Taking a break from the usual tech articles by myself (Matt), this post looks at the class of 2013, who, as we speak, are wading through their last exam papers to, what they're hoping, is the Blissful Big World. But is it? This excellent article by our forum mod Sulaiman (s2p786 as you might know him) is part lament, part advisory. Well worth a read. You can find his original article, as well as some other good articles, here.
Matric: That lovely period of innocent ignorance when we all felt that our successes in school would pave the way to a bright and rosy future. Well, here’s a slap in the face from reality – matric is worthless! The school system is remarkably sheltered and not-so-remarkably blind. Any university student who dares to disagree is either studying politics or lying (which is pretty much the same thing). I recall school quite well – the somewhat competitive nature with everyone after the coveted subject prizes, Dux title and bursary opportunities… and today, I look around my engineering class and the only “competition” is to determine who’s going to write the least supplementary exams. Yes, that’s right.
The very same individuals who were high-fliers back in school, averaging 80s and parading their honours blazers around like peacocks have been humbled to the extent that they’re struggling to meet the 50% pass bar. It’s not that they’re stupid, nor is it that they’re lazy. Personally, I know that I’ve had to work a million times harder since passing through the doors of tertiary education… and I can assure readers that there are those whose work ethic causes mine to pale by comparison.
So, where am I going with this? Surely I have some agenda other than just ranting about the failure of the education system at a scholastic level, right? Well, I do.
The thing is, and here I wish to address the Class of 2013 directly, school and university are worlds apart. Essentially nothing you learnt in school is relevant at college, or even if it is, you will be exposed to the matter at a far deeper and more thorough level. Maths is no longer just drawing graphs and factorising expressions, it is a quantitative means of modelling the universe into a way that we can manipulate on paper. Physics is not a formula sheet, it’s an understanding of the fundamentals governing the workings of our world. Accounting isn’t writing numbers in the correct journals and cross-referencing balance sheets, it’s detecting white collar crime and developing the economy.
In short, whatever impressions you’ve been given by the subjects you’ve done in school is, in all likelihood, false. So for all of those who have enrolled in universities and penned contracts into fields based on your “favourite subjects”, you’re in for a rough time ahead of you.
The trick is, in my opinion, to not follow your favourite subject but your passions and skills. Being ‘good’ at maths in school doesn’t mean you should be a mathematician – on the contrary, scholastic maths is more time and accuracy than anything else, which is geared towards the commerce world. By the same token, realising that you have a flair for designing programs in IT doesn’t mean you’d be best-suited to spending life behind a screen in computer science – intellectual creativity is the trademark of a good engineer.
South Africa is in a mild crisis that is rapidly growing. The skills shortage in the country is no secret, and there are ample opportunities for students to prosper in the post-matric world. Yes, it will require hard work, sacrifices, blood, tears and the occasional bout of insanity; but we can make a difference. The youth are the future; but since the system fails to guide us adequately, our potential has been stifled.
We can make a difference in this ever-shrinking world of ours.
We just need to introspect a little first, to find out how.