The real purpose of higher education has been debated among experts for a very long time. The educational system of the United States is predominantly defined by a focus on liberal arts that aims to develop the characters of students and equip them with knowledge to navigate the various hurdles of life (Spade 54). In recent times, demands for higher education that encompasses personal and professional development have surfaced.
On the other hand, advancements in technology and science have introduced new perspectives that challenge the roles that education plays in society (Masunga 177). Scientific and technological advancements have increased the demand for university education, which is expensive and thus limited to a small number of students.
University education should create prepared minds, contribute towards societal development through research and innovation, promote global development, enhance personal and economic growth, and promote responsible citizenship (Spade 57).
Roles of universities in education
The university should play several roles in developing education especially with regard to research and innovation, character development, preparation of students’ minds, and professional development (Newman 78). One of the major roles that universities should play in education is enlightenment and preparation of students’ minds. The concept of education has evolved significantly due to advancements in technology and science (Spade 55).
In contemporary society, education serves a different purpose unlike in traditional setups where education was an avenue for career development only. People went to school to acquire professional skills that allowed them to get certain job. However, today’s society has changed. Advancements in technology have led to the emergence of entrepreneurship and other career options that have undermined the need for higher education (Newman 79).
University education should focus on preparing the minds of students in order to equip them with the necessary skills for success in life. In many societies, university education is highly commercialized thus undermining its importance in professional and personal growth (Newman 81). This preparation of minds comes in the form of increased creativity, possession of critical thinking skills, development of problem-solving skills, and ability to find one’s purpose in life (Masunga 180).
Advancements in science have necessitated the development of new research methods in order to increase the body of knowledge in different fields (Spade 58). For instance, research is needed in the fields of medicine in order to develop new treatment remedies for diseases such as Ebola and cancer. Promoting research is one of the traditional roles of universities in education (Wong and Moni 407).
Higher institutions of learning provide the means and tools necessary for research that widens the scope of academic knowledge. The United States has several institutions that focus on research. For instance, Carnegie Mellon University, California Institute of Technology, Brown University, Arizona State University, Colorado University, Duke University, Florida State University, Columbia University, Michigan State University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are universities that focus on the research aspect of education.
Research focuses on several fields that include technology, medicine, psychology, politics, economics, and business (Newman 87). Emergence of advanced technologies has improved ways in which research is conducted. Universities should finance and facilitate research studies by students.
Higher institutions of learning should equip students with knowledge and skills in order to transform them into professionals who are capable of handling different responsibilities and challenges (Saichaie and Morphew 499). One of the challenges of education in modern society is high demand that has resulted in commercialization of education. The soaring demand has resulted in high education costs and short graduation times that aim to cater for the needs of the many people in need of education opportunities (Spade 63).
As a result, personal understanding and development have been downgraded into the secondary roles of university education. Students go through their degree programs hastily. Learning environments that encourage deep understanding and enlargement of knowledge bodies have been replaced by superficial learning programs that are more concerned with the commercial aspects of education (Saichaie and Morphew 503).
This approach is resulting in high graduation rates that produce individuals who are not well prepared for the challenges of modern labor markets. Universities should create learning environments that foster deep understanding, creativity, innovation, personal development, possession of professional skills, and enlargement of knowledge bodies (Trainor and Leko 263). They should not put academic development before deep understanding that is transformative in nature.
One of the major weaknesses of numerous university programs is that they focus on improving students’ job prospects and ignore the development of other areas (Spade 67). This phenomenon originated from the culture that is encouraged by employers of offering jobs to candidates based on their educational achievements without considering the quality of the education earned. Today’s emphasis is for individuals to earn degrees in order to secure jobs that will earn them comfortable lives.
This encourages universities to offer degrees to large numbers of students without laying emphasis on the quality of learning experiences, which has led to commercialization of education (Spade 71). One of the roles of university education is to enable graduates earn a living through employment and pursuance of careers that interest them (Saichaie and Morphew 507). However, this aspect has been pursued superficially because many universities do not offer learning programs that encourage innovation, creativity, and character development.
University education should not only prepare students for their professional lives but also their personal lives. University education is expensive and highly competitive because of its numerous challenges. In order to provide higher education to everyone, the government developed community and trade schools. In America, trade and community schools offer educational opportunities to individuals who cannot afford university education and those who are not prepared to spend four years in college (Spade 77).
