A Culture of Learning on Campus, Not Testing
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I recently read one of Alex Usher’s blog posts about the threat to internationalization in Western universities posed by the Chinese government’s crackdown on internationalization in their curriculum and high school programs. Usher argued that to combat this, we need to start attracting Chinese students at an earlier age, and we need to put them through Canadian high schools. To do so, we would need to set up shared living accommodations and support personnel to help these students be successful.
Once again another month has come and gone. We have had a busy month at OUSA going from our General Assembly (GA) at Western, our campaign on work integrated learning, and finally our annual advocacy conference. Heading into December, Steering Committee and Home Office Staff will begin to work on our plans for second semester and how we can continue to advocate for student interests within the province of Ontario.
One of the many reasons students choose to pursue a postsecondary education is the opportunity to grow and develop intellectually. University is seen as a place to be challenged and to learn. However, many students find themselves not actually learning what they came here to study for more than the days leading up to a test or exam.
Earlier this year, the Business/Higher Education Roundtable announced the ambitious goal to ensure every student at a Canadian post-secondary institution would have access to some form of meaningful work-integrated learning (WIL) experience during their education. While WIL has been a topic of discussion throughout my undergrad, I’ve seldom taken the time to reflect on the breadth of its impact on my education, and on my future.
Ontario’s undergraduate students have been asked to shoulder the burden of rapidly rising tuition and associated costs of attending university. Tuition regulation, though still allowing tuition to increase beyond inflation, has meant that universities are looking for alternative revenue sources to meet their financial obligations. These alternative revenue sources have emerged through ancillary fees, which can appear in the following forms: student activity fees, athletic fees, housing fees, health insurance fees, transportation/parking fees, student centre fees, and other miscellaneous fees such as capital projects, access copyright, sustainability, student services, among others.
Sexual violence prevention and response is a topic that is often difficult to deal with. The stats are bleak: best estimates suggest that between 20% and 25% of young women will be sexually assaulted during their first four years of university, with the risk being especially high in the first two years; in three-quarters of incidents, the attacker is known to the survivor; and while false allegations are extremely rare, survivors and victims of sexual violence continue to be stigmatized by their experiences.
All willing and qualified students should be able to access and excel within Ontario’s post-secondary education system, yet students from rural and northern communities continue to get pushed into the periphery of the sector. A variety of factors contribute to the problems facing rural and northern students, including: a lack of mentors and/or role models with university degrees, generally lower rates of participation and persistence in universities, inadequate transportation funding, poor infrastructure around inter-regional transit, under-resourced satellite campuses and limited employment opportunities for recent graduates, to name a few. These problems perpetuate significant barriers to rural and northern Ontarians, while raising concerns about the overall effectiveness of the province’s post-secondary sector.
Many students enter university with the mindset that they need to perform well and succeed highly to make it through post-secondary education. Students want their minds to be able to consolidate all the information they memorize, just like professors say they should. Professors encourage sleep, but also suggest studying 12 hours or more each week. It is rare for students to find a way to do both, and it is often at the expense of friendship, careers, family, food, and even their mental health.
When the provincial budget was released in Ontario last winter, post-secondary made headlines: free tuition for low-income students. Student groups everywhere celebrated increased accessibility and affordability to post-secondary education for marginalized groups in the province. But another concern remains: entrance scholarships.
Attacking or defending political correctness, somehow, has become a central concern of our political and civil discourse. We see it in Canadian politics, and even more so in American politics, where Donald Trump symbolizes and spearheads a movement — groups of people — who feel disenfranchised by political correctness and see the very concept as an assault to their identity and their right to free speech.