Do We Prepare Students for Jobs and Post Secondary?

You can ask 20 people what the purpose of education is, and you could very well get 20 different answers. These might range from giving students the ability to think critically and creatively as problem solvers, to encouraging the growth of engaged and active citizens, or to prepare them for success in the world of work. The latter of these seems to be one of the more common and often cited purposes of formal schooling (so much in our lives is driven by economics and the desire of having a good job), which, if you buy into it, may leave one wondering just how well the current system achieves that stated goal.

CBC has posted an article today about just this issue. In Nova Scotia, there’s currently a movement to reconsider policies that have influenced the study and work habits of students. This comes in the wake of pressure from post secondary institutions and employers that state many high school graduates have learned habits that are a part of the public school system, but clash with expectations in “the real world”.

High school students are being “coddled” on assignment deadlines, according to one instructor at Nova Scotia Community College.

Steffie Hawrylak-Young has taught communications at NSCC for almost 30 years. In the last decade, she says, there has been a shift in how her students adjust to college learning — and it’s not good.

A provincial government survey indicates she is not alone in her frustration.

“A lot of our young students are very entitled,” Hawrylak-Young told CBC News. “They have probably been used to getting a badge for every single little thing that they do, and they’re very disappointed when they’re being critiqued.

“In many of our businesses and industries, performance evaluation is very real, and they seem to have a hard time accepting that their performance is not there yet.”

The article references policies that allow students to hand work in weeks, even months late, with no penalty for doing so. How well does this kind of policy prepare students for higher education and work? Many argue not very well at all. There is also the concern, according to the instructor in the article, that the whole idea of improvement is being compromised, as students hand work in far too late to benefit from constructive feedback. In terms of evaluation, this makes assessments that should be formative (intended for learning from mistakes and improving) become summative (final evaluations of what students actually know).

“The late assignments just become bundled up and they never ever have a chance to get the feedback they need to improve for the next assignment. Further to that, it’s a little disappointing when they don’t care to improve,” said Hawrylak-Young.

“Maybe they’ve been coddled. Maybe they’ve been allowed to make mistakes without consequences.”

The Department of Education agrees there is need for improvement.

This discussion is becoming more and more common where such policies exist and it’s something that the Nova Scotia government sees as being important enough to begin a consultation process with teachers and parents to determine a better direction for educational policy.

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