As we swiftly transition into the information age, disruptive technologies have seeped into classrooms from preschools all the way up to university seminars and labs, altering the delivery of education, but not its importance.
When it comes to comparing the value of higher education versus its cost, measuring the ROI undermines the real value of education. There are far more important benefits, which are difficult to measure yet worthwhile.
Healthier, Broader Minds More Suited For Work
Higher education opens doors to different career paths. The earlier a student decides which path to take, the easier and cheaper it becomes to achieve. Students tend to switch between programs midway, or graduates accept jobs in different fields of study. For those planning on living and working in the Middle East, it is highly advantageous to study in the region, as these schools will have relevant regional case studies, projects and internships. With the surge of new universities and colleges opening in the U.A.E. and across the GCC, students in the Middle East have the privilege to obtain a globally-recognized education that aims to suit the Middle Eastern job market.
Institutions work on finding a balance between STEM and liberal arts education so that students get a well-rounded education that supports them in their careers. There are many universities in the region where STEM students are required to complete multiple courses in liberal arts, while at the same time ensuring that the quality of mathematics, science and technology courses guarantee that they are capable of contributing and competing with their international counterparts.
Those with a degree find it easier to enter the job market, mainly because of skills learned, such as communication. Through essays, research reports and other papers students learn how to write effectively and professionally. Through presentations, course participation and team projects they learn how to speak clearly and concisely, work with other people, manage time efficiently and meet deadlines. Skills that are invaluable in any organization.
The internet has unleashed an infinite amount of information that is often mistaken for knowledge. Although it revolutionized the delivery of information and communication globally, the downside is that students can be overwhelmed with too much information, too many opinions and not enough source credibility. This is where higher education comes into play. Practical course work provides students with multiple analysis tools to help them absorb information critically and draw rational conclusions. In this way, information is transformed into knowledge.
Higher education broadens the mind. Rather than spoon-feeding information to students and telling them what to think, colleges and universities teach them how to think. There is a direct correlation between critical analysis and making good life choices. As education enhances our reasoning and critical thinking, we make better decisions in our lives and are more active citizens.
The Nourishment Of Entrepreneurship
The digital movement has led to a surge of entrepreneurship and innovation, which has questioned the value of higher education. “Why obtain a university degree when I can create an innovative concept and start my own business?” The misconception is that you have to be born with the mind of an entrepreneur. That is simply not true.
Being an entrepreneur is not about what you know or what your skills are, it is about having one core innovative idea coupled with the intrinsic motivation to pursue it. Universities and colleges have begun offering courses and programs centered on entrepreneurship and innovation, to guide students down that path and support them in pursuing their dreams. These courses teach students to think outside the box, give them more confidence in their abilities and provide them with the skills they need to succeed.
College or university graduates, in general, also have higher levels of self-esteem. They gain that extra boost from completing a highly regarded achievement and developing acumen in their fields. The higher their learning and understanding, the more confidence they have to think and make sound decisions.
There is a price on good education, and it is high. That is why prudent financial planning is required to prepare for the day students apply to university or college. The main controversy around pursuing higher education has been the return on investment and whether college or university is necessary in building a successful career. Higher education does not always win that argument, but it does reap intangible rewards that are gained throughout a student’s experience and beyond.
Dr. Bj0rn Kjerfve is the chancellor of the American University of Sharjah.