Solving the Gap Between the Academe and Industry - An Education Advocate's Point of View

So you finally got your college degree, a full-time job, and the excitement to get your hands dirty. After a while, you seem to be having difficulties keeping up with work. The hype and excitement went down the moment you saw reality. "School never taught me this", you responded. Yes, we all know that feeling. We share the sentiment that the current educational system is flawed. If it wasn't, we would all be successful with our lives as if holding a degree would magically make a 360-transformation. Why do you think people, particularly those who finished studies, are still unemployed, underemployed, and still struggle to make ends meet? Shouldn't education be the tool to fight poverty? Shouldn't education provide us with a better future? Have we been scammed by our society?

Let us discuss some of the things that widen the gap between the academe and the industry.

First of all, what is the purpose of education?

To simply put, education is the discipline of learning things. In order to establish good education, one must manifest a good environment, a good source of learning, and a sparking interest of the topic from the student. Easy right? Nope. Let me tell you something. Try to recall your experience when you were a student (or still studying if you're a student). Do you think you're satisfied with the way things work? Did your learnings in school apply to the real world? I'm pretty sure no. If no, why do you think people desperately pay for a flawed education? Two things: Formalities and self-respect.

Society has taught us in the first place to study hard, finish school, and get a good job. Along the way, you will come to a point wherein you'll compare yourself with others, possibly them having better accomplishments. You'll suddenly feel the pressure keeping up then eventually regret what you're doing. As a result, you'll go along with the usual trend and gradually finishing school in traditional means. You fear that society will judge you for not finishing school. You fear that you don't have potential when you drop out of school. You fear that you'll be branded as stupid when you can't keep up. Pressure from society is one of the detrimental factors to a great education. Don't forget about the affluent ones. If you're a nobody, expect to have no place in your classroom. Teachers having some sort of favoritism makes it even worse. People play this card to weed off their insecurity for dominance. Not to mention, *drum roll*, GRADES. They'd rather get good grades than experience REAL learning. People work hard for the wrong reasons. This is not what the system is all about.

A lot are not yet clear of what education stands for. It should be a Medium to provide a better future yet people are taking this for granted. Let's admit, most of us thought we could always enroll the following semester as if our parents can always afford tuition. As young students from the past (or present),  they never shared with us their struggles to keep us educated yet, their blood, sweat, and tears were the reasons why we keep up. Only then when we reach the workforce, we realize how hard it is to earn money and this must be the feeling when our parents fought hard for us. Education is still taken for granted and people study our of fear. What are the other root causes of poor education?

1. The fear of failure and trying something new

The current system has created a threatening notion to which receiving a failing mark defines your worth. I've seen a lot of people suffered from depression due to low grades and never to have stood up again. This has created a fear of failure. We forget to laugh, we forget to look, we forget to unleash our creativity just because we're pressured to hit a certain mark. I'm sure a lot of us experienced failing marks and you know that great feeling of anxiety. Things like people comparing everyone else's scores and the weight you need to catch up makes it worse.

Because of this, failure will forever be a sin. NO, it shouldn't. We should all embrace the fact that we all fail and we should use this as an advantage to learn and be more creative. Failure results in new discoveries and this makes the process more interesting as people wouldn't feel the need of conforming to academic standards. Objective assessments such as report cards have their importance but this should not be the focus. Teach people how to live their life, love what they're doing, and celebrate their victories.

2. Lack of Support and Ambition

A lot of people are criticized for being dreamers. Personally, I was made fun of when I said I wanted to change the world (actually, I wanted to be an astronaut back then and said it was impossible in my country). When people think your dreams are impossible, they ridicule. Instead of getting support, you're pulled down by crabs (short from crab-mentality people) to stoop down to their level. This is the reason why we can't have nice things. They use their insecurity to drag you down because they know they can't do it.

Which results in lack of ambition. Because we know that society will keep on harassing our ideas, the tendency is we keep it to ourselves, never to chase our dreams, and just conform to society by default.

As a community, we should stand together to support our ambitions. Everyone has their own dreams so why not support? After all, if every person could work on their dreams, we could build the world with creativity!

3. Lack of Life skills and real-world exposure

People underestimate young people too much that they thought they could not do complex tasks. We limit them with what we think is "bearable". I'm not saying that the teacher's judgment is wrong but we have to train the young generation how to conquer the daring challenges.

Schools are so focused on pen-and-paper assessments that they forgot to teach them practical skills. These are basic life skills that are crucial to succeeding life yet schools are still obsessed with quantifying students with grades. Also, schools are still obsessed with spending their time inside the classroom when the real deal is out there. The system should be focused on the majority of their time outside of the classroom to get acquire the skills they need hands-on.

4. No clear goal

Let's admit that not all people discover their goals at an early age. Objectively speaking, if a student has a clear goal on what to study, there's the motivation to strive hard. Imagine you're studying business and you have an interest in learning French so as to communicate with French clients. During your free time, you study the language so you could expand the business. Another says you want to start a bakery and you have good interests in creating pastries. You'd feel passionate about learning the procedures, doing the best practices, and watching famous chefs on how they do it.

Do you see the difference? If you could apply certain goals to your learning, it would make you more motivated to absorb knowledge.

5. Outdated Curriculum and Instructors

Things change really quick these days that even curriculums can't catch up. Depending on your institution, curriculums don't just change with a snap of a finger.  It requires thorough planning to implement. Given the rise of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), it ain't that hard to come up with a curriculum anymore. Just take note of the important ones and adjust accordingly based on the school's objective.

Instructors on the other hand can be detrimental. Let's face it, not all teachers are motivated by their work. Others use this as a path to retirement while others just have fun power-tripping students. Instructors who taught for the right reason must stay to contribute the betterment. Part of these contributions is not just to read books out loud nor copy-pasting sentences in slides but to set an example for students to look up to. Unmotivated instructors are part of the student's learning experience so if one does not perform well his/her duties, the learning experience is bad.

We all had that teacher you really looked up to, a.k.a "Best Teacher Ever". Imagine multiplying him/her to 20. Do you think this could make a conducive experience for learning? Certainly! If all instructors are skillful, passionate, friendly, and open-minded, students can have the best experience.

6. Rising cost of studying

There's no doubt that studying comes with a price. A lot of people are full of debts just to keep up with education. Some even just drop-out because costs are unaffordable. It even gets worse with annual inflation. Imagine today the enrollment fees are bad, what more on the next generation for our kids? And the kids of our kids?

Will there be a solution to this rising cost? Will education instead revolve into online courses wherein we never communicate? This is where the future is headed. Let's hope for the best.

Lastly, I leave you this question: "What do you think should be changed in the current educational system and why?"

Would love to hear your thoughts!

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