Tag Archives: higher education

Is the U.S. Education System Prepared for the Future?

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Recently I sat down with my teen daughter going over her math homework. She wanted me to check her homework. Sad to say that I was able to solve the basic algebra but anything more than that I was clueless. So my daughter asked me what I studied when I was in high school. I told her I learned the same math and I forgot most of them because I never have to use them in real life. Then she asked me why she has to learn something that she never have to use. Yes, indeed why?

I grew up in Malaysia and learned using the education system that is very different from the US. However, both of them have one thing in common, they tend to teach you subjects that you will never use again. Is this necessary or just a waste of time?

I’ve been working professionally for over 20 years and I can tell you my profession never have to use math above grade 6. I never have to use science because as a banker that is not required. I never have to recite history because none of them are prerequisites for employment. So why do we have to learn all these subjects in this age where majority of them are not applicable in real life. Plus we have everything at our finger tips? Why is the education system today so archaic that it fails to recognize that learning life subject will prepare the students better than learning these core subjects?

Yes, I realized that many of the subjects will prepare the students to learn and think logically, but there should be a balance between learning core principles and life subjects. My son is taking several Advance Placement (AP) classes because they are recommended when he applies for universities or colleges in 2 years. However, he has been putting late nights and spending every waking hours on weekends completing the homework and assignments. Needless to say that he hardly has time to get any exercise. Is this healthy?

After I graduated from high school, I applied to the college in the US and was accepted to Bernard M. Baruch College, CUNY and graduated with a Bachelor degree 4 years thereafter. As part of the requirements I had to learn English, algebra, civic, foreign language and even history. For business management degree, I had to take statistics. Statistic was perhaps one of the most difficult subject to master that the exam was an open book exam. After graduating from Baruch, I thought I had all the necessary skills to prepare me to get a job. I was wrong!

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When I interviewed for the several jobs I applied for, I found out that I was qualified at all. The interviewers were only interested if I graduated and if I had any work experiences. They never asked if I aced math or language arts. They never asked if I was good in science or civic. By the time I received the fourth rejection, I realized that college degree is not all that. I needed some real life experiences to allow me to find a job.

As I began to work full-time I realized that I’m lacking many skills and the higher education that I completed did not teach them at all. The course I took on Excel, as an example, was not advance enough to help me to do my job correctly. I had to create a template using macros by learning from my coworkers. Working with data was an eye-opening experience too. I never knew data can be altered, sliced and presented in trends to tell stories. None of them were in my college curriculum.

As I started to have a career, I began to explore what I wanted to do in my life. One subject that came up was if I am prepared when I retire. Then I realized that I do not have the knowledge in personal finance. Unless I am in the financial planning or work in the investments, I would not know what to do with my money. I had to learn everything using Google and read Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

Needless to say I was excited about the personal finance and the potential of earning more so I can retire comfortably. I shared what I learned with my kids and started to teach them how to be responsible individuals when it comes to finance. Then I realized that personal finance is not a subject that is being taught at schools – from primary to high school. The higher education such as universities and colleges do not even have this course as a prerequisite.

Let’s switch subject and move to technology. My son is attending local high school and commented that the computer science class is not teaching anything. He learns programming that a 5 year old can do. The teacher was not even experience enough on the subject. That begs the question, is this how we want to prepare our future generation? With the advancement in Artificial Intelligence, robotics and even smart systems, the education system is not doing enough to prepare them at all.

There are various reasons why the education system fails the students. Resources could be one, but they are usually out of our control because funding for schools are entirely federal, state and local governments control.

If I have to point one major reason for the failure, it will be lack of experience teachers. Majority of the teachers are career educators who have been teaching children all their lives. They follow the program and teach what they were told to teach. I would say all of them do not have real life experiences in the world so they cannot relate what they teach.

Here is one good argument on language arts, or in other words good command of English language. I took English 101 during my freshman year where we have to follow the structure in writing essay. This has been passed on from elementary school all the way to higher education. Here is the shocker – not all of the concepts we learn are applicable to the business world! The executives of a multi-national companies do not have time to read an entire page of “essay”. In business writing, we have to “boil the ocean” to summarize the activities of the entire quarter and year to just a few sentences for the executives to read.

The education system today needs a full overhaul to prepare our children for the future. Is there a silver bullet that could solve the problem. Yes, but it will require collaboration between educators and parents.

Let me know your thoughts. How is your education system in your country? Or do you agree with my assessments?