Education in Action

On 12/22/2011, in Formal Education, by Jordan Wilson

Smart companies hire less on a candidate’s grade point average and more on what the applicant can actually do.

As I have written on more than one occasion, it is almost impossible to compare marks between applicants. The grading system fluctuates between institutions. And the quality of post-secondary graduates differs between education systems.

Today a brief example of how education systems hurt future employees. 

The California Education System

This example comes courtesy of the State of California and its education system from kindergarten through grade 12.

Wracked with frustration over the state’s legions of unprepared high school graduates, the California State University system next summer will force freshmen with remedial needs to brush up on math or English before arriving on campus.

Now “legions” might be an exaggeration. There are always a few students that are not ready for college. Let us give the school system a break.

73 percent of this year’s freshmen were not ready for college math. Nearly 60 percent were not prepared for college English.

Okay, “legions” it is.

But do not fear, hirers of future bankers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc. People that require employees with strong math and English skills to do well at work. The California State University system has a solution.

Remedial Classes Will Make It All Okay

By requiring the Early Start courses, the university is trying, in part, to cut down the number of students kicked out for failing to complete remedial classes their first year.

Of course, the Early Start course is only 15 hours long and can be taken on-line.

Now I am not a graduate of the California education factory, but I think I can work it out. 73% of university entrants are not prepared for introductory college math. These 73% went through 12 whole years of math instruction supposedly as preparation for university entrance requirements. But in 15 hours, these students can be fully brought up to speed.

12 years versus 15 hours? I gotta get me some of that teachin’.

Failure Is Not An Option

But rest assured future hirers of Californian university graduates. If the students cannot function after the remedial course, they will fail their university classes and will not graduate.

That is how grades work. Know the material, pass. Do not know that material, fail.

If you believe that I have some ocean front land in Tucson, Arizona to sell you.

In reality, classes get dumbed down and grades inflated.

As I discussed in a previous post, “A’s represent 43% of all letter grades, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. D’s and F’s total typically less than 10% of all letter grades.” Does that seem like universities are failing unprepared students?

Students get pushed through the system. Exactly as they did in high school, such that they arrived at college in dire straits.

And when they arrive in the workforce, how prepared will these graduates really be?

But the California State University system is better than that. Maybe. Or perhaps it is the kind of system that employs professors who walk out on their class because no one brought snacks that day.

Many (Most? All?) universities these days are in the business of churning out graduates who have paid a pretty penny (usually a borrowed penny) for their diplomas. If the quality of education has to suffer, well better that than lost tuition revenues.

Compare and Contrast

Now I might suggest that a solution to the problem of poorly prepared university freshmen is to improve schooling before college.

But I am just a businessman, not an academic. Foolish me.

Instead, the solution for some education professionals is “everyone into the pool.”

Let us dumb all students down by not making teachers take math themselves. Instead, the emphasis should be on more important matters.

“Classes in elementary schools have complex human interactions that involve political, racial, economic and gender issues,” writes Cecilia Reynolds, the dean of education at the University of Saskatchewan. Her faculty is now considering whether to make the math course an elective – meaning that future teachers wouldn’t have to demonstrate any proficiency at all. She thinks math training should be more child-focused, “taking into consideration if that child is aboriginal, if that child has autism, whether that child ate a breakfast that morning.” Her own professional interests are in gender relations, equity and social justice.

Yes, that will help students better prepare for university math and math required employment afterwards.

So instead of actually working to improve gaps in valuable student skill sets, we should just bury our heads in the sand. Thank goodness she is not in any position of power over the education of children.

What’s that?  Well at least she is just a peon, not someone important. The Dean of Education, you say? Home schooling it is then!


Stories like these are why smart employers do not emphasize grades in their analysis of job candidates.

We want to see applicants who actually possess the tools needed in a specific position. Not a piece of paper that may or may not be accurate.

This is why more companies test applicants on their skills and experience and not rely on educational institutions.

If you want a job, I suggest you learn the requisite skills for the position.

Despite the level of instruction, learn what you need to know for your chosen career path. Supplement that knowledge through additional learning, extracurricular activities, employment choices, etc.

You cannot rely on the education system for proper training.

If you wish to succeed, rely only on yourself.

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2 Responses to “Education in Action”

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