Educationism
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Why I Don’t Regret Quitting My Master’s Degree

I spent an entire year after my graduation wishing for this MA, and as soon as I passed my admission exam, I resolved educationism had no place in my life — and so I quit.

Back when I was under the influence of educationism, specifically when I first enrolled in my undergraduate degree, my ultimate goal was to work the hardest in my department. I want to not just graduate with honors after four years, but I also wanted to keep grinding to get my master’s (MA) and then my Ph.D. 

Educationism is a bias that inferiorizes students, either because they chose to drop out of school or because they couldn’t afford it in the first place. And it extends to include students who don’t hold a postgraduate degree.

Fast forward to August 2020, when I graduated with honors. I was ecstatic and felt as though I was on top of the world. Don’t get me wrong; it was literally everything I dreamed of back in the day — so much so, I couldn’t even imagine my life without it. 

That night, I was celebrating my accomplishment — that I was able to earn my degree regardless of all the trials I went through in my personal life that eventually affected my academic performance. 

I remembered how I was begging to go to therapy because I was giving up on myself and on my life. And, I remembered how I managed to earn my degree even when I couldn’t get the professional help I needed the most.

I thought everything was going just as I planned until my graduation certificate got rejected, saying that it “wasn’t verified yet.” I went through the process they required, and yet, I still missed the deadline of my postgraduate degree’s enrollment because it took them months to verify it.

Even though this wasn’t my fault, I took that as a grave failure. I was always someone who would tell others not to fear failures and to “fail fast to succeed faster.” But, when it came to my own failures, I was so judgmental and harsh on myself.  

And so a year later, in August 2021, I started to question whether I still wanted to enroll for postgraduate studies because I realized I no longer had the passion that would push me through to the finish line. If anything, this terrified me, because if this wasn’t what I’d pursue, what else would I do? 

I choose to break that cycle, and pursue what resonates with my character development. And I hope you’ll choose what makes sense to you as well, and push through until you break through.

Although I was doing other things on the side, mainly writing, I never thought of them as things that deserved to be celebrated because I was so fixated on this idea, fueled by the prevalent norm of educationism, that my worth depended on a postgraduate degree. 

I started to remember every time I was giving up on myself because I didn’t want to continue what I was doing. 

And for the first time, I admitted that I lost interest in my major a long time ago, and that I only carried on because I didn’t want to appear as though I made a poor decision when I enrolled in that major. 

I admitted that I was a hypocrite; I wasn’t even practicing what I was preaching all that time. I started to face myself and the persistence in chasing idle success just because I didn’t want to be labeled by some educationist as “a loser who quitted.” 

In fact, this resulted in yet another inner crisis, because at that time, I’d already passed my admission exam. 

At that moment, all I could think of was the fact that I wouldn’t have the courage to turn back after the beginning of the semester, I took a deep breath, and went to my parents and said, “I’m not getting a master’s degree.”

I could tell from their facial expressions that they didn’t see that coming. And honestly, I myself never thought this would be the case. But when I did, I felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders.

My parents felt so disappointed because they felt that not completing my MA meant that I would be perceived as less by others — which turned out to be the case. I grew up in an environment where a woman’s educational background equated her worth. And thus, the higher of an education you have, the more worthy you are — and vice versa. 

According to the study Educationism and the irony of meritocracy, those with higher education show education-based intergroup bias toward those with less education.

Educationism is a bias that inferiorizes students, either because they chose to drop out of school or because they couldn’t afford it in the first place. And it extends to include students who don’t hold a postgraduate degree.

I could see where my parents were coming from, and I appreciate their concern. If anything, a lot of people I personally know suffered almost all their lives because everyone else told them they weren’t good enough, justifying that baseless claim by saying that their educational qualifications weren’t “prestigious” in their eyes.

They never got the respect that they deserved because of educationism. I grew up in an environment where holding a high educational degree mattered more than anything else — which is partly correct; because holding a high educational degree means gaining knowledge, which is my first priority. However, what isn’t my priority is getting an MA just for the sake of “prestige.”

This time, I choose to surround myself with those who’ll never correlate my worth with my degree. In fact, even though I started to acknowledge how talented and hard-working I am, I realized how I’m not alone in this and how other students are silently suffering because of it. It’s a deep-rooted issue, and bringing it to light is the first step. 

Today, I remind myself that I’ll always choose to break that cycle and pursue what resonates with my character development. And I hope you’ll choose what makes sense to you as well, and push through until you break through.

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