Monday, January 04, 2010

Practical GP

Since we're already discussing how dynamic the education industry is with its constant updates and course corrections, can we really think we are so unique that change doesn't take place as quickly in other countries? That seeking education 'for a job' and not as an end in itself is just an Eastern/Asian concept?

Here, we old schoolers bemoan the dwindling number of scholars in the more liberal arts, like literature and philosophy, while the bandwagon hard sciences and math; accounting and business have gained in popularity because they appear more connected to the 'real' world where food on the table is a necessary precondition of life and all else is esoteric luxury. It's hard to argue against that kind of cold pragmatism.

However we like to idealize education, the fact is that today the primary purpose for people to take up an education is indeed to become employable. It's true here, just as it is in the US where the Liberal Arts are likewise giving in and reinventing themselves to become more practical in the employability stakes: see "Making college 'relevant'".

Are our Liberal Arts degrees (and the ricebowls of us old-timers) going the way of the dodo, then? Of course not. As the article points out, the key is to innovate our subjects so that they can offer the kids long-term training in real-world, practical skills. As long as we can give what employers want, we continue to be relevant.

What do employers want?
According to The Association of American Colleges and Universities (quoted in the above article) 89 percent said they wanted more emphasis on “the ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing,” 81 percent asked for better “critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills” and 70 percent were looking for “the ability to innovate and be creative.”

Currently, people view GP as just essay writing and comprehension exercises, a.k.a. advanced English (language). But everything employers want is there in the GP package. But we need a fresh way to teach and engage the kids in it, with more emphasis on what employers want rather than just GP for its own sake. Fortunately, what's required is not a major overhaul of the subject itself, but merely a redesign of the packaging.

New year, new kids, new focus.

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