Opinion: Education for the future

If there is any service or pursuit that defines the future of any individual, education is by far the most important. Our current educational system, how­ever, is constantly scrutinized for its numerous pitfalls: the rising costs of university tuition, the ethics of teaching for standardized testing in K-12 and integrating newer technologies into the classroom at younger ages.

Many of these issues ultimately af­fect the quality of education a student receives — after all, what could be more distracting in an exam besides the constant concern over tuition debt? However, because of the atten­tion the media grants to these par­ticular issues, they are the concerns that receive the most attention and debate, while other major issues re­main relatively unaddressed.

One such issue is the lack of social support for non-collegiate education­al pathways such as vocational schools, fellowships or religious institutions. These educational pathways receive less attention for their perception of having less relevance in a time when science, technology and the humani­ties take precedence over most other subjects. Not to mention, the stereo­type that vocational or “unconven­tional” educational routes result in a large difference in income — com­pared to a university education— cast a stigma on those who wish to use their abilities in a different way.

However, these careers provide as­pects of education for students that a conventional education does not: hands-on experience with their career of choice, shorter time to graduate and less education-related debt. The National Center for Educational Statistics states that tech and trade school graduates make a median of $35,720 a year, where­as — according to the Beau of Labor statistics — bachelor degree holders make an average of $46,900. While this is an $11,180 difference, trade school grads have significantly less debt and spend less time paying off this debt as a result. This focus on finance isn’t meant to dissuade anyone from attending a university — attending a larger univer­sity comes with many of its own benefits despite the price. However, the false belief that blue-collar work makes some­one “unsuccessful” or even financially lacking is a myth that needs to be buried.

Another issue is that with a more automated and technologically inte­grated workspace, a new pool of poten­tial employees is finding themselves competing with technologies that could potentially outclass them. New technol­ogy means safer work environments as well as precise results, and it counts in careers such as auto production, logging, mining and other heavy industries, as well as scientific research.

Not to mention, as the workforce has increased in age, the average age of retirement has increased as well. New technologies mean the pains of having to teach employees how to properly use them with ease — something that is easier said than done. New electronics or computer services in the office space are good for keeping track of timesheets or communicating with other cowork­ers. However, the variety of new software and their different nuances — as well as the rapid rate of technological advance­ment in computing — leaves the older workforce struggling to keep up. Mod­ern education should teach the student not just how to safely and efficiently utilize new technologies at work or at home, but also how to be flexible and accommodate the rapid changes in our technology and bolster skills that are not technologically dependent.

Education is the paramount chal­lenge that doesn’t end when we are handed our degrees. With this under­standing it is important to educate future generations in a way that makes them more apt to adapt to rapid change as well as seek out many different skill sets that they can apply within their lifetime. By focusing on these changes, we give future generations a better chance to not just survive but succeed in our ever-changing world.