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    28-May-2023

The dialectics of educational programmes and employment - By Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh, The Jordan Times

 

 

In our society, there is an opinion that academic programmes should be linked to job opportunities in the market, and an opinion that insists that this is not possible.
 
The first states that the academic degree should lead to a job after graduation, because it is a basic need for nearly all students, and that programmes that do not do so will lead to their graduates joining the unemployed.
 
And this is neither in the interest of the graduates, nor of that of society.
 
The second argues that the labour market is vast and fluctuating, and therefore it is difficult to link programmes to a fickle market, as programs take time to design, stabilise and develop, and it is not possible to rush to launching, freezing or cancelling them based on largely unpredictable fluctuations and changes, in addition to a “perception” that may not be accurate.
 
Clearly, the two opinions are diametrically opposed.
 
The truth is that every opinion is based on an overall correct logic, but there are many important details in the matter that must not be overlooked.
 
There is, for example, talk about radical changes in the job market that have begun to occur, as a result of the accelerating industrial revolutions, and that studies indicate that 65 per cent of known jobs will soon disappear and others that we have not heard of will emerge.
 
In addition, the programmes are linked to the availability of specialised and carefully selected faculty members. Where do organisations get them from so quickly, and what do they do with them if someone decides their programmes are no longer needed?
 
There are so many individual, societal, and humanitarian factors that are broader and higher than the needs of the market which we must pay attention to.
 
What about the learner's needs, desires or talents? What about the needs of society and the overall lives of individuals? What about commitment to knowledge?
 
Several complex and pressing factors and questions should be carefully studied before making up one’s mind as to which way to proceed.
 
However, efforts should focus on trying to reconcile the two opinions, and not on siding with one or the other and escalating the tension between them.
 
Reconciliation is possible, and we present the following as a starting point for dialogue and the search for a middle-ground solution:
 
First, it is a mistake to put all programmes in one basket, as there is a remarkable diversity in their objectives, outputs, structures, and their connection to the market.
 
Some of them are specific in nature and highly specialised, and some of them are more general and all-encompassing.
 
The former refers to specialised programmes, such as medicine, dentistry, nursing, accounting and law, which are tied to specific professions in the market.
 
 As for the latter, they are programmes of a general nature, which offer a wide variety of knowledge and skills. Any graduate from any programme that offers relevant skills, from mathematics to philosophy to history to languages, can join any job or profession requiring core, but cross-disciplinary, skills.
 
And these jobs or professions are widely available in the labour market.
 
We should remember also that specialised programmes are linked to indispensable societal services which will be with us for a long time.
 
We must remember also that our programs are not designed for our market only, but for the region and the world.
 
And the main concern here is not about whether such programmes are relevant or not, because they are always relevant and needed, but about how many students we should admit to them.
 
As for the broader programmes, what is important in them are the skills acquired by the students, in addition to the knowledge.
 
All of these programmes, regardless of their titles, must focus on the skills required in the market, because the employers are asking for skills, not programme titles.
 
There are no programmes that cannot provide the skills required in the market, which include communication skills, thinking skills design skills, soft skills and others.
 
The problem occurs only when such programmes provide information or knowledge and fail to focus on skills.
 
Secondly, all programmes must strive to qualify those enrolled in them to generate job opportunities and not just seek opportunities available in the market. This is a crucial point, which is often overlooked.
 
And graduates will be able to generate jobs when they are endowed with skills that result from a focus on innovation, creativity, design, and entrepreneurship during their college years.
 
It is possible, then, to link programmes to market needs and avoid controversy, if we all look at the matter from a variety of helpful angles and perspectives, such as some of what has been stated above.
 
And this more crucial now, since we are celebrating our 77th Independence Day and our Centennial, than at any time before.
 

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