Penny thoughts and loose education-change

Op-eds Opinions

“Change” has to be the most romanticized word used by organizations of all kinds. Many preach the importance of relevant progression, yet few “leaders” actually lead by example. How many times have you heard the phrase “change is good”?

The education system loves to toot its own horn when telling students to lead and “change the world.” As a business student, I find this grossly ironic, because schools do everything but change and are among the last to keep current with the modern times. Since the 1700s, technology has advanced a great deal and many fantastic inventions like electricity, the computer and the automobile have dramatically altered how humans live.

However—for whatever reason—schools haven’t changed much. Undoubtedly, educational institutions have incorporated new technology into their classrooms, but they haven’t altered their fundamental teaching practices. Why does a product get a new microprocessor or engine that provides adequate performance to meet modern demands, but a school keeps its 16th-century teaching model of having a teacher blab on to a room of students—especially when an overwhelming number of studies have concluded that students retain only a small amount of information from a lecture?

Schools need a radical makeover, and it’s 10 years overdue. Imagine if a student could become a manager after finishing a degree in management? Presently, that’s a rare scenario; but why? It’s because school doesn’t simulate the real world and there’s a lack of both innovation and courage behind the scenes of educational planning. I’ve talked about this issue with several instructors, and I’ve explained how I and many other students don’t feel ready for an entry-level job. My instructors all responded with the same answer: “Oh, that’s normal; you’ll be fine.”

Really? It’s normal to feel unprepared for professional life after four years of what was supposedly doing the opposite? WTF was the point of going?! I find it quite disturbing that a system that’s supposed to be training the next generation of leaders uses such an archaic method of doing so. In today’s world, the majority of students don’t enrol in university to become enlightened (we have the Internet for that) but to secure employment. What’s the one thing an employer wants from a potential employee? One word: experience; which is the one thing most schools don’t provide students with. Therefore, schools ought to create an educational rubric that gives students relevant work experience, not silly homework assignments and PowerPoint presentations.

You may be thinking to yourself, “What does this asshole know about education, and what gives him the right to judge it?” Well, actually, nobody has more moral authority to bash the education system than a student from my generation; especially given that young people are entering a world that, unprecedentedly, could be less prosperous than the preceding generation.

I’m not here only to complain—I do have a solution for this problem. Instead of preaching un-retained information to an auditorium, schools ought to partner with local businesses and organizations and put students through a multi-year work term that mimics a workplace setting. A business degree should revolve around networking, making connections and gaining transferable skills. Therefore, graduates would actually have more to offer to an employer than a useless piece of paper that really just demonstrates a student’s ability to think inside the box, go with the flow and play it safe (everything businesses supposedly dislike).

An education system that gives students relevant work experience, as opposed to theoretical textbook readings, not only improves learning retention, but is also far more valuable. Most people forget what they read in textbooks, but not what they experience first-hand. I’m not suggesting we remove classroom activity altogether, but I believe most of it is a waste of time and money for schools, students and instructors—not to mention taxpayers. The current model for a degree consists of four years of “learning” and one year of work experience. That should be reversed. A graduate with four years of relevant work experience is far more valuable to an organization than a clueless beer-pong champion.

Most businesses and organizations put new employees through certified corporate training programs anyway—which makes one question why a degree was pursued in the first place. Plus, there’s no reason a business degree should take four years, given that employees can be trained in one.

So there you have it; my conclusion: the education system sucks and it needs to be remodelled to simulate the real world and give students something important to offer employers. If you think I’m cynical, consider that a wise person once said, “Cynicism is an unpleasant way of stating the truth.”