equally good way or even better.

Question: It appears that in our education system, there is little focus on career guidance?

Answer: Government’s policy in this regard states that each high school should have a career counsellor and the schools should organise career counselling melas, seminars, symposia, etc.

However, it is the students whom we address regarding choice of careers, not their parents. While the reality is that in most of the cases in our society, it is parents who decide the career of their children, instead of children themselves deciding their career. So, if a parent who aspired to become a doctor but could not achieve it, want their desire to be fulfilled by their sons or daughters. This is the problem in our society with regard to choosing a career by students. This needs to be corrected.

Question: In 2022, the Government of Tamil Nadu decided to distribute career guidance material to students of classes from 9 to 12. Do you believe other States should follow the suit?

Answer: The Union Education Ministry and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have taken very good measures to educate students about choosing careers. There is a lot of literature available online and NCERT has produced very good lectures on that. Even private NGOs have produced umpteen videos on career counselling and career guidance. What is needed is to create an overall awareness in society, particularly among parents.

Students decide their careers either under pressure of their parents or peer group. When a student sees that his friends have chosen a particular subject of discipline, he thinks he should also go for it though this may not be suitable for him keeping his bent of mind or interest. So, there is a need for an overall awareness about careers, particular among Muslims. Unfortunately, Friday sermons in mosques are not delivered on education and career, so vital to the life of any community, particularly an educationally backward community like the Muslim community. I feel that at least four to five Friday sermons be delivered every year to introduce students and their parents about career options. I delivered a Khutbah in a mosque in Sikar, Rajasthan, over career counselling. Parents were extremely excited. They told me that such type of Khutbahs be delivered on a regular basis.

Question: A recent study about education among Muslims in Delhi, revealed that around 20 per cent students were not even interested in education. So, what could be the possible reasons? Is it because of lack of awareness or absence of career and guidance mechanism? Or parents are not motivated?

Answer: All these factors are responsible and it starts with the objectives of education. Objectives of education are not clear in the minds of students and parents. Most of the students believe that getting education or getting a degree is only for the sake of employment. This has been popularised through our policymakers. Our policymakers say that our education should produce employable generation. This concept has got fixed for a long time in students’ mind and hence, it can’t be changed immediately. Students say that why should they obtain education when they would not get jobs. A kind of defeatist attitude has set in their minds.

But the concept of education is more than merely getting jobs. According to our concept, there are two goals of education: long-term and short term. Long-term goal is to connect a person with the metaphysical world, to connect him with the Life Hereafter and to ensure one succeeds in the Next World or to what we call Life Hereafter. And the short-term goal is to achieve success in this life, to make this life happy and prosperous.

Again, prosperity doesn’t mean earning money or getting material assets. It is also about your attitude, about your social behaviour, about soft skills and the knowledge you possess. For example, a person who knows good Urdu will be understanding ghazals and songs in a better way than an illiterate man. And illiterate person just enjoys music, whereas a literate person enjoys music plus lyrics.

This is what we need to popularise. First, the objective of ‘ilm’, or knowledge, is to connect a person with the Hereafter and elevate him. It will change the life pattern and the behaviour pattern. These things are missing nowadays.

Secondly, our education lacks proper support system for weaker students. Once a student performs poorly in his/her annual examination, he/she is pushed behind and there is no support system to encourage and improve them. However, the Government of Delhi has taken good initiative in this regard and this needs to be replicated all over the country.

Thirdly, there is financial problem with Muslim students that must be addressed to achieve the target. The government must give adequate scholarship to poor students to educationally mainstream them. However, the government is gradually withdrawing scholarship programmes which is not good for the growth of education in the country. I feel the government must change its attitude in this respect and continue the scholarship by increasing the scholarship amount.

Lastly, we should improve the quality of education in government schools because private education is becoming costlier day by day. It is bound to happen because private schools need money to pay salaries, improve the infrastructure and there are a lot of other expenses required for running the school. So, fees are high and because of this reason many parents are unable to get their wards educated in private schools.

Question: As we are in the age of artificial intelligence and technological advancement, do you think there should be any kind of change in our career and guidance programme? Or should it remain the same?

Answer: National Curriculum Framework released its draft on April 6 this year. This draft has emphasised on mathematical logic, computing and numeracy and also computer literacy and artificial intelligence because in near future, 90 per cent of subjects and 90 per cent of knowledge will be controlled and based on artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence is going to occupy a great importance and a great role to run one’s life, even organisations. So, certainly we need to teach our kids about artificial intelligence and it is not a big deal. Artificial intelligence is a combination of many subjects, which we were already teaching like mathematics, statistics, etc.

Question: Is there adequate mechanism of career guidance in minority institutions? 

Answer: Good question indeed! In one of my articles, I have emphasised on having at least one centralised unit or kind of organisation equipped with all the information on careers, at the district level. They should not only possess knowledge and information, but also be able to conduct psychometric and other tests. They should discuss, negotiate and counsel students and parents about the careers available and this must be done at high school level.

It is heartening to note that Muslims have increased their presence in medical and engineering. But in many other sectors and in many institutions of higher learning, our presence is zero because we don’t have awareness. Since our students don’t know, we don’t have presence in these institutions and if at all we have, it is minimal, for example in the defence field. Our boys think defence means becoming army personnel. But it is not like that. There are various trades, and positions in the defence sector. We need to educate our students. This is the system I have suggested.

Question: Is Jamaat-e-Islami Hind playing any role in career guidance? Is there any institution to promote it?

Answer: Yes. We have the Centre for Training and Guidance, which is the centralised institution in Delhi. It also has state level units. It coordinates with various institutions. We are trying to educate students about careers and all the suggestions which I gave above are being implemented through this platform.

Question: Is Markazi Taleemi Board doing anything in this regard? 

Answer: Markazi Taleemi Board is collaborating with the Centre for Training and Guidance and also coordinating with many institutions like one in Kerala.

There are some institutions in other states as well. We are also coordinating and collaborating with FEMI (Federation of Muslim Institutions of India). So, we are striving in this regard and we believe on collaborative efforts.

(This article was first published in Radiance Viewsweekly.)