Is Higher Education Worth The Risk of Taking The Needle?
One of the most controversial issues relating to public health policy is mandating teenagers and children to take the vaccine. Some states are now in the process of injecting year 12 students with the experimental vaccine as a prerequisite to them sitting their high school leaving examinations.
Many are debating the moralities of this mandate. I want to talk about something different.
Is there a need to risk a child taking this vaccine so they can finish high school and move onto their next stage, such as entering university?
This is a serious decision to make, especially given the examinations are due to begin in mid-October.
I will try to cover more of this over two weeks. This week, I will talk about how university rankings do not tell you the full story as the modern education model has changed.
Next week, I will talk about universities and how their focus on research output is not in the best interest of promoting quality education nor positive social impact.
One thing I want to bring to the forefront is that easy money from central banks has played a huge role in universities and education. Not in a good way, either.
That is why it is important to fortify yourself from the corrupting effects of the central bank with honest money and real assets. Like gold, precious metals, verified cryptos, land, and property.
University rankings — more than meets the eye
Nowadays, many parents and their children see a university education as a forgone conclusion. You will see in the Australian Bureau of Statistics that the proportion of Australians with a non-school qualification (university degrees, diplomas, and Certificates III–IV) has increased significantly over time.
However, to what extent is a university education beneficial? The idea of getting a degree attracts people as they believe that it is necessary for a good career.
Recently, Times Higher Education reported their list of the Top 100 universities around the world. Australia has six universities that sit in the Top 100. However, they are slipping in their positions compared to other universities.
There are two issues I want to cover regarding university rankings today. The first is how they rank universities. The second is about the standard of education in Australia.
I worked in the higher education sector for almost 20 years, having taught in actuarial studies, statistics, finance, and risk management. During my time in a number of institutions, I have come to see some glaring issues in the sector and its impact on our society.
Let me talk firstly about university rankings.
If you look into how university rankings are determined nowadays, it is no different to a commercial measurement system. The metrics they use are more focused on customer perception and subjective outcomes.
The QS World Rankings uses a rubric that measures the following traits.
Academic Reputation, Employer Reputation, Faculty-Student Ratio, and Number of Citations per Faculty.
This all sounds well and good. After all, universities are a place of learning, research, and delivering social impact. These factors cover just that.
However, if you dig deeper into how universities work, these measures tell a different story.
Academic reputation is a manageable metric. Normally, people expect that a university has excellent academic reputation because they attract the best scholars. In turn, they deliver rigorous programs to challenge and build the best talents.
You would think this is how it works, right?
Success in teaching — managing customer expectations
The key to successful teaching is in the student feedback. You are successful if you can deliver what they asked, not what you want of them.
This flips the traditional model of education on its head.
Students nowadays value the outcome more than the process. Education is but one of their many priorities — a part-time job, social life, travel, and leisure time.
Put in blunt terms, they do not value so much the rigour of what they learn nor developing their ability to engage in critical thinking. They came here for their degree because it is a necessary requirement to get the job they want.
Do not get in their way or there are consequences!
How do I know?
I experienced this firsthand teaching over 5,000 students in my career.
Students give much more favourable feedback when I deliver a subject with relatively easy content and undemanding assessment tasks. I earn bonus points if I can find practitioners to give an address on opportunities for them in the industry, and especially if this is not an assessable component.
They perceive these experiences as favourable and enjoyable.
In contrast, a more rigorous subject where you stretch the students’ capabilities is a risky move. They may benefit more in building their critical thinking skills and mental resilience. But students may not receive this positively. It is a delicate process.
Let me recount an experience quickly.
At one institution, the Dean invited me into his office a few weeks into my first term teaching there as he wanted to address some student concerns. He explained that students found my assessments too difficult. He explained to me that they were normally high achievers, and my subject gave them stress as they were worried about their grades.
When I adjusted the difficulty of my assessments, their worries subsided. I received much more favourable feedback at the end of the session. I taught the same cohort in a different subject over 18 months later, a more difficult one. They responded more favourably because by then there was a mutual understanding.
I am pretty confident that this is not just one isolated case in higher education.
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Larger enrolments and the delicate balance of maintaining standards
Based on my account above, you are right to ask whether the current graduates coming out today are comparable to those who graduated in the past.
So what are the reasons for the standard eroding over time?
Universities have reduced the bar for enrolments to increase revenues. This opened them up to a greater range of students in terms of their ability.
Thus, educators have to adjust the level of difficulty to suit the target population.
The problem is, when you try to cater for a larger audience, you reduce the chance of satisfying them all.
They cannot maintain the quality of education when they let more students enrol and measure success as satisfaction from the students.
Sometimes the best outcomes come through hard work and doing what you want to avoid. You may find a few academics in universities who will risk their tenure to do this nowadays. The benefits outweigh the risks.
Join me next week when I talk about how ranking universities based on research output has led to negative consequences on the industry and society as a whole.
And again, it has everything to do with money.
Editor, The Daily Reckoning
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