Nowadays, it looks like that people are paying more attention on the way higher education is handled than just a few years ago. Why is that? To me the main reasons are the continuing decrease in students’ performances and the lack of enthusiasm of some educators (no more dedication as seen in earlier times). These are some of the complaints that we often times hear from parents but mostly from old instructors. There is also the reliability on new technologies which drag much more attention for learners. I think these reasons in addition to many others have brought people such as scientists, philosophers, and psychiatrists to come up with too many theories in order to reform higher education. Therefore, there are many theories out there; it is almost like everybody is expert in higher education. Books and articles are being published every day, seminars, conferences and workshops are being held like never before.
I like the way teaching is being done in the US. It is different compared to the way it is most of the time (because not always) being handled in some African countries. For example, I feel in the United States, teaching and learning processes are more student-centered; there are more interactions between students and educators which is different from what students are experiencing in certain African places. And one can see that these student-centered learning processes are gaining more and more power and more ground as the younger instructors are the ones more interested in this way of teaching and they are integrating academia every day.
But is all this really helpful?
To me, I think not completely, because of the student underperformance that is being pointed out as I have mentioned earlier. Another reason, instructors can only use the material or education theories which they are aware of, or which is most accessible to them. It can be helpful or not. Some educators might even want to innovate but end up confusing their students. Finally, regarding the students, they might be used to certain activities or problem solving strategies and once they face other circumstances they become less efficient or less productive.
Wouldn`t it be better if the different actors of higher education come up with some standard that would make things work differently?
One thing that I believe should change in higher education is the huge amount of education theories that are used in this field. They may not always give good results. I think it would be great if everybody could follow the same procedure everywhere as food scientists do it in food processing. Some organizations, such as the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Codex Alimentarius have set standards that all food producers have to follow. For instance, you have the Good Manufacturing Practice regulations that are promulgated by the FDA, you can find HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and many others.
In some African countries, I think the shift would be to try to incorporate more student-centered activities because such practices even though having some limits seem to be a better way of getting students more ready for future careers such teaching, working as engineers, lawyers, etc. I am saying this because I think, readiness for teaching in universities for example is more needed in underdeveloped countries where ineffective educational systems are the main factor that undermines economic development. Likewise, greater efficiency of engineers in place is needed because it can help limit the reliance on international expertise. Integrating graduate seminars and workshops where people interact in their program would reinforce such approaches as these are places where students gain skills and knowledge that would not be acquired in the normal lectures of their specific field of study.