Sunday, 6 July 2014

Studying English literature in Kolkata colleges

Studying English literature in Kolkata colleges

    In 2014, the reasons why a student may want to study English as a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) course in Kolkata are many, interest in literature, especially English literature being the primary. Liberal arts courses have never been professional courses. However, all such prospective students must keep a few things in mind. Though there are several colleges which offer English at the BA level, very few seats are there in Kolkata to study English at the MA level. Which means, that roughly 10% students go on to do an MA in English in Kolkata. Again, at the MA level, roughly 10% of MA students go on to pursue an academic career in English in Kolkata. Which means that roughly 1% of students who study English at the BA level in Kolkata, finally pursue it as an academic career in Kolkata later on it life. Roughly another 1% pursue it as an academic career outside Kolkata.
    Kolkata has a huge population. Yet, jobs are hard to come by in Kolkata. Especially for someone with a PhD in the Humanities if that person wishes for a salary in keeping with the years of training that that person has acquired in order to get a PhD degree. Among the 1% who get academic jobs in Kolkata, they get it roughly at the age of 30-38. Usually MA students graduate at the age of 23. Which means it takes roughly 7-15 years to complete a PhD and get an academic job. By the age of 30-38, fellow school students who studied professional courses, are usually well-established in their careers and earn significantly. Whereas, when this 1% finally gets a teaching job, they do so at the lowest level. Therefore, chances are that by the age of 30-38, even if one belongs to that select 1%, one will earn significantly less than most of one’s peers who studied professional courses after graduating from school. This may not seem an impediment, especially to someone who has already chosen to study English. But one must remember that one’s lifestyle and social circle is often dependent on one’s income.
    Given the scenario of academic jobs, if one were to look at non-academic jobs after getting a PhD, the chances of securing a well-paying job are far and few between. Thus, most BA graduates and MA graduates enter non-academic jobs. Among the ones who choose to stay and work in Kolkata, the jobs usually involve working for newspapers, content-providing departments of technology companies, advertising. If one manages to secure additional qualification, such as computer programming skills, one can actually go on to do a computer-programming job, or work in the technology sector where most graduates even from the sciences and engineering faculties work. If one possesses enough mathematical skills, one can try and study for an MBA after completing a BA. An MBA course is often studied by even those studying B.Tech.
    Thus, after one year of studying in the BA English course, one should analyse what one’s interests and skills are. If a student feels that the student does not wish to pursue an academic career in English and try and become an English teacher, then one should try to acquire additional skills in the final two years of the BA course. It is pointless going on to do an MA according to the inertia of motion. Even if one goes on to do an MA (a master’s degree is often the minimum eligibility for a lot of jobs), be it in English or some other Arts subject, one should ideally know by the second year of one’s MA studies, as to whether the student is looking for a job as a teacher. If not, one should again start applying for internships in prospective sectors in which one wishes to work and start acquiring additional skills that may be needed for jobs that one wishes to apply to.
    These thoughts regarding the future may seem daunting to a student fresh out of school. Yet, these are points to keep in mind as one does one’s BA and MA. Ancient Greek poetry or 16th century English drama may seem fascinating to the young student. But it is not particularly of interest to prospective employers, even for academic jobs. Academic jobs are more often given on the basis of one’s number of publications and degrees, rather than knowledge on a specific academic subject.
    Having said all this, one may question as to why one should study literature at all. The answer is that it opens up the mind to new forms of knowledge about the world. One becomes a more aware citizen of the world, and perhaps by virtue of that awareness, a more responsible, and hence, a better human being. However, these are not qualities on the basis of which jobs are given. One should also be aware of the realities of life. Else, like the writer of this opinion, one may be 28 years old and be without a permanent job. Lack of financial security prevents one from planning one’s life properly. It becomes a series of impromptu decisions.

P.S. An interesting read can be found over here.

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