All of my posts so far have been positive in the title and talking about what education is. This week, and possible a few more posts, will discuss what education is not. I think it is also important to talk about what I think education is not. So, here goes.
The title of this post is a hat tip to my departed friend, whose company I dearly miss, especially our Thursday morning breakfast discussions. On several occasions we would discuss the cost of education, how much tertiary courses cost, and how governments of all persuasions push the cost of education back on the individual.
By way of example, I looked at doing a Certificate IV in Mediation and Arbitration at a local TAFE. Because I have a masters degree, the certificate would cost me around $5,000, and there was no government assistance. Needless to say, I couldn’t afford it and didn’t do the course.
During our many discussions, I pondered why education is so expensive and why universities market their courses like Coles or Woolworths market their products – or what I call the commodification of education? I also pondered the large number of courses available and their value to society and the various professions?
The discussion moved to how universities, once the bastions of knowledge, have transformed to be nothing more than a business selling their product to the market. Credibility is perceived by the number of students enrolled and the [perceived] value of the course. The success of a university is measured by how many students gain employment after graduation. What is not clear though, is how many were employed before graduation and whether they were employed in the field of their qualification?
I ask this question given recent figures that approximately 20% of students quit in the first year. I have also read that around the same number do not work in their field of study – ever (sorry I can’t find the Australian source but here is a USA source that quotes up to 60%).
Also, why do we need so many degree graduates? Is having a highly qualified pool of graduates a great thing when there are not enough jobs in their chosen field? Who’s to blame for the explosion of academic qualifications? Some blame business others say it is preparing for the future where a nation needs to workers who are more qualified.
Me, I am inclined to go along with a combination of business demands and clever marketing by tertiary institutions; along with various governments demanding that students complete year 12 and go to university.
Business has outsourced nearly all of their educational needs. Even receptionists are now required to have some form of formal qualification such as a Certificate IV in Office Administration or similar. Even a coffee shop worker needs to do a course in being a barista for anyone will look at giving them a job.
If we look at the VET sector, you need a certificate IV to teach. A qualification that I think does not to prepare you for the rigours of teaching. Then if we look at the university sector, you need a doctorate to be a lecturer – why? I know many, many wise and experienced people who would make great lecturers, but do not have a doctorate, and have no aspirations of getting one. But then, we look at the universities who will appoint an array of ex-politicians and/or business people, who do not have a doctorate, to various academic positions and boards – why? because, they will lift the prestige of the university and therefore their marketability in a commodity laden market. Which gets back to treating education as a commodity – it is not and should never be treated this way!
Education, amongst many other things, is a pathway to a different way of thinking; a pathway to looking different at what the ‘adults’ tell us; it is a pathway to a better understanding of the world around us; and finally it provides us with a pathway to find out for ourselves. I would not be so arrogant enough – unlike the educational institutions – to say that education is a pathway to a better life. This would mean that there is something wrong with your current life, and perhaps there is not, perhaps you just want to expand your horizons. Perhaps not…
Next week, on the ‘education is not’ theme – education is not indoctrination, but sadly this is what is happening in our modern day educational institutions.