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Mary Aig

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Has the university lost it's purpose for preparing its students for the future?

It is still unbelievable to recognize that most top universities aim to accept top grade earners from high school, with the intention of kicking them out after the first or second year at the university by making the structure of the curriculum unnecessarily hard.

This realization comes from few first year students, who were top grade earners from high school and now were kicked out of the university for not meeting the standards, which of course is the GPA faculty requirements. I wonder how these " I need to at least pass, get an A, just get a B" attitude intend to prepare these students for the future.

Is this now how universities are deciding to change the meaning of earning a university education, and in turn killing creativity of the intellectual minds of students?

Again, it is not that these first year students did not make the efforts to keep up with their grades, but if the focus in the minds of these students has been or is still "I need to at least pass, get an A, just get a B", how does this motive help a lot of students (future leaders/ world-contributors) affect the world when universities encourage these students to "shoe-box" their ideas by nurturing the mentality of " You need a certain grade to get into a certain program".

This is to propose that these universities intend to keep their "name" (reputation) and still make more money off students, especially International students, whose parents are still struggling to give them the best and put a little trust into these top universities to guide them.

This of course has indefinitely caused high suicidal rates. Even if the university is a money making industry, shouldn't these universities think to start re-evaluating this perspective they are choosing, in working with their students, especially first year university students? somehow,many "could have been" Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Martin Luther(s) have been lost.

Isn't it supposed to give the basics for the outside world in reality?

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    Feb 17 2012: The university doesn't prepare its students for the future, from its inception it prepares its students to be employed for wages. It is broken even from the start.
  • Mar 4 2012: This question plays to a related area of interest which I have which is an apparent mismatch, at least for some students and some universities, between what universities expect from first year students and what High School (and in UK Sixth Form) prepares them with.

    My experience as a teacher, as a parent and as someone with friends and colleagues who work at university suggest to me that many students need to develop a range of competencies and confidences which many do not seem to acquire before arriving at university. Once AT university there are probably a dozen other steep learning curves that go along with higher level study and all sorts of increased independence so there can be a really stressful time for first year university students while they try and work out what the real 'rules of the game' are in their new (university) environment.

    Skills and attitudes which can be taught before university which, I think, really assist in this area include:
    - Confidence to have a mature dialogue with teachers about individual problems
    - Recognition of responsibility, as a student, to initiate those dialogues early rather than wait for failure as a first step in a strange protocol between student and teacher
    - Thinking skills (though these are becoming better addressed in UK mainstream I think)
    - Safe, effective and inventive use of technology
    - A serious consideration of academic integrity, plagiarism and intellectual property
    - An ability to debate to uncover the truth rather than win an argument
    - A careful tolerance of diversity together with an intolerance of that which is demonstrably incorrect ( a responsibility/desire to share knowledge)
    - A desire to impress and go beyond what is asked for

    I plan to raise a discussion on TED on this in a few weeks as I'm kicking off a related study in the UK after Easter this year, in the meantime if you'd like to contact me about this, just contact me.
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    Feb 21 2012: I got As all through university and it was not hard at all. Maybe these kids are overestimated at their high schools and have bad work ethic.
    • Feb 24 2012: Interesting! But I question perfectionists too, what is wrong with making mistakes or encountering failure? Don't you think that is a huge generalization as to the reasons why these students may have got low grades? Is that what it is really all about, outside the higher learning environment? I'm curious, more of your opinions are welcomed
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    Feb 19 2012: I was wondering since when has university education's purpose been to train the workforce of tomorrow? University education has been around for thousands of years and the purpose of university was to impart rare knowledge - to those who were lucky enough to afford it.

    Only within the last 50 years or so have universities been charged with 'training the workforce of the future'. Society is trying to build a Ferrari on a Model-T chassis by relying on universities to prepare students for the workplace. University was never intended or designed to serve that function.
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      Feb 21 2012: I think it's important to wonder what role university is supposed to play in our culture though. The past 120 years have been unlike any other period of time in human history. Where-as before we had no real power over any natural phenomenon save our own lives, we have witnessed the potential for self understanding and external understanding that knowledge can bring about. So, what role should education play in the lives of humans now?

      I believe a great role. Rare knowledge was mostly inapplicable in days-gone-by. Science and philosophy were always undervalued by comparison to religion, which was the best compass of those times to determine truth.

      We have learned so much in such a short time, and the changes we've made are amazing. Imagine what we could do with a focus on advanced learning? Complimented with a more willful political structure, the organizations of the earth focused on learning. What could we accomplish, what could we learn? We can't accept the traditional view of what education is in the face of what we could be. We can't settle!
    • Feb 29 2012: The school I attend is a land-grant university. It was started in the late 19th Century, under the provisions of the Morrell Acts (1862, 1890). The purpose of which was specifically to teach practical agriculture, science, and engineering- to prepare students for jobs.

      I would also add, a college degree of some sort is a prerequisite to enter most professional fields. This is something I have learned from personal experience. After a 17 year career in construction I became disabled, unable to do the physical labor required of that non-professional field. In three years of struggle to regain financial independence, I realized attaining a degree was the only viable means to that end.

