Another side of the story
In Bangladesh today, there are 53 public universities. Of these, 15 are general universities; 5 medical universities; 14 science and technology universities; 5 specialised universities; 6 agricultural universities; and 3 off-campus universities. There are another 103 private universities and 3 international (foreign) universities. This list excludes 18 polytechnic institutes but includes the national university, where the majority of the graduates study.
Each year, almost one million fresh graduates in Bangladesh add to the workforce from these institutes. Each of these institutes has students with high grades in their cohort. In the previous Echoes, we asked, "Are skills more important than grades?" Here, we will see, the answer is mixed.
If you decide to pursue a bachelor in a specialised university (engineering, medical, agricultural, textile, and such), you will enter a niche field. Outsiders will find it difficult to enter your domain. Skill is more important than grades in these subjects.
This is one side of the picture. On the other side, specialised subjects transfer specialised skills (e.g. veterinary or maritime) that are not easily transferable to another sector. These subjects are also prone to external shocks. When an economy fails to boom, or there is change in technology (e.g. from coal to solar energy), these skills can prove to become obsolete. It can lead to large-scale unemployment that Bangladesh, so far, has not witnessed, but could. The debate of grades versus skills is therefore not simple and straightforward.
What about mother subjects that branched out over time? Fifty years ago, Physics was just Physics. Today, Physics has branched out into Applied Physics, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering etc. When you enter the job market after studying one of these specialised branches, you may soon find out that allied subjects that were left out in your curriculum are needed. You have to re-educate yourself.
What about general subjects that did not branch out over time? Like Bangla, History, or Philosophy? If you study these subjects with the objective of staying in academia, high grades are your target. You can develop yourself throughout your career.
The challenge arises if you study these subjects for other reasons, then you may find yourself in a dilemma because most students here find themselves in a profession outside their subjects. They prepare for competitive state exams; higher studies abroad with immigration in mind. They may also develop skills unrelated to their subject.
Good grades matter. Once you enter the job market and face competition, you will find the need for professional degrees. You will also find that your skills need to be updated. Or you may need to learn new skills altogether. Thus, both degrees (qualifications) and skills need to be updated over time.
Grades versus skills does not have a clear answer. Grades can be certified by your institute, but skills need to be acknowledged by a wider audience. Maybe that's the only difference.