Farzeen Foda 

Senior News Editor


The theme of 2012 in the post-secondary sphere has been the transformation of education. Much of this stems from the fact that the traditional model of post-secondary education, it seems, too often produces textbook thinkers that can read, memorize and regurgitate, which is hardly suitable to real-world settings.

McMaster’s Forward with Integrity initiative, inspired by president Patrick Deane, has attempted to rectify this by installing of various task forces charged with the mission of revitalizing education at McMaster University.

Students are pivotal to the project, and currently hold positions on the various task forces. Forums held throughout the year have sought to consolidate student suggestions about improving education at McMaster. Nearing the end of the academic year, the task forces are still in the planning and brainstorming phase, but feedback from the student body thus far generally asks for more flexibility in education, noted Susan Denburg, chair of the Forward with Integrity initiative.

Some complaints have arisen, though. Exposure to other faculties and departments may bring a better sense of cohesion, and while experiential learning and out-of-the-classroom experiences are central to education, each student has their own time constraints which are already strained with current levels of instructional hours. Therefore, ways to “build into rather than build on top” of current course structures is necessary, explained Denburg.

Much of the efforts to enhance the quality of post-secondary education centres around what students expect out of their education. Many students attend university in order to secure employment upon graduation, and building on the undergraduate university experience through a hands-on approach that encourages cross-disciplinary thinking undoubtedly increases employability.

“I’m hoping to get a job after I finish school, and it’s frustrating to feel like even after four years of school, I don’t have any of the skills employers look for,” said Ankita Dubey, a fourth-year Psychology student.

This is common across universities. A study conducted by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario found that a mere 45 per cent of university students are prepared to graduate after their fourth year, and students surveyed cited that the only motivation to pursue a three-year degree would be to enter the workforce sooner.

That being said, the traditional model of education is in the process of transformation. The finer details, however, remain to be determined. Meanwhile, students are aware that drilling content is not always the most effective learning strategy. “Some content is always very interesting and useful, however, content overload results in forgetting almost immediately after the exam, and that’s just money down the drain,” said Mark Vennare a fourth-year Biology student.

On April 4, The Forward With Integrity team will be holding a forum to share their insight and pose questions to the McMaster community to better inform their next steps.

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