Is the College Education System Really Broken?

Let me begin by saying that during my undergrad I was the type of student that found most lectures boring, could not pay attention for more than a couple of minutes at a time, cared a lot about my grades and much less about learning, and skipped most of the classes when I could get away with it. That being said, I still think I got a really good education, a solid grasp of my domain, and even enjoyed some of the classes I took; else I would not have chosen to pursue a Ph.D. in the same discipline. The reason for that is that I interpreted courses as a path that leads me to my goal, and not my actual goal.

The first issue I would like to point out which makes the college (I am strictly talking about college here) education system seem broken is the lack of proper guidance that students receive before picking their majors. I know from personal experience and from observing the people around me that the majority of students rarely pick a major based on passion or interest, and when asked why they have chosen to pursue their major, the most prevalent answers were “Why not” and “The market demands it”. With people making such choices why does it come as a surprise that most students want to survive through their education? If a student is passionate about his major, sitting through 3 to 4 years of college is a very small sacrifice that will yield dividends in the coming 30 to 40 years of work. My point is, in many cases in many cases, guiding people towards a major that suits them is a better solution as compared to making courses more “barrable”.

The second point I would like to touch on is that yes, the education system is not perfect, but with the current economy of scale it’s very hard to come up with a system that is both better for students and scalable. How is it possible for a professor to interact with students at a personal level when the class has a 100+ students? You might say that a class should not contain that many students and I agree, but again I come back to the issue of scale, when 10000 students apply for one specific major, the university hast to either reject most of them  (you can’t do that) or hire more professors (not a very financially sound decision for the university).

Thirdly and finally, I would like to address Dr. Michael Wesch’s  Ted-Ex video in which he introduces the concept of going through a class using a stairs approach where students help each other and are motivated to work to reach a goal. Even though this approach might have worked in a particular case and in a particular environment, I think such approaches will fail when applied to groups of scale. Particularly, concepts like “students helping each other” are more likely interpreted as an open invitation to cheating as opposed to an opportunity to learn from each other.

To wrap up, is the college education system perfect? Definitely not, I can point out so many things that are current being done wrong, but overall is it broken? I don’t think that either. I think that the way our current society works has forced the education system along its current trajectory and instead of trying to fix the education system, I would suggest looking at why the education system got to this point in the first place, fix those core problems, then try to fix the current problem which is a consequence rather than the cause.

Disclaimer: If you made it all the way congrats :). I know my ideas are all other the place but hopefully ill get better at this.

Comparing The Mission Statements of Two Lebanese Universities

In an effort to try and share my university experience, I have chosen mission statements from two Lebanese universities. The first university, the one I have attended in my undergrad, is NDU-Notre Dame University. As the name implies, this catholic institution is a relatively new but well established. The second university is AUB-American University of Beirut, without a doubt the best university in Lebanon (also the most expensive, but that’s another issue: p). This institution was established 152 years ago and along the way has garnished a very respectable reputation.

NDU: Mission Statement

As a Catholic institution inspired by the cultural and spiritual heritage of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) seeks to provide comprehensive quality education that fosters excellence in scholarship, lifelong learning, enlightened citizenship, human solidarity, moral integrity, and belief in God.

In designing its curricula, NDU is committed to the philosophy and standards of the American model of liberal arts education. Conceiving itself as an authentic academic community, NDU promotes diversity, respect for human dignity and rights, and concern for the common good. Its profound aspiration is to prepare its students to be future leaders who can exercise reason upon knowledge and shape a world of truth, justice, love, and freedom.

Brief Impression:

Being a Catholic institution, NDU’s mission statement starts off by primarily acknowledging its heritage. The university is relatively new (founded in 1987) and does have a few initiatives to establish itself as a research institution (primarily in the engineering department), however, this goal is missing from its mission statement. The focus seems directed towards providing a quality education and preparing students for the work space.

AUB: Mission Statement

​​​​The American University of Beirut (AUB) is an institution of higher learning founded to provide excellence in education, to participate in the advancement of knowledge through research, and to serve the peoples of the Middle East and beyond. Chartered in New York State in 1863, the university bases its educational philosophy, standards, and practices on the American liberal ​arts model of higher education. The university believes deeply in and encourages freedom of thought and expression and seeks to foster tolerance and respect for diversity and dialogue. Graduates will be individuals committed to creative and critical thinking, life-long learning, personal integrity, civic responsibility, and leadership.

Brief Impression:

AUB is located in the heart of Beirut and is one of the most diverse universities (both in nationality and especially religion). This is directly reflected in its mission statement: “The university believes deeply in and encourages freedom of thought and expression and seeks to foster tolerance and respect for diversity and dialogue”. AUB is also a well-established research university, which is why research was promptly mentioned in the beginning.

Closing Thoughts:

The rest of both mission statements are quite what you would expect, however, even though the overall tonality of both mission statements are similar in many ways, one can still spot major differences in the ambitions and goals of different universities.