A tough choice…

By Sanobar Nadir
Tue, 02, 24

The ongoing debate of being educated versus being skilled has assumed new direction. In this regard You! talks to a few women. Read on…

A tough choice…

Do the distinctions on the academic papers overpower the skills honed by years of practice, or does the individual expertise help them to gain the success that no degree could guarantee?

These questions might have haunted many of us, especially when we are at the crossroads of deciding our future. Education is a cornerstone of societal progress, while skills are considered a passport to opportunity. In the ongoing debate between education and skills, we struggle to determine which has greater influence. The weight of these questions looms large, especially on women of our society, who still face various challenges in gaining financial independence and establishing themselves in a male-dominated society. This debate of whether to be skilled or to be educated directly affects their personal and professional growth.

“It’s often about what you can do, not just what you know,” says Zainab Ali, a 25-year-old entrepreneur, while advocating the importance of skills rather than just getting a formal education, “Skills are my currency. Running a business demands practical know-how. The hands-on experience and adaptability have seen my ventures through, and if I would have only relied on bookish knowledge, then I might have still been struggling,” elucidates Zainab.

“Growing up, I have always been appreciated for my paintings, but no one ever encouraged me actually to pursue a career as a painter. For everyone, it was just my hobby, but I followed my passion and today I am independent and financially stable because of my skills, not because of my degree,” shares Nida Fatima, who has a BS degree in Botany but is an artist by profession. “I do not deny that education is not essential, but at the same time, our skills and talent make us stand apart,” adds Fatima.

“Jobs are already scarce, so instead of solely focusing on formal education, it is crucial to learn skills that will help you to pave opportunities for yourself,” expresses Ayesha Imam, a freelance copywriter. “I never shy away from emphasising that it is highly essential to be skilled as your skills open the doors of opportunity for you, that simply being educated doesn’t guarantee. You can’t overlook the importance of acquiring skills, as they add a significant value to an individual’s growth,” she stresses.

On the other hand Marium Khan, who has been working as a software engineer in a private firm, believes that formal certification or degrees can help individuals acquire the specialised knowledge required for specific career paths. “Formal education can also allow individuals to develop critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills that are valuable in many fields. Education provides a solid foundation and accelerates the learning curve; at the same time, skills add more value to your professional growth. In the tech world, skills are paramount. I’ve seen brilliant minds without formal degrees crafting amazing solutions. It’s a blend that propels us forward in this fast-paced industry,” opines Marium.

“Attaining skills is good, but one can’t ignore the importance of education,” asserts Saba Zafar, an educator. “Being an educator, I firmly believe, education is about cultivating, not just knowledge but critical thinking, empathy, and a broader worldview. These qualities go beyond skills and shape individuals into responsible contributors to society,” stresses Saba.

Rabia Ahmed’s thoughts also resonate with Saba. “Education is the bedrock of success. While skills undoubtedly play a role, the intricate understanding of financial principles gained through education is indispensable. The theoretical underpinning allows us to navigate complex economic landscapes with excellence,” comments Rabia.

“I believe education lays the base of effective management,” says Hina Khokhar, a Human Resource manager. “Understanding organisational behaviour, employment laws, and strategic planning are characteristics that formal education provides. Skills augment these, but the academic foundation is non-negotiable for navigating the complexities of HR,” observes Hina.

Farida, a law student, also supports the necessity of formal education, says, “Law is a field where the nuances matter. A comprehensive understanding of legal principles through education is what sets a lawyer apart in delivering effective representation.”

At the same time, learning skills are crucial for success in many fields; these skills can serve as a key factor in determining an individual’s professional growth and development.

“My business started from the love of baking while academically, I pursued a science degree. While some of my peers are still struggling in their careers, it is my skills, not my degree, which helped me run my own business successfully,” states Sara Khurram, a home-based baker.

Naima Baig recalls how she started her journey as a handmade jewellery artisan, “I always enjoyed making jewellery and even started a side hustle of handmade jewellery during my university days, but when I got a full-time job in an IT firm, that side hustle took a backseat. For me, IT was really a demanding career; even though I was successfully navigating through my career, there was a lack of contentment in my job. So, switching from a corporate IT role to crafting handmade jewellery was a leap of faith. It was not an easy journey, but it was worth it. Now, I am running my own online shop, enjoying the freedom of working on my own terms. If it weren’t for my skills, I would still have been stuck in that 10-hour cycle of work,” shares Naima.

Since not everyone has the privilege of earning a formal education, many women in our society are the breadwinners of their homes because of their skills. Even though this doesn’t minimise the significance of getting a formal education, it still proves how being skilled can help a person earning their livelihood.

“I may not have had the chance to pursue formal education, but my tailoring skills have been our family’s backbone. In our community, traditional skills often become a source of income,” tells Rozina Jahan, “My sewing machine has helped me to support my family financially and earn a humble livelihood,” she adds.

“Skills are like a treasure; once someone finds it, then it will change their life forever,” comments Nafeesa, who makes a living by selling handmade crochet products. “I never got the opportunity to attend school, but my children are studying because of the earnings that I make through my crochet skills. Even though my son goes to school, I also send him to learn woodwork from his uncle because if he doesn’t get a job after school, he won’t have to worry about hunger as he can work as a carpenter and support himself,” says Nafeesa with a smile.

Saima Jamal, who runs a cloud kitchen, strongly believes that even basic skills can help you in time of need, and it is vital to be skillful as one can never know when these skills can pull them out of their miseries, “During COVID lockdown, we faced financial crunch. My husband, who was a labourer, didn’t have any work during lockdown; even I lost my job as a maid, so it was a tough time for us. So, I started a small home-based catering service to support my family. It was not easy initially, but eventually I was able to get orders and now I am running my business successfully and supporting my family,” voices Saima.

Success is a combination of education, skills, passion, and resilience. The argument about education versus skills isn’t about picking one over the other; it’s more like creating a mix that works well together, making use of one’s talents for personal success and overall progress. Therefore, embrace the opportunities education offers, and let your skills be the guiding stars illuminating your path.

Sanobar Nadir is a Mass Communication Research Scholar and a freelance content writer.