Stick to 'no-frills' university education

Stick to 'no-frills' university education

Last Friday's article ("A+ for move to reduce uni grade stress") stated that "most freshmen do not arrive at university certain of what they want to pursue".

In fact, the opposite is true.

During secondary school and junior college, students are already exposed to a broad-based education, with subjects such as the natural sciences, history, literature, economics and General Paper.

Most know where their strengths and interests lie, and some have even gone on attachments with companies or professionals in their fields of interest.

Junior colleges also hold regular career fairs for their students.

Hence, when students enter university, they should be allowed to just "get on with it". They should not have to take up irrelevant modules they have "no real interest in and no aptitude for", only to obtain an F grade that will be discounted later.

As our university education is heavily subsidised by public funds, making it mandatory for students to study irrelevant subjects just to complete university requirements is a waste of resources. The money can be better spent offering more bursaries to students from needy households.

If students wish to study esoteric subjects for their personal edification, they can do so at their own expense. Alternatively, they can study these subjects for free through online resources or at our public libraries.

As our country's finances are not inexhaustible, we must take a utilitarian view of the purpose of higher education.

University education must be about equipping students with the skills and knowledge to enable them to support themselves and their families, as well as contribute to the nation's economy.

Instead of wasting resources on the frills, our universities should work on improving the quality of their core courses so as to attract students from all over the world.

Anne Chong Su Yan (Dr)

This article was published on Aug 28 in The Straits Times.

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