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  • Haleem M. Tahir

Expanding the mission statement of post-secondary learning institutions

Presently, the mission statement of most colleges and universities is to provide education and skills that will enable their students to enter the workforce. From a personal perspective, I strongly believe that included in this mission statement, education should also be simply for the sake of learning. Even though education does enhance one's potential to acquire employment, there are certainly broader dimensions of learning.

Learning leads to empowerment of the whole person; unchaining of the limitations that confine a person. If the primary mission of colleges and universities is to enter the workforce, then the entire purpose of education gets sidelined. Education brings out a sense of awareness within a person, as well as their capabilities and beliefs. Upon having received a good education, you have more to say about who you are as a person. This is the time when students move towards a more detailed study of subjects. However, acquiring this knowledge shouldn't be based upon future jobs (that many still may not have decided on.) For example, at this time in their lives, some students may want to learn about art because they simply like it.

We get educated because learning is important and we as humans deserve to attain answers to questions like, “what is our ultimate purpose in this world?” Humans are curious beings and education is a direction towards deriving answers. Cambridge University (2013) tells us their mission to education is: “Education which enhances the ability of students to learn throughout life as well as encourages a questioning spirit.” This position is reinforced by Harvard College (2019), ‘The mission of Harvard College is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. [...] From this we hope that students will begin to fashion their lives by gaining a sense of what they want to do with their gifts and talents, assessing their values and interests, and learning how they can best serve the world.”

Education, just to enter the workforce, disrupts the cycle of learning because if that is the main principle that respected educational institutions adhere to, then students are likely to form this general attitude towards their education because the ultimate goal is simply to get a job. However, the process and progress of education should never stop. We are here to learn and we should as long as it in our power to do so. This notion would encourage educational institutions to appreciate and implement learning for the sake of learning: The purpose of education should also address true learning and imagination.

We must realize that not all of the students, if prepared for the workforce, will eventually end up with jobs. This is because, firstly, unemployment exists because jobs are given to students that graduate every year and apply for these jobs. Secondly, they may not even succeed in the interview process, despite the amount of training they have received. For universities to limit everything that lies under the spectrum of education to simply getting jobs would be unfair. Making it to the workforce is not guaranteed, especially considering growing unemployment is an undeniable reality. If a time comes when students come to the realization that the primary mission for which they studied for all these years cannot be fulfilled, they would be devastated.

Advocates of such a policy argue that in this competitive climate, where talent is oozing out of everywhere with limited employment rates, colleges and universities then have the moral obligation to instill in these students the skills that are conveniently transferrable to the workforce, rather than developing merely proximately linked skills. However, this is not the obligation of colleges and universities in their entirety. Their efforts should also be directed towards creating a more learned population at its core. Even if these institutions invest in making students eligible for the workforce, the practical knowledge learned by the students will be too narrow and niche for change, which in itself is problematic.

With the advancement of technology, we are in a much more competitive world now, however, colleges and universities are continuously striving to match the conditions of the changing environment by improving their curriculum. The process of learning is followed by practical application and not vice versa, which is why academic learning cannot be compromised.

People may perform a good deed with the motive of attaining honor or reward. However, what about

doing a good deed simply for good morals? We go to school in order to acquire a vocation or

profession. However, I ask, what about going to school for the sake of personal and interpersonal

growth? What about learning for the learning experience itself?

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