The purpose of education in our day and age differs for each human being. How one utilizes and expands ones knowledge depends on the person. The purpose for learning also varies among individuals, who learn for different reasons. Some people learn so that they may have a greater understanding of their world and environment, while others learn for enjoyment and pleasure. There are also some who educate themselves in order to obtain certain careers which will put them in roles that they believe they can perform best.
In the article ‘Definition of Education’, Don Berg says “The proper definition of education is the process of becoming an educated person” (Berg, 2011). Learning is a lifelong process and does not always occur consciously. Education is a privilege, and those fortunate enough to receive one typically start from a young age. At this starting point, education is normally laid out very simply and a basic platform is implemented for subjects such as Mathematics, English and Science. Over consecutive years of schooling, the subject matter is elaborated and expanded on.
However, it is only once an average of 12 years has passed that one could move onto specialized studies. In this essay, the nature and purpose of two undergraduate degrees will be discussed as well as the different benefits and outcomes of the courses. The two general degrees to be discussed are Humanities and Commerce. An individual cannot normally compartmentalize their lives so that their life and career are separate from one another and therefore it is not useful to refer to them as separate entities.
In most cases, a career can be life defining as it can consume much time and energy, and therefore can determine the way in which a person lives. A career is also responsible for providing an income which may determine standards of living unless inheritance or wealthy life partners are involved and considered. A distinction between preparing students for life and career therefore needs to be considered when furthering their education. It is the role of the tertiary institution to hich students enroll to take responsibility for this. To the best of the institutions ability, courses should be designed so that students can achieve knowledge about what is expected of them in the career they will move into, as well as attempt to educate them to some of the challenges life will present.
Students should be able to graduate with the ability to cope in their future careers and also know how to deal with emotional and psychological challenges that their career and lives may have in store for them. Business Curricula Need a Strong Dose of the Liberal Arts, Scholars Say’, an article written by David Glenn, points out that the traditional commerce degrees often focus entirely on the students career outcome and forgo educating learners about valuable life lessons. While this type of course may provide very efficient workers, students lack “the depth they need to be morally engaged citizens and intellectually agile” socially and in the workplace (Sullivan, 2010).
In the article ‘Diary of life and strategy inside and outside university’, Ferdinand von Prondzynski mentions the new committee established by Stanford University in California, which has recently decided to review “the pedagogy of higher education, rather than its structures” (Prondzynski, 2011). This means that an increased effort is going into creating courses which balance the outcomes of the degrees so that a graduate has been taught to cope with both their lives and career.
The committee goal is to take into account the “growing social, political, economic and ecological interconnectedness of the world” (Prondzynski, 2011) and how this affects an individual’s role in their career and life. The aim is to identify factors which should be included in the education of students so that they are best prepared for “local, national and global citizenship” (Prondzynski, 2011). This adjustment to courses has already been implemented by Harvard University and other leading tertiary institutions such as the University of Cape Town.
The obvious necessity to integrate some liberal-arts courses into commerce degrees in order to create well-rounded students has been met with challenges. This is due to the fact that learners incorrectly perceive these liberal-arts courses to be irrelevant and don’t value the chance to learn leadership and communication skills. It should be clear that it is vital for “students to consider the role of business in society and the ethics of acting as a business professional” which can only be learnt through liberal-arts courses (Colby, 2010).
In the same way, it is also important that Humanities students integrate a business aspect to their studies if they wish to understand the dynamics of a company to a proper extent. “Students need to experience engagement with the world so that they grasp the practical, personal, and moral significance of what they are learning,” and only by combining liberal-arts and commerce can this be achieved (Colby and Sullivan, 2010). At the same time, to combine the two degrees subject matter to the point where it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two would be counter productive.
Each degree is different for a reason and it is those differences which attract a certain type of student who is interested in a particular type of learning and information as well as career outcome. To merge Commerce and Humanities too much could result in the outcomes of the degrees becoming confused and this would not be of any use. Currently, the Humanities degrees do not often provide a clean-cut career path, and this can be either beneficial or detrimental to the graduate who will find themselves with perhaps too many opportunities and may take an unplanned and unwanted career choice.
Humanities was described as “the study of the three types of human cultures; historical, racial, and social” by Michael Anzia in his article ‘What you can do with a Humanities degree’ (Anzia, 2010). The nature of studying Humanities means that further understanding about human’s social behavior and civilization can be achieved and this will obviously help a person in their life when communicating and relating to others.
Experience in a field can help to refine the career one takes once working, and by taking internships and job shadowing, choosing a career may become easier to do. The broad range of job opportunities allows Humanities graduates a lot of freedom and also the ability to access many fields and continuously fluctuate between types of work. This in comparison to a typical Commerce degree is exciting as there is no threat of being stuck in the same job, such as being an accountant, for most of ones life.
However many students feel the need to know that their learning outcomes will provide them with a highly likely chance of employment, and if the job opportunities also promise a good income the security in money becomes a very attractive feature. For this reason the Commerce degrees will forever remain popular, and can only be enhanced by the inclusion of some Humanities aspects which serve to remind students about the human facet that will always be present in business and finance.
A Commerce degree at the University of Cape Town should therefore be able to supply students with the ability to effectively operate in the business world, but also teach the values of retaining human interaction and the importance of clear communication, as well as cultivate global and cultural sensitivity and establish mature critical thinking and problem solving skills, even under pressure. Adaptability and the ability to maintain a fair perspective in challenging situations should also be encouraged especially in team orientated activities
On a last note, “a career without a life” is indeed empty, however, a life without a career is not necessarily tragic. People are capable of living very fulfilling lives without having a career. The aspect that truly sets an individual out for lifelong success and happiness is a positive attitude and it does not matter what degree you choose to study, rather the amount of passion you have for the subject that will determine how suitable you are for your career and how much personal happiness you gain from life.
Tertiary institutions which involve dynamic courses into their degrees merely assist students to stand a better chance adjusting to a working environment. It will always remain up to an individual as to how happy they will be in their lives, as it is their own choices that guide them through life. As long as both the Humanities and Commerce degrees have elements of one another in their courses, the graduates will be best suited to furthering themselves well in society and will be able to balance their careers and lives.