These schools encourage specialization and equip students with skills that are under high demand in the labor market. Many colleges offer degree programs that impel students to change careers several times before settling in fields that they like. Trade and community schools explore different aspects of education in order to ensure that their students are highly educated and ready to face life’s challenges.
Finally, universities should help students develop their characters and personalities. This role goes beyond the traditional approach of focusing on learning and research. Character is one of the most important factors that facilitate the achievement of success in professional and personal life. Many institutions ignore the need for character development because they assume it is an individual responsibility.
Character development equips students with skills, and knowledge that empower them to make informed and responsible decisions in their lives (Trainor and Leko 264). It is the one factor that connects their personal and professional aspects of their lives.
Life has many challenges that require critical thinking and responsible decisions. It is important for universities to design their curriculums in ways that encourage purposeful exploration and self-reflection in order to develop character that creates a foundation for distinction and respect for human dignity (Saichaie and Morphew 521).
Role of university in society
The traditional roles of universities include research and instruction with the aim of providing students with knowledge and skills to use in their lives (Wong and Moni 399). They offer students with professional training that equips them with knowledge and skills that enable them to land high-level jobs in their careers (Trainor and Leko 264). In addition, it is aimed at developing the personalities of students.
Research has led to increase in the body of knowledge that has widened the scope of university education with regard to dealing with life’s challenges. The traditional model has been replaced by a more encompassing approach that considers education as an important aspect of societal development through innovation and advanced research. Universities should train students to be democratic, patriotic, caring, just, and respectful members of society.
Civic education is one of the roles universities should play in contributing towards societal development (Rogers, Bertrand, and Perez 6). However, some individuals feel that if universities introduce civic education into their curriculums, they might neglect other more important aspects of higher education. Others feel that it might lead to political indoctrination that could promote political intolerance.
In a survey conducted in California, a large percentage of the respondents argued that it is the responsibility of universities to foster civic education. According to participants, civic education would include sensitizing students about the importance of patriotism and voting, as well as the significance participation in political discourses (Rogers, Bertrand, and Perez 6). Others recommended that universities should teach students about America’s traditions, heritage, cultures, and political practices.
In addition, students should learn about governance, the functioning of America’s civic institutions, and learn to make critical decisions through critical thinking (Rogers, Bertrand, and Perez 6). Universities should help students to determine their roles in transforming communities and changing society by encouraging them to participate in the governance and political endeavors of their country.
Universities should teach students to embrace responsible citizenship and patriotism. It is important for students to develop values that make them caring, proactive, and understanding citizens who are ready to fight for their country by desisting from destructive political discourses that aim to demean the freedom and liberty that Americans enjoy.
Higher education is a critical issue that has been debate din America among experts in different fields. The main problem is the determination of the real value of university education whose demand has been on the rise in the past two decades. Universities have several roles with regard to education and society. Education is the main source of enlightenment as well as skills needed for success in personal and professional life.
In that regard, universities should develop competency and character in students, encourage research, widen knowledge bodies, equip students with professional skills, and facilitate personal development. These roles deviate from the traditional approach embraced by university education that included training and research only. The new approach encompasses the need for both personal and professional growth for a complete education.
On the other hand, university education has a key role to play in societal development. Universities should train students to be democratic, patriotic, caring, just, and respectful members of society. They should embrace broader perspective and focus on other educational aspects other than professional training and research.
Masunga, Robert. Governance Practice in English Further Education Colleges: The Purpose of Further Education Governance and the Changing Roles of Standards Committee Governors. Management in Education. 27. 4 (2013): 176-181. SAGE journals. Web.
Newman, H. John. The Idea of a University. New York: BiblioBazaar, 2009. Print.
Rogers, John, Bertrand Melanie, and Perez Wendy. Finding Common Ground in Educational Values: Influential Californians Speak on the Purpose of Public Education. Los Angeles, UCLA IDEA, 2012. Print.
Saichaie, Kem, and Morphew Christopher. What College and University Websites Reveal About the Purposes of Higher Education. The Journal of Higher Education, 8.4 (2014): 499-530. Print.
Spade, Jon. Learning in the Key of Life. New York: Bedford St. Martins.
Trainor, Audrey, and Leko Melinda. Qualitative Special Education Research: Purpose, Rigor, and Contribution. Remedial and Special Education. 35.5. 92014): 263-266. SAGE journals. Web.
Wong, Wai, and Moni Karen. Teachers’ Perceptions of and Responses to Student Evaluation of Teaching: Purposes and Uses in Clinical Education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 39.4 (2014): 397-411. Taylor Francis Online. Web.