Weekly Reflection – The post in which I am not going to whine exams

Since this week I was on study leave, I could whine about exams. But seeing as I moaned about that last week I feel I should be blogging about something of more substance.

So instead I’ll have a go at taking apart this very bad idea from KPMG:

Only students doing courses that benefit the economy should receive interest-free loans, according to a suggestion from a leading accountancy group….it was time to discuss targeting the scheme at “areas where graduates can add real value to the economy quickly”, such as agricultural sciences, agribusiness, horticulture, viticulture, biochemistry and international marketing.

It is these ideas which are exactly the reason why we have governments who make policy decisions since they are in theory supposed to do so on the basis of what is best for all sectors of society, not just one community. I notice that teaching, social work, nursing, medicine and dentistry have not made the list of ‘adding real value to the economy quickly’ courses.  These professions might not add value (though I disagree with that premise) but our society and in turn economy would not function without them.

However on a purely practical level why shouldn’t we picking winners? Didn’t I previously opine that gaining an education with no purpose wasn’t worth the debt? I still think that students need to think about what the purpose of their university study is before they jump into a degree. However I disagree with KPMG’s assumption that a future career should be the only detriment of what course of study for the simple reason that the economy of today will be the same as the one in 4 years time.

We know this is not the case.

Even in my own working lifetime (about 10 years) the world of work has changed considerably. There are jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago and even within ‘old’ professions like teaching  technology has changed the way teachers do their jobs. Picking what the world of work will look like in 5 or even 10 years is difficult to do. Moreover there is an argument to be made that an individual’s passion and talent are also important when you are looking to find your dream job.

But does society benefit if everyone is individually pursuing  their talents and interests?

According to a column  in the New York Times, it all comes down to whether you are a PC or a Mac person. Bill Gates argues that you should go down the road of making sure your education prepares you for the world of work. While Steve Jobs says you create the right learning environment and the rest will take care of itself.

Right now I’m writing on a clunky old PC while my heart years for a MacBook Pro.

2 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection – The post in which I am not going to whine exams

Add yours

  1. “But does society benefit if everyone is individually pursuing their talents and interests?”

    Actually, it all comes down to whether you believe in capitalism or not. The Invisible Hand theory of capitalism is that…society benefits when everyone pursues their own self-interests. (We just learned about this in economics…I have a feeling that it’s a capitalism oriented class, since it has so far succeeded in bringing out the inner capitalist in me, when I got mad when the “Switch scores” in the review game cost my team the win.) Socialism, on the other hand, emphasizes working for the good of others.


    1. Hi Stephen thanks for stopping by,
      I really enjoy having students comment on the blog.One thing I’ve learned is that grand theories have their place that human behaviour is far more nuanced that individual/collective good. That’s why I could by a can of coke in the heart of Pyongyang, North Korea but why people in most western countries pay tax.



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