Tuesday 20 August 2019

Editorial: 'If all they seek is wealth, we're failing our students'

'Too many have been identified as lacking the basic information that would inform their selection options in college.' Stock image
'Too many have been identified as lacking the basic information that would inform their selection options in college.' Stock image
Editorial

Editorial

How often we have heard in recent years how we must aspire to be a society and not just an economy.

The CAO points released yesterday for almost 60,000 students are an interesting barometer in this regard.

Those who have attained their CAO preference have an entitlement to savour the moment.

But it's useful to keep in mind the number is just a label; the person you are and the choices you make are what will matter.

The bar has been raised for entry levels in science tech, engineering and maths; our brightest recognise following the money is as safe a harbour as they can hope for in today's job market.

Traditional areas which have been so fertile in putting down roots for the future are looking less attractive, with some of the biggest fall-offs in points being found in agriculture.

The social critic Noam Chomsky railed somewhat against the notion of what he described as our model of the "economic man" or woman.

This was a person who assiduously calculates how to improve his/her own status - with status being measured mainly in wealth.

Subsequent choices are then predicated on how best to increase that wealth without giving undue attention to much else.

If there is something a little sterile in such an ambition, it is also irresistibly seductive in a global marketplace.

But how we prepare our students for the world matters: how much that preparation is determined by the demands of employers or the marketplace, as opposed to the needs of society, is an open question. Elsewhere in these pages, we reveal how ill-equipped so many students are to make decisions on career and college choices.

Too many have been identified as lacking the basic information that would inform their selection options in college. This is undoubtedly contributing to the high drop-out rates at third level.

If it's broadly accepted that the function of education is to develop one's potential and creativity, we are clearly failing if a large number of students are presenting at colleges without any real inkling about what field they are best suited for.

US novelist Jodi Picoult took a fanciful stab at a mathematical formula for happiness.

It came down to: "Reality divided by expectations. There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality or lower your expectations."

Overall, the results throw up other worryingly familiar tropes.

Girls once more out-perform boys in most higher-level subjects. The exceptions were also predictable, as perennially boys excelled in maths, applied maths and chemistry.

Even in an age when everything comes electronically, the idea that there is a computer somewhere that provides a magic number which will allow you to become the greatest version of yourself is a bit of a reach.

At this stage the cards have been dealt, but ultimately how you play the hand depends entirely on you.

Irish Independent

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