Over the past posts I have discussed what education is not, and while speaking with a very dear friend at breakfast recently, they pointed out that I have said a lot about what education is not, and possibly not enough about what education is. But, on reflection, I think at times it is easier to talk about what education is not, and eliminate concepts, so we can hone in on what education is?
In this post I want to discuss whether the journey of formal education, is just for gaining employment; or can it be a personal journey that focuses on the development of the individual; or is it both?
Many of us, me included, didn’t think much about how secondary schooling may have an effect on their future (I did mine in the 1970s). So, I am often amused when I hear educationalists state that their course, or educational construct, is preparing the student for the future. Given that the future is unknown, how can we prepare someone for this? Do we really know what we need to know in the future? Do we really know what skills will be required in the future? To expand this question further, I offer my own personal journey.
When I was a child all I wanted to be was a police officer. The thought of being anything else would not have, and had never did, enter my mind. While I did various jobs for the six years between leaving school and starting my policing career – they were a means to an end; that is making money until I met the entry requirements. My educational goals were for nothing more than meeting those entry requirements, this included going back to night school to increase my educational qualifications to meet the entry requirements. I served in two states for 13 years before being medically discharged due to a series of work-related injuries; one of which was an acquired brain injury. All of my education focused on further my capacity as a police officer.
Then for several years after I medically retired, I wandered the employment wilderness, shifting from one job to another. In the early 2000s I was told by a recruiter that while I had some great employable skills, I needed a formal qualification before any employer would look at me for roles other than lower level positions. This led to my researching various formal qualifications. The problem I faced was I didn’t know what qualification I needed to get employed, and yet, I was told I needed something. (This trend in needing qualifications for basic roles is so prolific that there are now concerns that the value of a degree will be downgraded because everyone has one – more on that in a later post.) So, what to do?
I always envisaged that I would move into a management role, so I began investigating management programs. Also, because I knew I had to work, and I knew that I would not be able to attend university – mostly due to the physical injury and brain injury – I investigated online courses. There were limited available online courses in 2004 (yes, just 10 years ago, there was less online programs than today), so I selected a program that I felt reflected my employment goals. Note I said employment not educational. I chose to study for employment benefits, and not for the sake of going to university, or having to go to university because it was expected of me by my parents, teachers, or government; but to further my employment prospects.
I enrolled in an Associate Degree in Business at the University of Southern Queensland. As this qualification had all of, what I believed, to be the required educational needs as per the earlier recruiter discussion. This ended up being rolled into a Bachelor of Business, and a Master of Education at the same university. I increased my educational qualifications for two reasons. The business program extended my knowledge and skills, and also I was enjoying being challenged by the course of studies. I moved to a Masters as I was teaching VET[i]-based HR and small business management course at a local TAFE[ii] and was told to teach higher education course I needed a Masters.
By the time I had started the masters, the minimum educational requirement changed to a doctorate. This was the reason for starting my doctorate in education. I say was because I had delusions of teaching at a university, but given how universities are cutting back staff, the amount of people that have a doctorate now, and I don’t ‘publish’ enough to qualify; my reasons for continuing have changed. And they have nothing to do with employment prospects, but personal goals. My doctoral research will have some practical applications – I hope. But, the finalisation of the doctorate will be a personal – and not professional – triumph.
Through my adult educational journey I shifted from employment as the goal to personal development. This is not to say that I the education did not help me get a job, but it is my work ability that allowed me to keep my job, not my degree.
Studying for personal growth may not be the same goal for everyone else, and as such people need to mindful of this important point when they seek to compel people to undertake training/education.
What do you think? Tell me about your education journey. Did it change like mine, or did it stay the same throughout your journey? Did you know what you wanted to when you left high school, or university? Did you achieve your goals? Are you still doing that job? Let me know, I am curious about others journeys.
Next time on this blog:
Engagement with education needs to be at a personal level and for personal reasons. This means that the educator needs to structure their program to reach each individual student. Can and should this be done?
[i][i] For non-Australian readers, VET = vocational and education training. The qualification issued are either certificates or diplomas and are below the university degree and are more occupational focus. See: http://www.aqf.edu.au/aqf/in-detail/aqf-levels/
[ii] TAFE means Technical and Further Education. This colleges originally taught occupational/trade based courses, but TAFEs have now moved into an array of courses included degrees and masters. See: http://www.vta.vic.edu.au/