Although I have learned a lot in my journalism classes, I still don’t feel fully “prepared” to produce work that my future company and I can be proud of. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gained a lot of skills while in college, however the structure of the college education system leaves me to question how much of my course material is actually relevant to real-life job tasks.
Confirmation of this worry lies in company hands. Only 16% of employers believe that college graduates are qualified and well prepared for the workplace (Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Students). The same survey also found that 54% of hiring managers have difficulty finding skilled and knowledgeable workers (Live Career). Education that focuses on negotiation, management and interpersonal skills is crucial when entering the job market (NACAC). As Martin Luther once said, “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
An article by KQED News, emphasizes that while K-12 education has begun to teach students concepts that will benefit their college experience, many colleges have not moved along the same evolutionary path. Students continue to be in large lecture courses that rarely connect the course material “to the lived experiences and passions of students” (Schwartz). If students are less than enthusiastic about class, there’s less chance of them absorbing and retaining the information. And without interest in the subject matter, how do professors expect college students to remain attentive?
However, there is some gleam of hope for soon-to-be high school graduates. A college in British Columbia is attempting to break the trend by “emphasizing depth over breadth,” in striving to develop highly versatile students. “We need an education for the knowledge economy in which people are equipped with the processes to filter, combine and create new ideas and products for themselves and for society,” said David Helfand, President of Quest University Canada (Schwartz). Steps are being taken to revise the broken system. If one college changes, the hope is that others will follow in order to remain competitive and in line with contemporary learning methods.
Getting good grades just isn’t enough these days. Employers are looking for volunteer experience, internships, extracurricular activities, and anything that other job applicants may lack. However, it would be nice if instead of having two or three internships before graduation, college itself would fulfill these requirements by providing real-life experience.
College education systems can actually learn a lot from high schools. Grace Shefcik, a now college student, wrote and directed a play about the Lavender Scare in high school by researching the subject, writing it as a play, and producing the three top picks (Hechinger Report). “We had the opportunity to research something that wouldn’t necessarily be taught in a textbook, but was an important part in history,” Shefcik said.
The high school, appropriately named High Tech High, is an experimental charter school in California that values deeper learning and a critical thinking focused educational model. Instead of being assigned countless reading assignments, students engage in more project-based activities, which strengthen their collaborative partnership and problem solving skills. “The play was something I was really passionate about. It was something I got constant feedback and support on over the year. In college, you don’t get that feedback or see the paper again unless you go back the next quarter and ask, but that’s unheard of,” explained Shefcik.
Instead of reading a textbook for hours, nodding off, and forgetting everything immediately, students are able to immerse themselves in the course material while staying actively engaged in the class. The overall learning environment shifts from text-based to experience-based, enabling students to completely absorb the information and its real-life implications. More colleges must take on a project-based approach to education, because without critical thinking, collaboration and personal skills, students will struggle to fit into the job market.
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