THIS letter is in response to “Demoralised by high cost of tertiary education” (StarEducation, Feb 22).
I sympathise with the writer. No doubt the cost of getting a degree is high. I myself am “degree-less” because of this. The fascination of society and employers with degree holders is one factor that contributes to the high cost.
The fact that employers demand a degree in order to pay a certain salary forces many people to pursue tertiary education, even though they may be already sufficiently qualified, experienced and capable.
Education today is very much a business enterprise. I have worked in three different colleges, and in each one I saw decisions made solely for raising profits. The interest of lecturers as well as students come a distant second, compared to the need for management to turn in a profit.
However, education institutions’ purely pecuniary goal has backfired. One sign is the 30% drop in intake experienced by some colleges in January, which clearly shows that prospective students are no longer willing to pay high fees for mediocre tuition.
Another indication is the over 22,000 graduates who cannot find jobs, and all the graduates who must accept well below average salaries because of their lack of skills.
This makes one wonder why so many people still want to use up their life-savings or mortgage their properties to send their children to study overseas.
Opening the doors of higher education to anyone who can pay the fees has also proven to be a disadvantage – to students themselves. There are now students in college who shouldn’t be there. These people have no inclination for academics, nor for the rigours of following schedules and preparing for examinations. They are there because of what their parents and society expect of them. And because they can afford to pay the fees.
On the other hand, those who desperately wish to study may not be able to do so due to financial constraints. And I believe the writer, Nicholas Andrew John, belongs to this group. To him I would like to say that true, good quality education must necessarily be expensive.
The amount of time and dedication that goes into providing infrastructure, lecturers, teaching and learning materials do not and cannot come cheap.
I myself have planned courses, marked papers, coached needy students individually, and done many other tasks related to teaching.
I have also always wanted my efforts to be recognised not only in the form of verbal appreciation, but also with proper pay. Unless you are paid accordingly, you cannot in the long term continue to put in the effort that makes you the best.
As long as qualifications matter more than talent, ability and experience, the cost of tertiary education will certainly go up. And as long as education is more a business enterprise than a social obligation, the quality of tuition and that of graduates themselves will remain unsatisfactory.
By the same token there will also be colleges and universities which understand the nobility of education and which, in spite of the need to make a profit, will never compromise on quality.
I hope, Nicholas Andrew John, that you are studying at such an institution. If this is so, and you are truly dedicated to your studies, and know how to pray, I believe that soon there will be an opening in the brick wall that you now see in front of you.
And one more thing: Your friend is right: Miracles do happen. Good luck!