My experience with university education
I had a dream, just as Martin Luther quotes. Mine was to be able to secure a chance in a public university. I have always admired old friends who joined University. The stories they told and how they carried themselves was just what I wanted to be. With my dream in play, all I had to do was hard work and determination during my high school education. I secured a chance at Kenyatta University (KU). This was such a great deal for me. I was happy that I was finally fulfilling my desire.
Upon arrival and settling down on campus. I noticed that unlike my high school there was a diversity of people from different backgrounds, tribes, and nationalities. Some came from prestigious and renowned high schools that I have always admired.
The group discussions were more of repeating what the lecturer said, as opposed to engaging in discourse. Whenever someone tried to question or ask why did he say this or that suddenly everyone in the group would raise their eyebrows with the expression, you don’t belong here, how dare you, will that come in the exam? This would be the polite way of telling ‘you are out of order.’ You would be forced to recoil and thank them for doing you a favor of being in a group that will earn you not less than 25 marks in take-away cats and assignments. Trying to look for the fulfillment I wanted in my learning, I decided to switch groups in other schools just to get new/ interesting insights. For instance, I joined Industrial chemistry group discussions since we shared the same units in statistics and calculus. What I liked about the group I joined is that they would explain concepts to the tee and use relevant real-life examples. One I like and still remember, is using factorials to calculate the number of cars using number plates. Quite a new thing for you also to know:-)
Switching group discussions worked really well so I decided to be more creative and adventurous and also sample alternative classes for similar units. This was helpful since I encountered some very interesting lecturers, who a majority of the students complained that they were more of storytellers and not serious with teaching on what will be examined. One unit I thoroughly enjoyed was Development studies. The lecturer was very thought-provoking and was known for always giving students questions that will be examined. No wonder his class would have as many as 600 students per class. To him, I guess he noticed the audience was uninterested in the knowledge and cared about making it to cut points in exams.
In one of his classes, I remember him posing a question on “How many would want to go into politics. About 30 or so hands were up. Then he followed up with a question, “how many have read the book the Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli?” Only two hands were raised. He encouraged anyone serious about politics to read that book. Recently, a decade later, I completed reading the book, and not that I have intentions of joining politics, but just to understand what the political analysts base their arguments on when they refer to the book.
If I had an alternative path I would have dropped out of campus, but coming from a remote school and my folks having great expectations for me to clear my undergraduate degree, I had to implement two additional goals: one to graduate and two, get to know people by networking. This is how I made it through.
After campus, I appreciate some theories I learned now more than ever E.g. while watching an online MIT MOOC (Massive open online course) on Microeconomics 101. I could clearly see a stark difference in the style of delivery where the lecturer has done his homework and using industry examples to explain concepts. How I wish I had access to this content during my undergraduate education.
That said, the current system of education is more of rote learning where students are graded based on memorization and repetition of facts. The degree has become like a birth certificate where if one does not have it you are an alien in the job market. The mad rush in the accumulation of “papers” has led to an oversupply of graduates with no demand for their skills in the job market. We need to go back to the fundamentals of education. The university role should provide the necessary platform for learning to happen.
I will conclude with a quote from Robert M.Hutchins: Education is not to reform students or amuse them or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, and teach them to think straight, if possible.”