Sun | Oct 17, 2021

Letter of the Day | What does it mean to be educated?

Published:Saturday | July 24, 2021 | 12:07 AM


The letter of July 23 under the headline ‘Universities are losing focus on education’, by Jullian Blair, was as interesting as it was amusing. Some would argue that replacing ‘universities’ with ‘students’ would be just as true.

The tone and tenor suggest that the writer is a young student chafing under the style of lecturers who are impatient with those who do not seem to be ready for university work or who lack the basic understanding of concepts they should have learnt in high school. This situation is exacerbated by the shift in focus by the universities’ administrations to business marketing and hype, according to the writer.

It reminded me of a comment made in an interview for a campus publication by William Mailer from the Department of French at The University of the West Indies, (UWI) Mona some years ago, that students were entering university less well-prepared for tertiary level education than in previous years. His comments were not restricted to those doing foreign languages and in the context of his having spent more than 30 years at UWI, Mona. That scenario, in part, may be at the foundation of the angst bothering contemporary students in their interactions with lecturers. They enter university with multiple subjects, seeming to know more and more about less and less, as one wit observed. They also seem not to appreciate that they have to step up their game. Lecturers have commented that students leaving the sheltered collegial atmosphere of high school seem shocked at the level of independence and self-sufficiency required for tertiary-level work.

In addition, the idea of students being well-read, even within and especially outside their discipline or area of specialisation, is not one easily embraced. The push is to grasp just enough to do well enough to be certified. Added to that is the ready access to the many published articles on the Internet, making it easier for students’ ‘research’ to stop at the first set that pop up at the top of their Google search.

The observation about the utility of YouTube and other Internet sources as supplementary to university lecturers’ presentation may be valid but that is not exactly a new concept. Student scholars who have done well in the past have learnt to go above and beyond the lecturers’ in-class presentations, or even the recommended texts for their school projects.

Yes, lecturers may need to revisit their style of presentation, to be more engaging and/or to commit more time to their work. Yet, students stand to gain more by taking a more responsible and mature approach to their work, particularly when they do not give in to congenital whining.