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You won’t find yourself in university if you got lost somewhere else

This article from the Georgia Straight does a decent job of quantifying and probing some observations I made in some earlier posts I wrote about the contradictory messages students receive on the relationship between university and employment. University, it seems, is neither a path to a career nor a place to develop intellectually – rather, it’s a place to wander about aimlessly with little guidance on either front:

  • About half of postsecondary students drop out or change programs by the end of their first year
  • Up to four out of five students don’t know what they want to do with their education when they start it
  • Just 75 percent of students completed the college or institute credential they set out to earn
  • Just 44 percent of former students reported that their job is “very related” to the training they took (Aside – I’m surprised it’s that high, actually.)

Unfortunately, the writer then muddies the waters by lamenting the rising cost of tuition. Which is a barrier to higher education for many, to be sure, but the rest of the article makes a pretty compelling case for just how overly accessible university educations are to a large contingent of people who have no clue what to do with them.

I also disagree with a statement made by Phillip Jarvis, developer of career-exploration tests, who remarks, “Education changes slower than anything else in the country, and career is changing at an accelerated rate.” Having seen the changes undergone by high school and university mathematics curricula in the past decade, I’m inclined to disagree that education is stagnant. I’ll concede, however, that high school and university education are diverging from the practical, career-related goals they’re purported to fill.

Nevertheless, the main point of the article is a good one: that career counselling and skills training in the university are vitally important, and that both are between bad and nonexistent.

So, can someone remind me a) why it’s taken for granted that everyone who can afford it (and many who can’t) should go to university, b) why students are expected to go straight from high school to university, c) why university is the canonical setting for self-discovery among middle-class children of professionals, d) why, given the facts, many employers will overlook applicants with “only” two-year diplomas or hands-on training in a trade, and e) why government organizations and activists concerned with education accessibility focus their energies almost exclusively on the Rising Cost of a University EducationTM, and not on alternatives to same?

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