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Razvan Sassu

President & CEO/ Founder, Young Initiative Association

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Higher or vocational education? Higher education for masses or for the elite?

In the last years the idea that higher education can actually be considered a bubble took shape and is increasingly brought to debate. In more and more countries there are dozens of students graduating and instead of entering the workforce, they go straight to unemployment.

With some notable exceptions (like Computing, Medicine etc.) there are a lot of degrees that hold little value for the student after graduation, especially in developing countries (I am including here Romania, my country). In some holding a degree is a requirement merely because you "learn how to learn", regardless of the topic of your studies. The quality of the courses is often lacking and the graduates are simply unemployable if they do not get a part-time job or volunteer in an organisation during their studies.

Unemployment of youth in some countries is getting higher than ever, with Spain topping at a whooping 54% rate.

Moreover, in other countries students also pile a lot of debt which they cannot sometimes repay, and they are stuck with thousands of dollars/euros that have to be payed back in a lot of years.

On the other hand, there are a few countries like Germany, Switzerland, Finland or Sweden where vocational education is very solid. Students are divided based on their academic results (which indeed raises a lot of ethical and liberty questions) so the best can pursue a higher education degree, the others a technical degree, then vocational schools and so on. This way most of graduates can easily find employment and also get a qualification that they can use to start earning money.

What do you think governments should endorse in the future? Should the education system be reformed so vocational training is highly encouraged and higher education is reserved only for the best students? How? Or should higher education be made available on an even larger scale for as many students as possible, prefferably at the lowest costs for the students?

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    Apr 27 2012: I have lived many years in a developing country and in Germany, And believe me, you don't want to separate the students at early ages, there are many cases where the most successful students in college or on their jobs where really lazy at school. That's something that I think it's hurting a lot Germany.

    I think the problem is somewhere else. We live on a globalized world, now you don't compete with your peer on your city but with your peers around the world. That's why it's so hard to find a job. The other huge factor is the mismatch between the demand of jobs and offer of professionals. Maybe people should start thinking about that before they choose what to study. Maybe universities and Governments should advertise where the demand is to the young people.

    I don't know what could resolve the unemployment problem or the mismatch of the professionals market, but I know less education in any sense would be terrible.
  • Apr 25 2012: Educatia in sine nu are nici o legatura cu "angajabilitatea". In ultima vreme, educatia a inceput sa se subordoneze banului si industriei dar, aceasta este o "educatie" falsa, care produce pe banda rulanta angajati docili, care nu pun la indoiala felul in care este organizata astazi societatea. Serviciul este numai o parte a vietii si este posibil sa dispara ca necesitate in viitorul apropiat. Educatia adevarata insa, este o necesitate. Somajul va atinge in viitorul apropiat 80 %. Afirm ca asta este un lucru bun, si ca lumea va fi mai multumita decat este azi. Dupa ce vom fi depasit convulsiile mortii sistemului monetar.
    Ca sa intelegi acest fenomen, ai nevoie de educatie. Asta inseamna educatia, nu pregatirea salariatilor.
  • Apr 23 2012: Education as a market and the collapse of expectations
    http://whataboutmarx.blogspot.com/2012/04/education-as-market-and-collapse-of.html
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    Apr 22 2012: I'd like to put another question for debate: Should governments endorse such efforts? Are they really the best judge on what measures should be taken for a group of which the majority is not even able to vote? Why not change the idea of what a school is? Or maybe even let organizations/ companies take the leading role in the education of our youth.

    Because in the end, the real problem is not costs. Okay, it is, but not only costs. It is more about productivity wouldn't you say?

    I have always preferred pluralism above elitism. Not out of some egalitarian approach (term might be quite opposite, but I hope you understand), but from a perspective of innovation. I can't say I actually had the chance to enjoy an elite education, but research in education has shown that analytic skills are not the main contributor to innovation and creativity. Analytic skills are the main pillar of any elite education, and we can even argue that most of the people that attend such an university couldn't be more misplaced. Not that they don't have value, these people are considered brilliant, but the system of testing is on the overall outdated and teaches them the wrong skills.

    I actually think it's a good idea to separate people from an early age. Personally, I would actually take it even a step further. However there is a problem. Who says that everyone is getting equal chances when we do such a questionable thing. What we need is for the motivated to gain easier access to higher levels of education, while still creating the opportunity for late bloomers to catch up.