More to varsity life than mugging

Sunday July 8, 2012

I REFER to the letter 
Engineering student suffers low morale
 (StarEducate, June 17).

The writer states that “students are driven by grades and marks”. If this were true, all students would be excellent and attain top marks.

Students who want to get good grades and marks will want to spend a considerable amount of time studying, and because they have studied they will obtain good marks. This is basic logic.

But from my personal experience, I can say that there are two main reasons why Malaysian students opt to study for a degree, namely “to have an edge” and “for a passport”. In fact I was talking to a student who is due to graduate shortly and who is thinking of taking up a second degree just to have an “extra passport”.

If the official reason for getting a degree is to acquire knowledge, then how do you test a student’s knowledge if not by an exam or a test?

I don’t think any student who studies to acquire knowledge would ever question the need to pass an examination and get good grades. Good grades are the proof of your knowledge.

However, it must be specified that there are two aspects of getting good grades – the syllabus and the teacher.

Both are essential and not interchangeable for students who want a good and complete education.

Some teachers or lecturers will follow the syllabus or the book faithfully, while others will prepare their own notes and expect students to copy those notes.

But most teachers will teach the way they themselves have been taught, and if the teaching they received was unstructured, they will probably adopt a similar method with their students.

It is important, in my view, for university students to understand what the lecturer or teacher wants and to plan their studies accordingly.

Students who come from a disciplined background will have no problem with this aspect of education. This is also the reason why students who have had good grades in secondary school usually proceed with higher education.

Besides acquiring knowledge, the next most useful aspect of a university education is that students learn to live with others, to accept all views, and to discuss and solve problems in a way that is non-confrontational yet effective.

It is this social aspect of campus life that makes university education unique and worthwhile. Knowledge itself can be acquired in your own home or at the library, via books, the Internet, newspapers and all the other available sources of information which are available today.

If the writer “doesn’t know much about engineering” it is either because he is not prepared for the social aspect of university life or because the teaching is not sufficiently structured.

A student who comes from a highly controlled environment, where his every move was planned and directed by others, may have a problem in university.

On the other hand, an environment in which students do not receive enough guidance from their lecturers, and where lecturers cannot impart an objective, can be very demoralising to students.