Kuwait Community

13 March 2023

How to Use Academic Education for Humanitarian Work

Post-Secondary institutions are meant to prepare us for the “real world”, however, there are many debates surrounding whether they completed this task. More specifically as a Political Science student, I am exploring whether post-secondary education is preparing students to enter the job market and the challenges that exist within our educational system. The knowledge students gain prepares us to think critically and prioritize tasks as well as gives us a wide range of knowledge which we can use to analyze human interactions. Most students enter political science because they are interested in politics and/or world relations and want to make a difference in the world and create a positive impact. While education does give us knowledge and resources, it is truly up to the student themselves to decide what they want to get out of the experience and how they want it to drive their career.

Frequently, when people think of the benefits of post-secondary education, they think about the salaries of occupations that match the certification or degree they are pursuing. However, I feel that the biggest benefit of these institutions is the skills that we are taught throughout our educational journey. For example, post-secondary education helps prepare students for the reality of a full-time job workload. Often students feel overwhelmed by the five-subject workload, which can span different areas and niches. The workload prepares us to be busy and allows us to develop skills like time management and productivity. 

These programs also prepare us to think critically about the world around us. Most programs, especially university programs, follow book-based education to teach students “book smarts”. By this, I mean that we are assigned many readings and taught to think critically about what we read as well as apply the theories we have learned in order to understand why people have done certain things. For example, many political science classes, specifically internationally-focused classes, discuss the three big theories; liberalism, realism, and economic structuralism. Using these theories, we can understand why some world leaders may have made certain decisions or understand why systems revolve around certain elements. These theories also branch into more specific sub-theories that dive deeper into politics and interactions between people. Using these theories, we enter into different fields of political science and add to he world around us whether that be politically or otherwise, as well as analyze systems and think of critical solutions. In humanitarian fields, we determine where aid is needed and apply this aid in the most efficient and impactful way possible. We do this by using our political knowledge to decide what the best course is in order to bring about long-term changes. Having a political science background gives us the tools needed to think critically about the system and discover how to work around it or with it to consistently positively impact people’s lives.

There are also downsides to the booksmart education that universities teach. We work a lot on reading texts and analyzing them with the theories learned, however, when we are thrust into real life,applying these theories often is more challenging than anticipated. In reality, having knowledge on theories is not enough in order to be successful in a full-time job. While traditional university programs lack experience, one could choose to pursue a CO-OP program to get a jump on real-life experiences and apply the knowledge they gained in their courses. Through these experiences, students can also explore what fields they’d like to work in and discover the reality of certain jobs. For example, when thinking of humanitarian work, most people think about directly interacting with vulnerable populations through hands-on work, but that doesn’t encompass all humanitarian work. The reality is that humanitarian organizations need structure and behind the scenes work  from people  with various educational backgrounds. For example, someone with a business marketing degree would be essential for a developing organization as they would need someone to run their marketing. You probably wouldn’t think that with a business degree you could end up working with an NGO or charity but it is entirely likely, and frankly, a good opportunity.

Unfortunately, not many schools offer this program, and if they do, students must adhere to grade average requirements which bars some students from accessing the program.  Gaining experience also gives you an advantage when it comes to applying for jobs as it prepares you to take on a full-time job and have a feel for what you like as well. However, this idea of experience in the workplace is not mandatory or something that is easily accessible, though I feel it should be. When applying for university, I did not feel this type of program was advertised enough by those institutions that had it accessible. If more students knew about this program, then perhaps more universities would adapt and try to implicate it within their institutions. This would give more students a leg up, as well as lowering the averages needed in order to be in these programs, which would make them more accessible to all. Overall, these institutions don’t prepare you for a real-life job unless you have the experience gained through the co-op program, and those without it are almost left to fend for themselves after graduating.

The co-op program is beneficial in many ways as through it, students develop there resume building skills and market themselves to employers. This education is delivered through an introduction to CO-OP course specifically designed for CO-OP students. Here, students learn how to apply for jobs in ways that will make them stand out to employers. For example, there is a unit within this course focused on interviews. This is meant to prepare us in order fo us to have a successful interview and hit the key points that employers see as green lights. All this knowledge is in a restricted course only for CO-OP students, but how are others getting this knowledge? The ability to navigate the job market and how to market yourself within it is essential for our careers, and I believe this knowledge should be shared in a mandatory class for all students, regardless of program. Co-op experiences give students a competitive edge, however, if all students were taught at least how to manage themselves within the job market,everyone would have better success when entering it.

In many instances, programs at various institutions have the ability to further specify within the degree program. This is included so students can have the opportunity to gain more education within the career field they might pursue in the future. This benefits students as they can tailor their education  to obtain specific jobs or enter certain career paths. Guelph has recently expanded and has presented multiple specifications within the political science program. For example, we have a specialization surrounding humanitarianism and aid/development. However, while these specifications are great opportunities, they can also limit students’ ability to take a more general range of courses. Often when researching courses, many are restricted because of certain prerequisites requires, which then limits you from taking courses in certain niches. The idea of program specialization and its accessibility is also relatively new concept and more are added as time passes. This specialization approach can help students, but can also harm them. I’d suggest that there be an ability to specify but courses are not restricted to those, not in a specification. By doing this all students can take a range of courses within their field, which gives students more time to decide what they are truly passionate about pursuing.

There are many debates surrounding whether post-secondary institutions have successfully prepared us for the “real world,” despite the fact that they are supposed to do so. Even with their shortcomings, these educational systems offer advantages beyond the expanded employment market available to graduates. The knowledge that students acquire equips them with a wide variety of knowledge that allows them to understand human interaction as well as the ability to think critically and manage their time. However, there are areas of improvement the system could make to better prepare all students for the job market and its challenges. In conclusion, while knowledge and resources are provided through education, it is ultimately up to the student to choose where they want to go in life and where this education can lead them. Education can provide the future generation with a plethora of information, however experience is what truly can set students apart and better prepare them for their future in the job market.

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