Education and the Injustice of Preparing Students for Working Life

By GUC | Intrigues | 7 Aug 2019

I love Mathematics. I love Statistics. I love Quantitative Analysis. Mostly, I love Accounting and Finance; my core courses. If I were a student in the sciences, I know I’d also love Physics. I love conundrums, anything that gets your wits to the edge and your mind entangled with reasoning. I love all these. Although at some certain points, I began to wonder about all these jargons we keep on calculating, all the enigmas we keep on unravelling.

On numerous occasions, after a long and grim example, you’d hear the Lecturer scream ‘twenty minutes’ after he must have read aloud or, on several cases, distributed his heavens-know-where-the-hell-it-comes-from, printed on sheets question, and tell us to use our brains. Everyone would be up and doing: some eyes would resort to staring at the roof, some hands would be scribbling down some nonsensical (often better than doing nothing at all), some would collaborate if it’s allowed and others would give up on first read, hiss and murmur away their disapprobation.

This type of questions could only be solved by ‘freaks’ – doesn’t mean they always got it right. But they were mostly close-to-right. They hate giving up and prefer it mostly when we are told to go sort it out either in groups or as individuals before the next class. I love this too. Because in the process of dealing with issues like that, I gain more understanding.

But still, I wouldn’t stop asking myself if all these are really worth it? Some exercises (especially quantitative-s) would stop at nothing to make certain you’re [almost] insane. Some of them are unnecessarily long and confusing. They make me ache sometimes. Sometimes they make me want to go nuts that I’d wish to walk up to the Lecturer and ask ‘aren’t we wasting our time Mr.?’

I didn’t keep this to myself. Upon discussions with peers and Academics, someone once told me

'You may be wondering how relevant all these will be when you eventually start working…'

What he said next was almost what I was thinking.

'But hei! Some of these things may never come your way in life again. They are just meant to broaden your mind, to widen your horizon.'

He really got me on that.

With time, I realized that this does not have all to do with calculations alone, it cuts across all areas of study. All other subject or courses that are only theoretical in nature have their own uniqueness in the way they prompt the minds of students. As a Nigerian student that I’ve been for years, I’ve grown to appreciate its system of education– the interdisciplinary system. For instance, I as an Accounting student must have to take on some courses that are not necessarily– in as much as they are relevant to get me more flexible given my field and on the normal grounds that no knowledge is wasted– related to my course of study.

Specialism is good, but sometimes it’s not enough for students undergoing moulding. Students should be mingled with other expanses (this doesn’t make them any less what they want to become) to raise questions beyond that which they know or think they should know. The nastiness of life, the brutality that comes with it, it’s peeving shortness and then, amidst all these only the fittest survive. Why is life then this way? What can be done to foil this? All these philosophical thoughts and questions whose answers most times are questionable: therefore, answers, questions; answers, questions; answers, questions….

Then goes the case studies too. Live and unlived cases common in most fields of study, and research projects which are not so much about– though most likely to be linked to– what course one studies in school. Not so much about arriving at a definite answer too quickly before dawn, but for thinking it through, reasoning it out with the mind, sometimes going to the field, sometimes going on class excursions, sometimes obtained in extra-curricular activities and group discussions just to emerge with possible solutions, conclusions or recommendations. Not so much about building the student into a perfect work machine, but much about broadening and creating prepared minds, resonating the complex thinking and metacognitive skills of students.

If education would only focus on preparing students for working life, then justice is not being done and this would not be so different from the informal way of acquiring knowledge and skills whose main purpose is to prepare the apprentice for work. We are in an era in which broadened minds are required instead, and this is surely where education should fit in. Working life connotes the roles of students after graduation in the public service, industry or commerce over a period of time of their life if I may put it that way. Giving much concerns to it definitely will work negatively on the growth of many economies where unemployment is high, yet with persistent upsurge. This tells that the future is at stake and it is time to reinvent the educational system– capable of saving the future– and the role it should play on students which is beyond just the ordinary work the student intends to do in the future.
Research and Development especially in entrepreneurial studies (in this context) is the best securer of both the future of the students and the economy. Business creation and growth which is part of this instils in students innovative skills. Making entrepreneurship and innovation a compulsory study for all universities (regardless of the students’ course of study) would sure breed a milestone, both in theory and practice. Practice in this sense should be verbatim. Students being taught practical skills based on choice. This is for the goal of widening the students’ horizon, preparing their minds before graduation as it is often said that ‘life begins after graduation.’ This means that after graduation, students are not only prepared for the work which may not even exist for them, but their minds are made open to accept any disappointment without being broken, to welcome any progressive development and make the best off it. This probably achieved with the funding scheme of the government in favour of graduates with good business proposals, more goals that lead to creation of jobs and generating more revenue through products and services that contributes to the GDP and GNI are achieved.

A question may however arise: of what good is a broadened mind without a work to balance the effect? Well, this can be likened to a case where, ceteris paribus, someone who have acquired the necessary knowledge (or skills) for work, and then the other, same as the former, but now with a vast scope, a mental fitness that’s beyond just the skills. Now let’s keep work at the other far end after the education ‘stuff.’ If both start working, who performs better? This is absolutely why besides ‘Godfatherism’ some workers never get past some certain levels in the work place because they lack the competence required.

Broadening the minds of students to me should be considered best as fundamental to the mission of any educational system put in place; there’s never been any better role of education than this. It prepare students for challenges and with the eyes of an Osprey it grants them, they could see the slightest opportunity, weighing their strengths against their weaknesses and maximize such. And of course if all things being equal, they will enjoy an even better working life.
Perhaps that’s why this will never stop crossing my mind:

Just any sane person can work, but of what match is a Mechanic who acquired his skills through apprenticeship to someone who was trained as a Mechanical Engineer in a higher institution of learning after undergoing the mental beating in thermodynamics (basic and applied), fluid mechanics, applied or engineering mechanics, design of machines, electricity and the jargons called mathematics and physics?

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