Home > Uncategorized > Go directly to dole, do not pass Go, do not collect certificate

Go directly to dole, do not pass Go, do not collect certificate

It’s that time of year when colleges across the world experience drop out. It’s two or three months into the new academic year and suddenly there’s a downturn in attendance. Tell me if this isn’t the case worldwide, but I believe it to be true.

I’m sure most educators reflect on what causes this seasonal drop out, so here’s some of my opinions.

  1. The student realises their chosen course isn’t actually what they want to do.
  2. Grants, bursaries, savings just aren’t enough to get by or to lead the kind of life the students wants just now, so part time work takes over, maybe becomes full time work, or maybe unemployment benefit and doing nothing has a more immediate attraction.
  3. Its darker and the weather is more miserable, wet and cold in winter. Maybe you’ve got a cold or a cough. You just don’t feel like getting out of bed.
  4. The course turns out to be much more difficult than expected. The course that sounded fun at the beginning e.g. Photography or Art, turns out to be a lot of work (actually no more work than any other course at the same level, but for some reason you thought it would be less demanding).

So what can we do about this?

  1. Stricter entrance requirements? – Isn’t it the case that ‘entrance requirements’ suddenly don’t matter when you only have 8 enrolements but need 15 to run the course? After all, if there’s no course, there’s no teaching job.
  2. Better interview selection? – How can you tell anything from a 10 minute interview? Interviews can’t reveal level of commitment, ability to get up in the morning, funding issues, etc.
  3. Be more honest and open about the content of a course? – Actually there isn’t anything hidden, it’s just that many people choose not to see the bit that says ‘core skills, business skills and history’ are fundamental parts of the course along with ‘drawing, painting and playing with computers’.
  4. Actually I’ve just ran out of ideas…

I think possibly that there’s not much we can do about this as educators. Most of this stuff is completely outwith our control. Indeed, perhaps its better that we don’t try to intervene. Are we doing employers any favours by allowing students endless resits (I don’t, but some so-called educators do) and putting up with behaviour that isn’t employer-friendly? Are our future entrepreneurs really going to be the people who can’t get out of bed, lack self-motivation and avoid hard work?

I’m reminded of what an old scuba diving instructor told me once. It was about 20 years ago, and we were on a little island in the middle of the Red Sea. The sun was shining, it was warm, the sea was a beautiful crystal blue.  The diving was excellent – coral reefs, shoals of beautiful coloured fish. We’d been eating freshly cooked fish on the beach beneath the shade of some palm trees, and I was definitley of the opinion that my instructor had the best job in the world. He asked if I had a good job, and I said that I did. He asked if I’d like to trade jobs with him and I replied that I’d be very happy to do so. However he told me that I had an important job, and that somebody would still need to do it if I wasn’t there. He told me that everyone has a place and that everyone can’t have dream jobs or else there’d be no-one to keep the streets clean, noone to to serve in the shops, noone guarding the offices at night, noone mending the roofs. He told me that everyone has their place and someway they’ll find their way there.

Maybe that’s what college’s are about – helping people to find their place. It isn’t just about learning skills and gaining certificates, its about providing opportunities and helping others find their place, whether it’s managing a multinational, painting landscapes, constructing homes, or leaving college without a qualification and serving in a local bar. Let’s not forget the people who take these paths and do all the jobs that need to be done. Let’s be thankful that everyone has a place and sometimes we should be happy that we’ve helped them to get there even if we didn’t meet our targets, performance indicators and other nonsense metrics that seem to dominate our jobs as educators.

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