Friday, August 7, 2015

Shorter Programs for Vocational Qualifications

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Japanese Government will expand business programs and vocational training at the expense of liberal arts ("Japan Rethinks Higher Education in Skills Push" by Mitsuru Obe, 2 August 2015). If the objective is to produce graduates with vocationally relevant business and technical skills, then cutting back liberal arts makes sense. However the question needs to be asked if this is what universities are for and if degree programs are the way to provide these skills. 

It does not make a lot of sense to take a non-vocational university degree program and try to retrofit work related skills to it. If individuals have years to devote to a liberal education followed by vocational studies, that is fine. However, if there is not the funding for that, then it would be better for the individual to spend their time and money learning the essential vocational skills, get a job and then worry about a liberal education when, and if, they can afford it. In Australia you have the option of doing six months to two years of vocational education to get a qualification for a job and worry about a degree later.

ps: A senior person at the business school of a prestigious European university  commented to me recently that the liberal arts students enroll in business classes shorty before they are to graduate, when they realize they are "two terms away from unemployment". ;-)

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