# What is the role of schools and universities?

Do they quench people's thirst in knowing things? Do they prepare students to find a job? What are (most) students hoping for when enrolling at a school? Can schools and universities really prepare students for the job market? and how? If not, what people should do? Do you think dual-vocational training programs (a model that is adopted in countries like Germany) are a better model for those who seek a job in the industry and not interested in doing research and inventing new things? What are your thoughts on this?

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The role of universities is to provide 4-5 years of beer drinking, opposite-sex chasing and football watching, after which you will be given a certificate that guarantees you a well-paid white collar job requiring minimal effort.

Evo, russ_watters, Bystander and 1 other person
StatGuy2000
The role of universities is to provide 4-5 years of beer drinking, opposite-sex chasing and football watching, after which you will be given a certificate that guarantees you a well-paid white collar job requiring minimal effort.
So how much beer drinking, opposite-sex chasing and football watching did you do at college/university, if you don't mind my asking?

[Aside for those from outside of North America: @Vanadium 50 is referring to American football, not "football" as is known in the rest of the world -- we in the US and Canada refer to that sport as "soccer".]

Evo
I found these statistic in Wikipedia:

A US Department of Education longitudinal survey of 15,000 high school students in 2002, and again in 2012 at age 27, found that 84% of the 27-year-old students had some college education, but only 34% achieved a bachelor's degree or higher; 79% owe some money for college and 55% owe more than $10,000; college dropouts were three times more likely to be unemployed than those who finished college; 40% spent some time unemployed and 23% were unemployed for six months or more; and 79% earned less than$40,000 per year.[23][24]
Why the percentage of completing a bachelor's degree is not high, and why many people struggle after finishing if things are rosy? Do students choose the wrong majors or they don't get the necessary training? I think in the developing countries the percentage of students who finish their bachelor's degree is higher than those in the USA and Canada (I am not sure about Europe), but still they struggle to find a job after finishing as well because it seems there is an gap between what academia offers and what the industry needs.

Thanks @StatGuy2000 for the clarification. It is interesting that not only football means something else in North America, but it is not as popular as in other parts of the World!!

russ_watters
Mentor
Why the percentage of completing a bachelor's degree is not high, and why many people struggle after finishing if things are rosy?
The percentage completing a bachelors' degree is the highest it has ever been and people don't generally struggle after finishing one. You need to be less biased toward negativity in your analysis of statistics.

This thread is very broad/vague/basis. It really should be more focused if you want it to be useful.

phinds
Gold Member
2019 Award
Do they quench people's thirst in knowing things?
Depends on the student
Do they prepare students to find a job?
Depends on the student, the field, and the employeer
What are (most) students hoping for when enrolling at a school?
depends on the student
Can schools and universities really prepare students for the job market?
Depends on the university, the student, the field, and the employer
and how?
Show employer that they know how to learn (generally WHAT they learned is fairly irrelevant)
If not, what people should do?
Become an automechanic or a plumber and make good money.
Do you think dual-vocational training programs (a model that is adopted in countries like Germany) are a better model for those who seek a job in the industry and not interested in doing research and inventing new things?
Depends on the school and the student
What are your thoughts on this?
That you should seriously try to be less vague in your questions.

nuuskur, Grands, russ_watters and 1 other person
Staff Emeritus
2019 Award
Why the percentage of completing a bachelor's degree is not high
What should it be? 80% like medical school? 50%, like physics graduate school? 20%, like flight school?

So how much beer drinking, opposite-sex chasing and football watching did you do at college/university, if you don't mind my asking?
Not nearly enough!

rbelli1, russ_watters and StatGuy2000
lavinia
Gold Member
Here is a criticism of modern education by one of the "professional intellectuals" who specializes in this topic. He was once an English professor at Yale and is now a widely published journalist and author. Perhaps his view will bring some specificity.

https://harpers.org/archive/2015/09/the-neoliberal-arts/

George Jones
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
STEM, STEM, STEM, ... many folks who claim to be interested in STEM actually only are interested in the TE part. As for the first and letters - these folks view science and maths as the S&M practised by universities that is necessary for TE.

Do they quench people's thirst in knowing things?
Do they have to? It would seem more feasible to me to give the student the necessary skills to be able to teach themselves new material. For instance, there hasn't been a dedicated course on semigroups in our insitute and while I certainly would like to attend one I have been trained to able to work through relevant material on my own. Four years ago I wouldn't have said this.

I don't need to attend a course on, say, Stochastic processes to know relevant techniques, should the need arise, I can look up material and teach it to myself without fear of misunderstandings or flawed reasoning, because we are provided thorough preparation in (first order) logic.

The skills I have acquired by learning from specialists in the field are much more valuable than being spoonfed answers to questions I might not even fully understand. From the point of view of the uni I attend: mission accomplished.
Do they prepare students to find a job?
Yes. University provides competences. It is up to the individual to decide for themselves what they do with what they learn.
Do you think dual-vocational training programs are a better model for those who seek a job in the industry and not interested in doing research and inventing new things?
Better how? Depends on the field. As a physicist one would benefit greatly from training in mathematics. Maybe that physicist wants to work a second job as a chef, who knows?
Is inventing new things not part of work done in the 'industry'?

The questions are very vague and difficult to grasp.

Matterwave
Gold Member
... after which you will be given a certificate that guarantees you a well-paid white collar job requiring minimal effort.
A lot of negativity on the internet suggesting this is not the case...(but I have no idea about the statistics - just remarking on what I see around on the internets these days)

lavinia
Gold Member
Corporations often like to train their own especially when they are fresh out of college. They look for potential "producers" not for people who know a lot. Elite colleges are boot camps for tomorrow's producers. They filter through those people who have shown the ability and willingness to work tirelessly and to get things done. Beyond this, the college degree is meaningless. A new bond trader once said to me when I tried to explain REPO financing to him, "My job is not to understand. It is to produce." He graduated near the top of his class at Princeton. Colleges often say they are producing "leaders". From what I have seen, a future leader is selected from a group of high quality producers and then given management responsibilities. If the group he/she manages performs well,she is given more responsibility. If he/she eventually fails he is encouraged to leave the firm. The expression for this is "up or out."

I know a partner in a hedge fund who doesn't believe in any education. He doubts the value of the vetting service provided by colleges and elite prep schools. I guess he thinks that the important traits needed for success - intelligence and the right personality - are innate and no amount of book learning no matter how intense can inculcate these. Better to let them be tested in the "real world".

One might argue that formal education is still needed for technical fields such as Engineering and Computer Science. Some supporters of this have argued that the Liberal Arts should be removed from the curriculum since they are of no value in the job market. After all, does one really have to read Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" to be good organic chemist? Not to mention that you have to pay big bucks to take the English literature course. This reasoning does not consider the abstract vetting process which can be carried out in any subject but only the future relevance of the course work.

Related to this point of view is the idea that universities are the best venue for developing some technologies such as for example those needed for national security. The development can be subsidized by the Government and then released to private companies afterwards. Noam Chomsky points to Government subsidized development of computer technologies in universities such as MIT as an example.

To me the idea that the only purpose of college is to prepare one for a good job is misguided. IMO college is also a time to explore oneself, to learn how to think, to understand one's culture and history, to question one's values. These things not only enrich us personally but provide tools to question the way we think about our society. If all we hope for is a ticket to a good career, these things are neglected.

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