The Opinion Section 10: A thought or two about post-secondary education
How odd; months after my publishing of what a polytechnic university should look like, all this academic work surrounding post-secondary education suddenly surfaces to grasp my attention. In all honesty, I brought this upon myself. The reason for this is because I have been focusing most of my attention on this topic for the past two years, so much so that it is no wonder all this material surrounding the topic suddenly appears before me. One article I read from the globe and mail – which I will link to below – talks about a need for a national strategy. Specifically it talks about Canada, and how our post-secondary institutions need to update themselves in order to provide the best education to students and make them more competitive and valuable. It discusses some of the limitations of this new tactical move; that being the assumed elitism of certain schools, and the fact that education is a provincial mandate.
The difficulty lies in the elitism and the mandate. I will elaborate; essentially there is a myth out there; that if a student attends a certain school that is all they will ever need in this life. Examples include Harvard, Yale, amongst a host of others. Students go about their daily routines never taking a second to think; is there actual statistical proof and research evidence to suggest that this concept is a reality? If going to one of these so called prestigious schools is a guarantee to success in life, should there be some sort of concrete evidence to prove it? Questions that the student body seldom ask, which is why we continue to live amongst these medieval institutions and listen to their words. Now do not misunderstand me, a public non-profit university is by far better than any private school where the sole objective is profit. However, there is a need for these ‘better’ schools as I like to term them, to start looking into the future and really examine how education is delivered. An example of this is Carleton University in Ottawa and Algonquin College, where a student attends both schools simultaneously. In the morning the student takes classes in theoretical knowledge and in the afternoon travels to Algonquin to take practical training courses. The end result is a student graduates with a diploma related to a technical field which is in turn related to his or her degree which provides the theory-based knowledge necessary for the student to master the techniques taught at Algonquin.
My readers do you see my point? This is the sort of – dare I say – revolutionary thinking that will shape our post-secondary education into a student-focused beast as I like to call it. If our citizens – our students – are going to lead our nation forward, they will need all the skills and training that we can provide to them. Yes I am very hopeful when it comes to this sort of new vision as for the past two years I have been complaining about a lack of practical training related to my field of study. Month after month, I have casually conversed with my professors over this issue and how – dare I say frustrated – I am in relation to this turtle-pace progression. Yet, like the discovery of the earth being round, it will take at least a few years for this idea to sink into the minds of university and college administrators. University administrators more so than college (a personal bias) because certain schools leave their mark; meaning that the administrators took the position due to the prestige it brought and the pride of being at the helm of a top-ranking university. This might be the greatest hurdle that the program needs to overcome because it is fairly rooted in society as a whole. What I mean by that is this; when I say McGill, when I say UBC, when I speak to people of the University of Western Ontario, what comes to mind? Well for starters top marks, the best schools in the country, province, or region, and that only the elite go to these schools.
There lies the difficulty, the sense of elitism that comes with a certain name. Everyone wants to be the best in life, especially in this day and age when so many of us are so mobile and capable of making ourselves better in vast, unimaginable ways. Yet our pride is our own handicap, for we fail to see the value of some of the other lesser known schools; schools like Simon Fraser, the Justice Institute, and Dawson College. Heck even Algonquin, who despite their joint program, rarely comes to mind. I must stress this once again that all these names are names of public schools; that being schools funding in part by the government, and where the tuition fees are not equivalent to your lungs, arteries, and your left leg. Yet students who go onto post-secondary, at times fail to see the value of some of these schools. The Justice Institute’s instructors are all seasoned police officers, paramedics, and firefighters. Practical experience comes to mind when we speak of the Justice Institute. Algonquin offers programs in conjunction with Carleton University which as I stated earlier, benefits a student greatly when it comes to having a complete and full grasp of the knowledge and skills taught. Yet these benefits are overshadowed by a sense that going to McGill or going to UBC will somehow, regardless if you are competent in your field or not, guarantee you a steady, high-paying career after graduation.
The message is quite simple; think before you act. Conduct your research before going out there and registering for a post-secondary institution. Ensure that you read up on what programs they offer and whether or not they suite your needs as an individual. Do they provide an excellent learning environment? Is it hands-on learning or primarily theory-based? Would you be happy studying at that particular institution? These are but a few questions any student coming out of high school or going back to school, should ask themselves when it comes to post-secondary education.