Education for Grades vs. Education for Applications

Posted by admin at November 24, 2015

A major argument of today’s educational system worldwide, has been the fact that students go through an entire establishment meeting all the requirements and taking all the examinations only to be rewarded with grades and nothing but grades. Students no longer learn new concepts but are steered towards a set of old standards. In addition to this, a successful student these days, is the one who can retain a portion of the textbook or hold a subset of formulae for an entire 45 minutes or so. Once the grades classify you as successful, then you made it, or “Passed” as they put it. The education system has also been criticized as being rigid and sticking to the old ways: business as usual, “just take in paying students from one end and flush them right out of the other end.

If I wrote this article when I was first compelled to, this article would be more than 10 years old now and will be filled with rage. The reason being that I once felt the frustration of being a student in a third world state university with its curriculum originating from the British education system. I went through 5 years of excruciating agony, having recycled outdated information shoved down my throat, one class of useless information after another dictating knowledge that was not necessary to my field as we, the students scrambled to snatch grades from the desks of indifferent lecturers. In higher institutions, we basically learned how to pass examinations regardless of the relevance of the subject or course. Picture a computer engineering major student having a Strength of Materials course in Mineral and Metallurgy, while at same time taking classes in Advanced BASIC/COBOL Programming in his 3rd year. The anatomy of an 8088 processor was a like a prophecy from an old scroll, nobody in my class has ever seen what it looked like but were expected to take the lecturer’s word (and crude diagrams) for it. Permanently tossed into a cloud of excess theories and old information.

But the question is: why did I and a lot of other students, get frustrated with the system while the rest were comfortable with the cloud of confusion and hustle for grades that was our class scheme of work? I think this can be attributed to the fact that we discovered the difference between Education for Grades and Education for Application. While the former focused on enabling the student get a piece of authorizing paper stating that the student is eligible and understands certain concepts, the latter, focuses more on enabling the student successfully completes a task by apply knowledge. Education for Application is the age old process of learning on-the-job, the good old see-and-do, which in my opinion, is the most natural way to learn. The student learns on-the-go, applying his knowledge on a real-life problem and thus doing, establishing knowledge by experiencing and correcting mistakes. I have had more fun learning my trade and have learned far more, sitting for an hour in front of the computer tackling a seemingly frustrating bug than I will ever learn from my 5 years of formal classes.

In order to solve this problem in higher institutions, students should be engaged in more activities outside the class: periodic visits to industry offices and facilities, practical-style classes with guest speakers from the industry, short-term internships, annual projects that will promote problem solving etc. Even increasing the frequency of projects ot one-a-semester will work here. This will inspire them to apply the knowledge they have gathered in the formal classes. Instead of focusing on exams and credit loads, the focus should be more towards completed projects and research. The student is to be monitored and guided in creating a solution for a real-life problem and awarded accordingly. The role of industry cannot be over-emphasized here. Its involvement in the education sector will ensure that a larger percentage of students that graduate, possess the necessary real world skills for their respective fields. Students before they graduate build a resume of projects they completed and their implementations as well as develop relationship with some of the players on their industry of study.

I know these ideas are not new, but in some higher institutions and even entire countries, there is still a wide disconnect between schools and industry leading to high unemployment rates and students graduating with little to no workable skills. In this age of information at every fingertip, anybody can learn more with an internet connection and a subsequent amount of will power than in a regular higher institution classroom.



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