What are your most important needs as a student?
Of course, different student need different things depending their economic situation, their academic preparation, their educational goals.
Many going on to higher education seek a narrowly and professionally focused program: engineering, technology, pharmacy and the like. Schools, often profit-oriented institutions, attract students with the promise of specialized training in specific skills. Yet such for-profits all too often wind up graduating men and women who have a terribly difficult time finding jobs where they can apply what they have learned. Also, when things change, those graduates can find that their skills have become obsolete. And today, things change fast. But debt remains in the form of student loans!
That’s why it’s such a mistake to encourage premature specialization. Today many are rightly questioning why one’s destiny needed to be decided by age 16. How could one be so sure than engineering or business or medicine was the right path without having had the opportunity to explore a variety of fields — or to develop habits of inquiry and a work ethic to make that exploration productive?
Many education leaders across Asia have become interested in moving away from exam-dominated curricula and their requisite memorization and toward experiential, interdisciplinary learning aimed at exploring connections between research and action.
We want our classrooms to have a basic sense of inclusion and respect that enables all students to flourish—to be open to ideas and perspectives so that the differences they encounter are educative and not destructive. At the same time, student flourishing at real colleges and universities (rather, than say, a spa) only makes sense in a context of academic freedom; academic freedom makes sense in a context in which people can feel safe enough to challenge one another. That’s why I talk about “Safe Enough Spaces” in my new book. So, students need support so that they can thrive, but they also need to discover when they’re wrong – they need to experience failure. Genuine flourishing takes place through recovery from failures and from the encounter with different ideas.