The 5 Ways The University System Is Setting Us Up For Failure
Education is one of the most widely-discussed issues in American society by people of all ages, ethnicities, occupations and genders. But in light of other important national issues (healthcare, economy, poverty, etc.) we put education on the back burner, regardless of the ideal that by revolutionizing the education system, we could alleviate many of our other problems.
As a college sophomore, I've noticed many problems that plague the university system daily. Check out some of the improvements I'd like to see:
1. Create a system that helps students identify what they really want to do in life.
The college application process is one of the most stressful experiences that teens endure. They must reflect upon the desired size of a university, its geographic location, and oh, that other tiny concern: area of study. According to education.com, approximately 50% of perspective students declare an “undecided major.” This is due, at least in part, to high school systems failing to provide students with information that doesn't translate to the workforce.
Coming into college, I could identify my ambition to major in mass communications, simply from my experience working on the high school yearbook and my general interest in the media. But, I had no idea in which aspect of the journalism world I sought to work. Students in all areas of study should be have an educational experience that helps them discover their personal passions in life.
2. Lecture less, experience more.
While I fully understand the importance of an informative lecture, I find field experience to be an equally, if not more, crucial consideration. As a mass communications major, I don't just want to learn about the evolution of the newspaper industry — I want to see it. Hands-on experience is the only way students will be able to absolutely understand exactly what they will be doing once they enter the workforce. I want to visit newsrooms. I want to tour advertising and public relations agencies.
Show me what it's like to work as a television producer. I shouldn't be expected to come into college knowing exactly in which field of journalism I want to someday work. This is a relevant notion for students of all majors. Professors should bring in speakers from the course's purported industry to speak about the field. These are the types of experiences that will help students identify what they really want to do in life.
Once they identify this baseline, they will likely be harder workers in the future because they will be passionate about and focused upon their careers. The university system plays an important part in helping students identify these passions.
3. Standardized tests aren't always the best measure of a student's knowledge.
I believe that there are two types of students: the ones who have panic attacks before tests, then perform lower than their highest ability, and the ones who know how to beat the system. The students who have panic attacks end up scaring themselves to the point of blanking on test questions that they actually know. Conversely, there are kids, who from a young age, have been taught methods about how to properly guess an answer on a standardized test.
I remember being told to choose “C” on a question when I don't know an answer. Shouldn't we be focusing on the material rather than how to best beat the measures that test us? There must be a better way to qualify a student's ability than through stressful, and sometimes unfair, test taking.
Throughout the years, I've realized that process of elimination can get me through content that I've never seen before — but just because I am a good guesser doesn't mean that I know the material. That isn't learning. How about creating a system that grades students based on their personal growth in the course? Every student is different and shouldn't be expected to test the same way. Albert Einstein once said that “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
4. Assigning hundreds of pages of textbook reading is ineffective.
College professors need to realize that not only does current technology discourage students from textbook reading (I'm sure we now have shorter attention spans), but also, we simply don't have the time to spend hours with our eyes glued to a textbook. Students are taking multiple classes, have part-time jobs, families and social lives.
On top of the other assignments to complete for a given class (and other classes), the textbook is likely not going to be read. And if a student does happen to find a moment for textbook reading, he or she will most likely skim — rather than actually read and retain — the information. If professors could create lesson plans and syllabi that incorporate more multi-media content to teach students in ways that are more fun, students might learn more effectively.
For homework, maybe short, informational YouTube could replace some of the reading. For many people, learning in a more visual way may be a better way to retain information.
5. If I must take math, at least make it relevant.
When I first came to college, I was pumped to spend time learning about subjects I actually found to be interesting. I didn't realize that it would take me two more years of basic coursework before I could start taking classes in my major. I understand that it's important for students to be well-rounded and have a universal baseline of knowledge, but let's at least find a way to make the general classes more relateable and meaningful.
For instance, I'm not keen on math. I never have been and I never will be. If you are making me take math, I'd like to take a class that will benefit me in my future. How about offering a class to students in non-mathematic majors that teaches how to balance a personal budget, or a course that gives real-life financial advice? The same goes for students who are passionate about math.
Why should we make them take multiple composition classes when their minds work in numbers? Our system needs to realize that there is not just one type of student. We should not all be forced to travel down the same educational path because since we all seek to accomplish different things in life.
The education system should absolutely change with new generations of students to reflect new advancements in society. Our generation is mocked constantly for being so technology-minded, but that doesn't make us less capable, it just creates room for expanding teaching methods. We can't continue to employ the same education methods from decades ago and expect them to mesh effortlessly with today's world.
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