When one talks about the importance of higher or tertiary education, opinions about its structure are often raised.
Some say that our education is too focused on “academics” rather than focusing on other subjects like visual arts and liberal arts. A few would say the offerings in tertiary education across the globe are balanced. While others would say it is not something to be worried about.
But, for experts like Singaporean Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, he feels that higher education worldwide is “over-academised.” He also mentioned that Singapore is a good example of this “over-academised” high education according to this news report.
Focus on Applied Education is Important
Tharman used to serve as Singapore’s Education Minister from 2003 to 2008 and also serves as the Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.
In his speech during “Combatting Inequality: Rethinking Policies to Reduce inequality in Advanced Economies” conference in the US hosted by Peterson Institute for International Economics on Friday, Tharman said that there must also be a focus on applied education.
“I would say, liberal arts education, which has a lot of appeal to it, is not the only way to develop soft skills. It is not the only way we develop creativity, team skills, or cross-cultural skills” says Tharman,
For example, taking a vocational course can help students develop all sorts of skills because of their unique curriculum. At the moment, vocational courses like computer skills, F&B management are offered in career colleges, trade schools and community colleges. Currently, there is a mismatch between what jobs are in demand in the market, and the number of places offering training for the necessary skills for these jobs.
So instead of relying upon knowledge taught in the textbooks, I believe that students should develop relevant soft and hard skills that will be useful in the current job market and economy.
In my opinion, education path should be planned according to the skills that our students have developed over time in consideration of fulfilling what the future job market demands.
Wrong Focus on Wage Premiums
Tharman mentioned that many college students only focus on the wage premiums and this can lead to students having unrealistic expectations of income.
A wage premium is the average amount of income of a certain group that exceeds the population as a whole.
This focus should be corrected because it does not reflect the current situation in the workforce.
How can education change?
Contrary to the belief of many that today’s education frameworks are not able to provide opportunities for students to thrive in their chosen careers, tertiary education still has the potential to change to respond to these inequalities.
He also said that current meritocratic education systems can no longer handle the challenges brought by students from their homes and social groups to the school.
While it did work before, it does not have the same effect now.
Here are the other points Tharman shared in his speech:
On changing higher education
1) Students take college wage premiums too seriously in America, that the bottom half of all college students in the US (or 25%) don’t receive the same wage premium.
If you compared it with a high school graduate’s wage premium, it is more or less the same or it can even be higher.
2) 40% of US college graduates likely have a job that doesn’t match their degree or does not require it. As a result, there is a “massive” mismatch between the abilities of job seekers and what the market needs.
3) Post-high-school education now has a special curriculum that focuses on boosting a person’s skill set. Because of this, this curriculum is more important than finishing one’s degree.
4) To ensure that special curriculums focusing on skills is available for everyone, the government and companies both big and small should be able to contribute.
On Public School Systems
1) In regard to public school systems, the social and economic situation trending in the country (or in the world) influences the education choices students aim for.
2) While some of the country’s public schools are not running as well as others, strong school administration and adequate fundings are what kept the schools manageable.
To support this, Singapore’s public-school system structure was explained and how the system can help Singapore students succeed.
3) While decentralized systems can also produce successful students, it is not clear if whether our future generations will be able to keep up these good trends and if they can catch with the rest of the world.
1) To help school systems to change, educators and governments should consider three factors: different career paths, various modes of learning to choose from and specialization.
These three factors will help students to become confident about their skills and discover their passions even at an early age.
2) If nothing is done to stop over-standardized school systems like today, those who come from impoverished backgrounds will have the biggest impact.
In education, there must be a balance between academics and non-academic events. Too much focus on academics only causes students to feel a lot of pressure during exams and make them second guess if their career choice is appropriate.
It also creates a problem for job seekers who wish to get a job but couldn’t because they do not have the “skills” necessary to get the job.
Governments and key players like parents, teachers and tutors in the education industry should work together to find ways to stop over-academised our education. Thus, producing better results in students who don’t feel the pressure in pursuing their dream goals.
To understand my take on education here are some articles:
How to help our children stay competitive by embracing a changing attitude towards learning and acquiring new knowledge.
Which Degree Is Best for Me?
Is A Degree A Must In This Time And Age?
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