In those days, the singular thing that motivated students to make a choice of discipline was passion for the profession. Disappointingly, today students are no longer passionate about their chosen subjects any more. All they care about are job prospects.
What reasons can be adduced for this? Is it because students these days think they are not learning much or that they have too much theory and not enough practice? Is what they are taught out of date with current reality? It is difficult to provide direct answers to these questions. But one thing is certain, and that is many students apply to read particular courses because it would lead to a good job.
Though not everyone is guilty of this practice, many are. Some persons make career choices not for their material value but for the love of them. For such persons their subjects are the best possible choices they could ever make.
They think about their disciplines always. For them, going to the university is not just about getting a piece of paper that proves a degree, but because their subjects seem like the right choices and they derive fulfilment.
However, the exception notwithstanding, I think what is more typical of undergraduates today are the ones who choose their disciplines having job prospects in mind, not the ones who do same for the love of it.
Now, the question is why do we have this kind of situation at hand? Why do undergraduates of Nigerian universities fail to love their disciplines in the way it used to be some decades or more ago? There are many reasons why this attitude subsists.
The first reason for students’ attitudinal change is predicated upon government’s over-emphasis on paper qualification as a passport to the world of work. The second is a ceaseless concentration on examinations and coursework in schools. This stops students from cultivating a love for their discipline.
Finally, the introduction of high tuition fees has led some students to think exclusively about the financial return on the cost of their degrees or education. Following these problems, the nation has begun to notice a situation where majority of students only work within the confines of their disciplines, and not prepared to go outside them.
Students arrive at the university focusing on jobs that are the most important to them. I am seeing more and more of an attitude of “if it is not in the exam or coursework, I am not doing it.” One will be disappointed if one expects students to read around a subject for the love of it. As a result of this, most students have less time to study.
I am not arguing against a relationship between education and the economy. There certainly is. But several years ago when I finished from secondary school and considered a course of study in the university, there were too few links between universities and the world of work. But now the pendulum has swung too far the other way.
As an undergraduate, I had an overriding passion for my discipline (philosophy). I haunted library shelves. I made an “infinite” inquiry into the subject matter of my course of study. We need to encourage our students to love learning. Learning guarantees a rewarding experience. When we have a situation where everyone is extremely focused on examinations and getting good grades by all means, society will be worse for it.
A study recently carried out by a group of academics in Nigerian universities revealed that most university students attach more material value to their subjects than scholastic value. This is because current government policies favour the knowledge economy over the learning society.
To this end, the government has to promote the individual and social benefits of learning as well as the economic benefits. Students should stop being concerned with the kind of salaries they can expect on graduation. Some students have always asked “how much will I earn if I work at industry Y?” Or “can discipline X provide me a good job?”
The truth is until our students are passionate about learning without strings attached to it, education in our nation will remain the myth of a golden age.
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