I’m kind of shocked when reading the commentary Setting Students’ Minds on Fire which talked about Obama’s warning in the beginning. More than a third of America’s college students fail to earn degrees. (The actual figure is closer to 50 percent.) I agree money alone won’t solve the problem. Actually setting something to a high value forces people to appreciate and cherish it. If education is cheap, people will tend to take it for granted. Chinese higher education has very cheap tuition. It’s approximately $2,200/year compared with $8,240/year in public schools and $28,500/year in private schools in US. Although I myself do not know anyone who dropped out of school, however, not dropping out does not mean they enjoy the school. I could literally say more than a third of college students skip classes everyday if the instructor does not set some kind of punishment system. If students do not come to the class, the teacher will gradually lose their passion for teaching, and begins to put less work in preparing for it. It’s becoming a vicious cycle. I mean we all want to make the most out of what we invest for (money, time, etc.).
In terms of engagement, it’s really effective to incorporate games or activities in the class. Just as the commentary says, students learn more when they are obliged to think in unfamiliar ways. I had one class where the instructor turned the classroom into an engaged activity room. We had to reflect on what we learned and apply it to reality. Everyone has to contribute, which means everyone needs to invest their time in preparing for it. That memory stuck with me more than any other classes.