Whoever studies at college quickly learns that, in addition to the main subjects, there are a lot of additional ones. The latter seem to have been invented only to make life harder. Most students tend to think that the additional subjects are unnecessary, since they have nothing to do with the chosen subject area. However, most teachers still consider that learning additional subjects is necessary. Thus, it can be suggested that students can choose the subjects to study on their own.
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Before proceeding with the analysis of the opponents’ opinions, it is necessary to take a closer look at what defines the students’ choice. There are number of factors which impact peoples’ decision on what major or additional subject to choose, yet there are certain paradigms among the common choices. Learning more about these patterns, one can assess the students’ ability to choose their subjects more accurately. According to what Porter and Umbach claim, the students’ choice depends mostly on the following factors:
- Social ones: “Social capital and cultural capital, largely represented by parental influence , have a significant impact on major choice” (Porter and Umbach 434);
- The parents’ opinion: “Some research has linked the attention a mother pays to a student’s academic work to selection of a public service major” (Porter and Umbach 435);
- Self-efficacy: “a large body of literature points to self- efficacy as an important factor of student major choice” (Porter and Umbach 439). Therefore, personal choice takes the third place, which means that students’ convictions about their future profession and what they are going to need to have it might not be formed yet as they enter college.
However, according to the USA higher education principles, students are already informed enough to choose the college courses which will help them progress in their major. Consequently, students should be allowed to pick the subjects which they are going to study together with the main one. As Goldrik-Rab and Roksa explain, “College students need study skills in order to learn course content, must choose courses wisely to develop college majors, and make consistent progress in earning college credits toward degrees” (10).
In addition, it is worth mentioning that students differ in their skills and knowledge base; hence, students need to pay different amount of attention to different subjects, while, with compulsory subjects, equal amount of time is offered for each student to handle the topic. The above-mentioned practice can lead to getting some of the skills trained worse than others. The given argument also speaks in favor of allowing students to choose courses on their own.
However, the arguments of the teachers, who suggest that there should be certain compulsory courses which students have to attend disregarding their preferences as well as their major, are solid as well. For instance, the Allen and Robins’ research shows that “For some major groups, the likelihood of persisting does not appear to be impacted much by students’ interests” (Allen and Robins 72-73).
Hence, in most cases, the grade on a certain subject does not depend on whether the given subject relates to the students’ major or even whether a student likes the subject or not. With that in mind, the students’ complaints concerning additional subjects as an obstacle to learning the major is inconsistent.
Nevertheless, the arguments which students offer regarding their right to choose not only their major, but also the rest of the subjects, are rather reasonable. To start with, the first and the foremost issue to discuss is the payment for the courses.
Indeed, the money issue is the trickiest aspect when it comes to choosing between various subjects. Hence, it is important for a student that his/her “investments” could pay off in the future. Consequently, it seems that it is a student’s responsibility to pick the material which (s)he considers the most essential for his/her further professional development.
As Callender and Jackson explain, the money issues are quite topical for the modern education system: “Students who are poor before going to university are more likely to be in debt and to leave university with the largest debts, while better-off students are less likely to have debts and leave with the lowest debts” (4). Hence, it is quite logical that students should decide themselves what they want to pay – or, for that matter, their parents should.
Indeed, the problem is by far more complicated than it seems to be. However, there are certain ways to figure out what kind of courses is the most appropriate to pick. One of the most obvious suggestions is to think of what skills each of the subjects in question helps train and assess every single skill.
Evaluating the significance of these skills for a student’s supposed future profession, one will be able to choose the proper courses. As the author of Standards and Students Coursetaking claims, “Once in place, such “real-world standards” would help students choose courses and guide them to expend sufficient effort in high school, reducing the need for remedial courses in college” (Standards and Students Coursetaking).
Hence, it can be concluded that there is still a considerable problem about letting students decide what subjects exactly they need to complete their education and become full-fledged professionals.
On the one hand, students have the right to decide what they are going to become and, therefore, which subjects to study. On the other hand, teachers are considerably more experienced and must know what skills one must have not only to become a professional, but also to obtain a certain job in the given field. Therefore, the importance of teachers’ decision is not to be underrated as well.
Nevertheless, the additional subjects for “broadening students’ horizon” can be too much time-consuming. This means that a student might not be able to qualify for his/her major. Thus, students should be allowed to choose the subjects they need in accordance with their abilities and skills.
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Allen, Jeff and Steven B. Robbins. “Prediction of College Major Persistence Based on Vocational Interests, Academic Preparation, and First Year Academic Performance.” Research in Higher Education. 49.1 (2008): 62-79. Web.
Callender, Claire, and Jonathan Jackson. “Does the Fear of Debt Deter Students from Higher Education?” Journal of Social Policy. 34.4 (2005): 509-540. Web.
Goldrik-Rab, Sara and Josipa Roksa 2008, A Federal Agenda for Promoting Success and Degree Completion. PDF file. Web.
Porter, Stephen R. and Paul D. Umbach. “College Major Choice: An Analysis of Person-Environmental Fit.” Research in Higher Education. 47.4 (2006): 429-449. Web.