      Society evolves, just as biology, it now requires different skill sets of its members to function. There is still value in the classical education you espouse, but also a great need for more specialized instruction- the expanding role of university.
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    Feb 18 2012: Mary,

    What I have found is that students come to the university with an I-deserve-all-for-nothing attitude that is far from what a university student should be. While I agree that grades are not everything, grades still do reflect something. From where I sit, if you have chosen a career that includes a university degree, you better choose well and with commitment. But my observation is one where standards in university requirements deteriorate, and students end up with good-for-nothing degrees, then think that if they pursue a master's degree they "might get a job." The creativity was killed before they even got into university. There are too many students who think they deserve to go to the university, and too many parents who think you can only make it if you get a university degree. But students leaving the university during the first year? That has always happened, and even then, we still have a deteriorated system. I hear of inflated grades in high school, but I don't see universities asking enough from students either, and I am not talking just about grades. Also, I think it is unfair to blame the universities for suicidal rates. If a person can't deal with failure the problem is somewhere else. I also have seen people going through real struggle to make it through, with jobs on the side, and still getting the minimal grades or better. I don't see why we should keep mediocre students in the system. Universities are not supposed to be a ride in the park. Also remember that there are options to get preparation.

    Sorry, but I can't sympathize. We need better models for our society, and 90% of people getting a university degree is both nonsensical and unrealistic. There are lots of jobs that are both necessary and satisfying that don't require you to be a university graduate. Those finishing high-school should grow up and make their own decisions realistically and according to how committed they can be and what they really want to do.

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    Feb 17 2012: The purpose of a university was never to prepare students for the future. A scholar was a gentleman -- a man with a private income -- who could afford the time and monies necessary to study the arts. One did this as a personal, enriching experience. One does not attend university to "get a job"; that is why we have technical schools. Once you have an education, you need to learn to prepare yourself for the future by collaborating with other intelligent people.
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      Feb 17 2012: Unfortunately in our world, pursuing wealth requires dedication which I believe to be counter-productive to the pursuit of higher learning. As our species gains greater control over the natural forces we need to fully explore the philosophical implications of all new knowledge and the application of such knowledge. Yet the focus of most people in our world is the accumulation of money with the consistency of air.

      Which is why I think we need to dramatically alter the way we see education in our society. Education should not be a privilege of some. The ignorance of many working within a complex system generates an amazing amount of unwise choices and broken relationships between the common man and his society.

      In this complex world, education isn't simply a privilege or a right. It's a necessity for our growth as a species.
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        Feb 18 2012: Agreed, but education should not mean "university degrees."
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          Feb 18 2012: Completely agreed.
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          Feb 25 2012: Education comes from the Latin root educo, which means to draw out from within. University degrees are like black belt tests; these confirm that you are able to perform certain tasks to a certain standard on dates that responsible parties observed the bearer of the certificate undertaking. That's it. If that gets you a job, good for you!

          People treat it like a ticket to an amusement park; if they get one then they are set for life. But, now the ride is full and nobody knows when the next car is coming. To make matters worse, the lines are getting longer and nobody seems to be maintaining the rides. Simultaneously, the ticket prices increase even as we wait in line! The situation is as mad as my analogy.

          You can't hold up your black belt certificate in a street fight and expect that it will help you. In the same way, you can't expect your degree will protect you from life. The world is not a safe place and education will not save you from that. We--scholars--learn because we like to learn; not because it gets us money or whatever. Consider all the unemployed college graduates if you don't believe me.
    • Feb 24 2012: I'm quite curious, what then do you think the purpose of a university education is? What should undergraduates or outgoing high school students into colleges or university carry at the back of their minds about an institution that promises to create an environment for polishing ideas, learning or impact knowledge that is meant to prepare them for the real world. I have not talked about a university education guaranteeing a job, not that it is not important,but the issue is, some of these students are not well groomed into debunking the information presented at these institutions. They are drowned in this idea of again ' I need a particular letter grade' to move on, that being important and inevitable, how does this mentality create a space or circumstances to encourage thinking outside the box?

      I completely agree that after you leave these institutions you need to work your way through getting a job. Most companies though want outstanding students, but from common experiences, is this enough to guarantee you a job? No! So if this the case, what is the education about, why do people have to invest so much into a higher education? Education does not however give you training you need, I do believe this system is broken.
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    Feb 17 2012: You've started a great debate. I can't find fault with your opinions. Why not re-form the debate into an idea? Perhaps it's about time to change the way we see education in the modern world. Would it be a worthy endeavor to try to put together some group dedicated to planning and instigating a new, rationally designed education system? You could try to push to establish this new system as a law, or you could help establish some new academy.
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      Feb 17 2012: I agree. Why not summarize your main points in a more technical format?
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    Mar 16 2012: Universities do not prepare you for the future, they only serve as a mass producing workforce generating tool for the most popular industry of the time.
  • Feb 24 2012: Work experience is all you really can recommend, I think. Certain majors like computer science, engineering, e.t.c. provide training as well as education. For majors that don't do that, identifying a desired career/job and gaining experience with that by working is the best way. In a way though, it becomes a negative cycle. In order to put strong effort into work, you need to dedicate time and energy. In order to get good jobs, you often need a college degree (or more), which takes time and energy. It seems that any job worth having takes not only an education, but a large amount of work experience to achieve.

    It is the game of life. There are certain rules for whatever you want to achieve and ways to get there. Having a long term goal in mind is the best way to figure out exactly what one needs to do as far as balancing education with work and experience.
  • Feb 24 2012: I think an important distinction that needs to be made is the difference between training and educating. Education simply provides information. Training provides individuals with useful skills and abilities, it develops ability. Many subjects emphasize education far more than they do training. As such, when students leave college, they have no real training in anything. They may know a whole lot about history, or art, or society, but they've been given no way to apply that knowledge. As such, education systems ought to be shifting their focus toward providing students with useful abilities and talents in addition to simply knowing things.
    • Feb 24 2012: I agree. What would you advise these set or students in this spectrum?