Skills or Certificate


Which candidate would you prefer? A non –graduate who has completed all courses from the online Khan academy or a graduate from the prestigious Harvard university?

Wait till the end of this article for the preferred CEO’s answer.

Focus on skills. We must have heard it so often, that it hardly rings a bell in our ears anymore.

What are these skills anyways? Is learning a skill better than earning a degree? I learnt’ it the hard way. I was all pumped and excited about the new course I was enrolling into. It was called the PG Diploma in School Leadership and Management (PGDSLM) conducted by the School of Education (SOE) by IGNOU (Open University). All these years in education, I understand that while I speak of the education theories from Vygotsky’ theory of cognitive development and Piagets’ early child development research to Blooms’ Taxonomy and Gardner’s’ Multiple Intelligence, I am a novice to world of education myself.

Gate crasher is the word we use in our organization. It somehow gives us the edge. It makes us feel tall, in front of the sea of teachers we train. So all in all, conscience pricked and I decided to get an educational degree of my own.

I choose the diploma from IGNOU. The Open University in India. And the school leadership was on. I worked hard. Completed my assignments. Wrote the exams. Attended the boring but compulsory week long classes where you sit before a television and watch a lifeless and soulless video on the vibrancy of education! I did it all. I even got good grades in all but two of my exams. I missed those two. I had to travel. And then I got caught in the bureaucracy of the University exams.

While I am sure thousands would have benefitted from IGNOU, there must be another ten thousand who would have quit in helplessness. Tedious exam forms, unhelpful phone response and a very poor communication system makes a very good program, poorer and distant.

So I was back to square one. Or was I? I had learnt haven’t I? Yes diploma I did not obtain. I still did most of my tick boxes right. I studied. Marked my books. Even shared notes. I worked hard to complete and submit my assignments. In fact I researched for my assignments. I was the star of my contact classes. I made new teacher friends. I shared emails with them. I also gifted a very precious book to my Head Teacher. We had great time with our presentation. And needless to boast, my team was superb while presenting. This only to reinforce that the classes and studies were fun, despite a certificate less program.

So that’s when I picked up the skill verses certificate debate. It was raging within me. I worked hard and without a certificate I could not prove it.

But no one could take my learning away. Thus I spoke about my lessons. I taught the teachers in bits and pieces. I also shared my books which I doubt anyone ever read. Yet I persisted. Persistence is one skill I cherish, on a side note here.

Then the big opportunity arose. A school approached me asking for a regular training for their new teachers. On further enquiry, they said something on the lines of leadership and education would be wonderful. Here, I was with my Aha moment.

Thus developed the school leadership program. A program that I knew so well. A program that would now benefit more than a mere me. And as I write, I have conducted this program in four schools last month and the reviews were excellent.

The program helped me develop modules based on certain skills that a teacher needs to learn. Skills that practiced over a period of time becomes’ a teacher’s habit. And habits are what become of us when all is forgotten. A research in a medical journal cites that habits even stay with a person who has amnesia! Habits are a powerful skill to embed.

While at school, we focus so much on the subject which is essentially for a degree program or board exams, that we lose sight of skills to develop. Skills are the next currency of 21st century education.

As for the answer to our earlier riddle, most of the CEOs of top Corporates said, they would prefer a non-graduate from the Khan academy.

The author Dawood Vaid has completed the certificate course on ‘Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills’by The University of Melbourne. He has developed capsules using the 21st century skills under the organization Sky Education. The capsules integrates various subjects from Maths, Science, Languages, ICT and Arts. The themes range from FIFA’s Football fever to Fun with Newton. To know more visit or email

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