When I think about it, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have a uni degree or – when they don’t – they’re on their way to get it. And I don’t mean only close friends but literally everyone around me.
From what I know of the situation in higher education in the 80s and 90s, the conditions were – compared to present – like oil and water, heaven and hell, simply – very different. The society seemed to consist then of the so-called “academic types”, who went to university, and the “manually skilled types”, who didn’t need a further education because they reached a sufficient level of expertise needed for whatever profession or craft they were interested in, OR they didn’t want to go to uni because they wanted/needed to work and earn money asap, OR simply because they weren’t these “academic types”.
As I see it, in the 21st century everybody appears to be an academic type. Does that mean our generation is generally more intelligent? NO. But is this generation more urged to study? YES. And is studying now easier than it ever was? YES.
I am sure this is caused by many other factors, but I think the following three are crucial (please note: I’m from Eastern European country so this may only be relevant to this area, though I studied abroad so my point of view may be influenced by both):
- The educational system is rotten: In many cases, if you are able to pay tuition means you can have a degree. (This of course doesn’t apply to all fields of study – let’s say medicine, engineering or in fact anything technical needs a skill and a talent, money is just not enough). But there really are many study programmes specifically designed for people who simply want to have a degree but have no particular talent in anything. These are usually programmes where no one really knows why it needs to be studied. Also, there are often way too many people in a year, the reason of course being money: more students, more money for school. That’s why getting in is oh so easy too – the uni literally wants you there, why would they hinder your right to education? But do we really need that many political scientists, archaeologists, sociologists, social workers, managers, english teachers, historians? No, we don’t and that’s why they usually end up unemployed – or in a job very distant from what they were studying.
- The other reason might be that young people often think highly of themselves – inappropriately higher than necessary. Any person with an average intelligence is often convinced by parents or friends he or she is smart and therefore needs to go to uni. This correlates with the first point too: they got in which only confirms they deserve to be there. Let’s face it: one third of them actually don’t. This is also a result of this era: internet is full of information so everyone naturally feels more intelligent than he or she actually is because we have access to all the knowledge of the world – if we want it. Plus we are fed the motivational stuff like “nothing is impossible”, “you can do it just reach out and grab it”, “follow your dreams” and blah blah. There are tons of study programmes that you don’t need to be particularly gifted to pass and if you are merely able to cram for the exam or use any other means to pass it – the degree is yours. This, however, to a great extent diminishes the prestige of higher education.
- The third factor is that people simply don’t know what they want to be, the only thing they know is that they want to be rich. This correlates with the second point because the belief they are smart and intelligent combined with all the motivational stuff they read on the internet such as “you can be whatever you want to be” gives them a false feeling they really can become anything – which often results in them becoming nothing. Nowadays, a commonly accepted truth is that you need a degree to earn well. Many youngsters believe that, they start studying something they don’t really like, then they graduate and expect mucho dinero straight away. It doesn’t work that way.
Plus, let’s face it, many teenagers see one of the greatest advantages of studying in prolonging their youth. University is a great chance to put off the adult life for three to five beautiful years. And also, it gives you a nice bit of time to think what it is you actually want to do.
The system that is no longer about education but mostly about business and the false belief that university is the only way to secure a good future together only result in increased unemployment rate and overqualification of employees.
This reminds me of a joke: what sentence do the social sciences graduates hear most often? – “I’ll have double fries and a diet coke, please.”
Here’s to a brighter future! 🙂