There have been a variety of responses among students lately on the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing postgraduate study. Many hold to the view that pursuing studies after completing their degree would delay their entry into the world of work; or might eventually land them in unemployment problems as a result of a volatile job market.
If only one realizes, education is one of the few sectors that continue to sustain its importance regardless of the world condition. In fact, history proves that in any incident that befalls the world, education helped a nation bounce back and be on its foot again. This is the pertinent reason why employment after graduation from studies should not be the only ultimate goal for someone who aspires to pursue postgraduate study. It is the competencies and values acquirable throughout the study that one should be inspired with.
An aspiring postgraduate student needs to hold to the mindset that the journey of knowledge is a perennial process. Therefore, as one completes his degree, he should not think that the journey to knowledge has ended. Instead, he should realize that the undergraduate study has equipped him with the fundamentals or keys at hands to unlock the doors of knowledge and to be awed by its hidden treasure. With the keys entrusted to him, he would transform his role from a knowledge seeker to a knowledge worker.
An individual pursuing a postgraduate degree should equip himself with the updated method of sourcing knowledge. He should also be able to learn updated theories and principles that explain the nature of the knowledge he specializes in. Besides, he should be able to relate or apply the knowledge with the context he is in to make the knowledge impactful in developing, improving, or changing society.
To what extent does the knowledge and skills learned during the postgraduate study could impact society? Will the knowledge and skills they acquire at postgraduate programs bring about impacts to their lifetime journey? What is that one activity which encapsulates all the required scopes in a postgraduate program? The answer is research and the scope and extent of research he conducts. His research endeavor should drive him to the thirst for true knowledge substantiated by reliable facts. In working to find proper knowledge, he works to meet the postgraduate rules and, most importantly, never goes against or cheats the rules. He is a man of integrity. He knows that he is subject to error, and whenever he realizes it, he chooses to rectify it and recognize the truth. Therefore, he is a man who stands to be corrected. And because of this, he stays in humility to the true knowledge.
Moreover, he is never tired of seeking true knowledge. He knows that proper knowledge that has transformed him can also transform the people around him. He is a man of catalyst for change, development, and improvement for society. In other words, his research works should bring about changes in himself and, in turn, impacts the world. This is the values that postgraduate students should develop regardless of the domain of knowledge he specializes
What changes can he expect to bring to the world with his research? He can dream big, but he should also be aware that the hundreds of pages in his thesis/dissertation may not be able to solve all problems faced by society. The research findings he has acquired with sweat and tears are only a few drops of the vast blue ocean. Yet together with other drops, they make the ocean. It is indeed a collective effort.
A postgraduate student is, in fact, a researcher, a scholar in the making. As a young researcher, he is progressing from being a consumer of knowledge to a knowledge generator. He generates knowledge to raise his position and, most importantly, raise the quality of life for the society around him. In short, postgraduate students are regarded as young scholars or student researchers who work alongside their professors in knowledge generation (i.e., research) and knowledge dissemination (i.e., publication, consultancy, and services). These are the core activities that a postgraduate student should be aware of, be ready to undertake, and internalize their importance.
The journey of a postgraduate study may not be easy. For a Muslim researcher, his research journey is a jihad and ijtihad in its’ real meaning. It is painstaking, but it is worth doing if one embraces the meaning of ‘iqra in himself that draws him closer and closer to The Truth (Al-Haqiqah). By virtue of the Truth, the whole world and everything in it become the last and the least motive that drives him to pursue this noble task
Assoc. Prof Haslina Ibrahim is Deputy Dean, Responsible Research and Innovation, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia. She is also an academic in the Department of Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion at the Kulliyyah.
Prof. Dr. Shukran Abd Rahman is Dean, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia; and an academic in the Department of Psychology at the Kulliyyah.