ourWindsor.ca: To compete globally, education needs to be reformed

Jonathon LiedtkeourWindsor.ca – March 21, 2013

Is education failing our students? In a workforce in which many students are opting to return to a post-secondary institution after completing a first degree, many have wondered if the education system is designed the best it can be for the 21st century in a global job market.

The interactive town hall featured four panelists from the educational community who tackled the topic. University of Windsor president Alan Wildeman, St. Clair College president Dr. John Strasser, educator and stock market analyst Mark Meldrum, and Rylan Kinnon, the executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance provided their insights into the problems, successes and future of education at both at home, and abroad.

“Universities and colleges are doing a very good job on the education front [but] we need to be doing a lot more to create the experiences that are going to help students get jobs,” Wildeman told OurWindsor.

Wildeman believes that whole system – government, industry and education – is adapting to a post-2008 world in which everybody is forced to both find themselves and adapt to new realities.  

“What kind of jobs are there, how can we best fill them, what kind of education programs will be served?” questioned Wildeman. “You don’t turn complex systems over that fast.”

As president of the university, Wildeman is attempting to reposition the learning experience so that there is a more seamless interface with the surrounding world, which includes investing in new technologies, infrastructure on campus, and developing partnerships with the community at large.

Dr. Strasser however believes that the education system is failing students and leaving them unprepared as they enter the new economy.

“You can’t go into a post-secondary institution, get an education and automatically get a job … it doesn’t work that way anymore,” said Strasser. “We have to change to get to a point where students can come to an institution, get the training, skills and knowledge they need to build a foundation for life.”

Similarly, Kinnon believes that the education system can change to better suit the needs of students in a changing economy where students are increasingly having difficulty finding work.

“We can look at opportunities for institutions to provide students with experiences that we know will lead to better employment outcomes [such as] more experiential learning,” explained Kinnon who added that students who enter co-op programs have the opportunity to gain work experiences and build networks which in turn provide them with better employment prospective upon graduation.

“Our institutions need to look at how they’re teaching students more generally. There’s widespread agreement that the typical lecture style is not efficient and does not lead to the best learning outcomes, so we need to look at opportunities for blended learning [and] hands on experiences,” said Kinnon.

Meldrum, however, sees the situation from a different perspective and doesn’t believe that education is what’s failing, but rather, it’s the system of delivery that needs to be examined.

“We live in an evolving world. There’s a continual evolution of the process of education delivery,” explained Meldrum.

Meldrum believes that tighter integration of technology into the education sector is a good thing and that there is a need for more co-op programs . In addition, he pointed to under-serviced communities which offer to pay for students’ medical schooling in exchange for five or six years of service.

“Why don’t companies do this?” Meldrum asked.

Jon Liedtke

To compete globally, education needs to be reformed (ourwindsor.ca)

Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.


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