Monday, 25 February 2013

Educational Challenges

"School days, school days, dear old Golden Rule days; reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic taught to the tune of a hickory stick." -- Will Cobb and Gus Edwards

At some point, just about everyone wonders "what's being taught in school these days".  It appears that students today are learning more about greed and entitlement than mathematics and humanities.

Today is the beginning of the Quebec government's two-day education summit.  Its main purpose is to find solutions to issues related to higher education, including accessibility and the reduction of student debt.  Even though it has only just started, many groups are already unhappy.  Among the complaints:

Certain controversial subjects are not on the agenda.
Speakers are not allowed enough time to discuss their issues.
Groups representing English schools were not invited.

All of these are legitimate concerns.  But come on people, at least be reasonable about expressing your views.  Vandalism is NOT an acceptable form of protest.  The front entrances of both the Ministry of Education and the office of a former student activist turned MNA were covered with red paint on Sunday night.  Do stupid things like that really make any difference?  Not at all.

As to be expected, the biggest clamour is coming from people who want "free tuition" or at least a tuition freeze, instead of indexing the fees to inflation.  These people are dreaming in Technicolour.  Free tuition might seem to work for several other countries (most notably those in Scandinavia), but it won't work here.  There is too much corruption and money mismanagement at all levels of government to make state-run educational facilities feasible.  Besides, in many cases abroad, the tuition isn't "free" at all: students often have to pay "administration fees" to the tune of thousands of dollars per year.

Freezing tuition isn't an option either.  Quebec tuition fees were frozen for many years, and as a result the quality of education is declining.  Schools can't pay experienced teachers, maintain facilities, and keep current with educational needs without money, the bulk of which comes from tuition.  How could anyone expect to get a job in a cutting-edge field if their education was from materials that were 20 years out of date?  Therefore indexing tuition rates to inflation seems to be the most logical way to go.

Too many Quebec students don't seem to understand how lucky they are.  For example, it currently costs about $1800 per semester for a full-time undergraduate arts program at Concordia.  By contrast, the average cost per semester for a full-time undergrad program at the University of New Brunswick is $3500.

Do the math.  That is, if you can.

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