Thursday, January 29, 2009

Teaching life skills at Uni ? - VS Uni of Life 101

PS: dear Dr CM

a brief Postscript re the PhD grad survey which I just completed.

there was in the survey an unspoken assumption that a PHD should include training in social skills, leadership, and even more general life skills.

It may be useful to include a question of
a) whether such skills SHOULD be included, or can be expected to be included in a PhD programme (or any University programme for that matter)
b) what if anything should be included.

Everyone on the planet is enrolled in the University of Life, 101, or 201, etc...
some skills that are packaged and thrust upon educational institutions to teach rightly belong PRIMARILY with Life101.
Sure Universities can foster those skills, and support them, but the key responsibility still rests with the individual.

Personally I didn't expect my PhD to teach me leadership, - I could as part of being in life per se, have used my PhD to teach me those leadership skills, but I chose not to, I had other priorities and I focused on those.
Most importantly however I did NOT EXPECT this from a Phd. I simply expected good supervision, guidance and support to carry out my research - this I certainly obtained and have no complaints.
"Any hand's a winner and any hand's a loser, ...." there is an onus on each individual to make the best of things and assume their individual responsibility.

Having said this: the old saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" applies in my own experience to PG study just as much: I was fortunate to do my study in a research environment surrounded by more than 100 PG students, many of whom were like myself keeping odd hours and interacting socially and informally in ONE physical location. This kind of milleu is excellent and develops its own momentum in an organic natural way.

In contrast I teach and supervise in a primarily teaching University, where PG students are physically strewn all over the place, supervisors are torn between mountains of admin and teaching work. There is no critical mass amongst the PG students even though the actual numbers are quite high (approx 100 for a school of 800 UG students).

Come to think of it: I did go on a 'leadership course' in my PG days. It felt 'tacked on' - a kind of holiday camp for geeks.
I far preferred the jungle principle approach to PG study: provide good soil, a variety of plants and let it all grow.
I was fortunate to complete my PhD in a rich academic setting, where good supervision, solid research and was coupled with a hands off approach.
After all the curriculum in the University of life never stops, and organizing my time, coping with life's ups and downs, seizing opportunities in any situation are MY responsibility.

that's my two bob's worth.

- picture totally unrelated to anything :-) other than it was handy from a recent trip to Egypt

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