The power of an argument lies in its potential to spark debate, critical thinking and reasoning in addition to forming new solutions and ideas. With that being said, today I came across an article on The Star which which proposed the idea of giving exit exams to university students which would test their basic skills in numeracy, literacy and problem solving as a result in the lack of their “essential skills” — communicating, problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork. My immediate question was how will handing out a final exit exam better prepare a student to better meet these “employability criteria”? Taking a placement course this term in my final semester of my undergrad at McMaster in addition to a 4 year Strength and Conditioning internship that I have been involved in, this automatically sparked ideas that if a mandatory final exit exam could be made mandatory, why not employing mandatory co-op placements (a form of experiential based learning). As a result, a string of problems do come with such a proposal (e.g., financial costs, placement opportunities, etc.), so if this peaks further interest, keep reading below. I thank a friend (anonymous) for initiating such debate which has provoked much thought and truth is I learn the most through arguments, there is always something to learn at the end of the day. My advice? Argue, discuss, bounce ideas off each other and engage in the process of learning. It’s all about perspective and it’s the key to be a life long learner in a forever evolving world. It’s safe to say that at the end of this argument, I walk away from this debate not only with new ideas to work around problems but it has also opened my eyes to the realities of an “unequal system” that we are apart of. For the past few years of my undergrad, I have referred to university as a form of institutional confinement, a place where we are trained to think a certain way, which takes the creativity out of a well rounded thinker. To fast forward this argument, I end with the idea that: “We are so driven by the idea in society that we have to fit a mould or a certain skill set to be employable, thats what years of institutional confinement does to you. Perhaps its an entrepreneurial internship this person needs to realize how to make these skills come to life. At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism and thats frankly what I see it as in a world of “unequal opportunity”. Thats the power of an argument to spark an idea. Do not fit the mould of society, but mould society to fit your scheme, your greater picture, and ultimately your vision.
Article of Interest:
“Or here’s a better idea, instead of giving exit exams, how about institutions make co-op placements mandatory? I can’t think of a better way to apply traditional classroom skills to the real world. It would definitely be a step in the right direction.” #ExperientialLearning
“The entrance/exit exam idea isn’t a great solution but so is making coops mandatory. No way businesses and institutions want some dipshit 20 year old working a placement for them because its mandatory; that and not every academic discipline has clear out and out places in the ‘real world’ or workforce to send students. Where do you send a classics major for a coop for example? And are there enough spots at similar/the same institution for all the classics majors at UofT for example? Further, the article states that exit exams would be testing basic skills in numeracy, problem solving and literacy. Hardly skills that students could cheat their way around, though I’m still opposed to the idea.”
“I only said it was a better idea not the best and a step in the right direction (over an exit exam), making it mandatory was just said to be a comparison obviously at the end of the day, the people who want the most out of their education experience will be seeking these opportunities. As for finding placements, a classic major could possibly find someone to shadow or perhaps see a teaching opportunity for example, there are always opportunities its a matter of finding them in regards to your goals. I mean at the end of the day, you are eventually going to have to apply the knowledge you learned throughout your education in some way aren’t you? This is why some institutions are only suggestive when it comes to co-op placements or outside opportunities whereas other universities (e.g., Waterloo which does an amazing job: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/resources/integrative-learning/experiential-learning) place more of an effort and focus towards experiential based learning. At the end of the day, you cannot force someone to learn or make something mandatory to get the most out of the experience, but if there was a way to make students realize how valuable experiential based learning is and the application of this knowledge which frankly there isn’t an emphasis on.”
“Yes I understand that but I’m trying to point out that equality of opportunity wouldn’t exist in such a system. If we proceed forward with your example of a classics student shadowing somebody or looking for a teaching position, how many placements would be available for such a position? You would have hundreds of classic students fighting for limited places, whereas in something like engineering coop opportunity is much more plentiful by nature of the field itself. You’d be putting students in particular fields at an innate disadvantage. I’m all for experiential learning but when the opportunity isn’t there, is taking a lesser position that doesn’t at all align with your career goals really a valuable experience? You’d be doing it just because it’s mandatory. And I don’t think you’re considering the other side of this enough, not every institution is going to want to pay students; the influx of students would be way too high and wouldn’t be realistically affordable. Back on that classics student example, can the workplace afford to be paying students? Would we be taking jobs away from graduates and more qualified individuals to give a try-hard student some degree of potentially irrelevant experience? There are many considerations that need to be made and practically every student would love to have some sort of experiential based learning, I can’t see a single individual who is passionate about what they study turn such an opportunity down but the fact of the matter is that affording students such opportunities isn’t that easy, though I do think that our institutions should be doing more along those lines.”
“At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism over pessimism. Think about all the other things that are made mandatory to fulfill an undergrad per say (we pay how much to take mandatory elective courses, etc.) why can’t the school budget part of the amount we spend towards extra courses to fulfill a placement, volunteer experience, shadowing experience, co-op placement in partnership with real world businesses, institutions or even perhaps mock real-life world situations (instead of exams) in that under grad degree. It’s not impossible, its a matter of time, thought, how money is budgeted and effort. Again, at the end of the day I do see university as a business, and it definitely will cost them more to send their students outside, and at the end of the day they will be losing “business” they could be putting back in their institution.”
“As for the arguments enough spots for a placement, think about it, once you finish your undergrad are you not going to be saying there is not enough spots for a position in your field? Or is it a matter of what have you been doing throughout your undergrad to best put you in a position to be employable. It isn’t a matter of spots in this world, its a matter of the effort you put in, the opportunities you seek and lastly, the steps you take to gain the real world experience.”
“I agree that university’s should budget more for experiential learning, i’m right there with you on that but I think the latter part of your statement there a gross over simplification. There are definitely more ‘spots’ and workplace positions available in particular fields. You can put in all the effort in the world but if there is no position available in your field, with your skillset, you won’t be getting that job you dreamed of when you started your undergrad degree in whatever it may be.”
“The equality of opportunity does not really exist practically in any system when you think about it at the end of the day. In that sense I will agree that yes some fields will have more opportunities available to them much more readily than others. I feel like there may be ways to work around that for example this idea of mock-institutions or just ways in which the university can teach these fields for example on how to apply this knowledge, I mean why do we learn if you can’t apply? I mean it would be a win-win for the university itself wouldn’t it? They wouldn’t have to send out students but rather create more opportunities within the institution itself for example, you are an english undergrad and want to be a writer for a newspaper, why not open up placements or shadowing experiences that provide educational credit for a semester per say to those who want to do that. Real world application of knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean co-op placements where you go to a business company and there are certainly different avenues in which you can seek them whether it be through a volunteer experience, shadowing someone, exchange trip (for those who have money). As for your statement: “You can put in all the effort in the world but if there is no position available in your field, with your skillset, you won’t be getting that job you dreamed of when you started your undergrad degree in whatever it may be” thats exactly why we need more experiential based opportunities to see how what you learn can be applied. And experiential based learning helps hone this creativity in my opinion. You can’t find a job with a skill set to meet your needs? Become your own boss, create your own company or opportunity to show the world you can put your skills to use. We are so driven by the idea in society that we have to fit a mould or a certain skill set to be employable, thats what years of institutional confinement does to you. Perhaps its an entrepreneurial internship this person needs to realize how to make these skills come to life. At the end of the day, its a matter of optimism and thats frankly what I see it as in a world of “unequal opportunity”.
The Wise & Rebellious Owl