From my experience as a student, to which I still am at this point in time of writing this article, I’ve come across friends, peers, and students of mine who have unique learning styles, some are very good in academics, and the latter very good in creating and crafting. Often enough, there aren’t many who would excel in both. In Malaysia, most schools are focused on academic theory-based learning, which would definitely benefit students who are suited for academic success in this environment, while those who excel in practical studies are being deemed to reach a minimum standard, without realising their full potential. Therefore, students are often differentiated with their academic standards, which only sets up students who thrive in those environments for success, without balance for the latter.
Education in Malaysia is often set up in a way where students are to absorb every lesson in class, and omit their knowledge at the end of the academic year to assess their progress in learning. This has been the traditional standard throughout history, and has proven useful for many academically skilled students. What about the rest who did not thrive in this system? Are they going to have difficulty in securing high paying jobs? It is said that “if they can’t perform academically, they won’t be successful.”
From an academic perspective, this is partially true. Being able to perform academically serves its purpose of allowing students to take on different career paths such as medicine, law, accounting, and so on. However, it offers up to certain career paths, with the rest of the career paths belonging to students who are good and talented in other areas, such as creatives and craftsmanship. These students might not necessarily excel in academics, but they shine in other areas of education, such as arts, sports, anything that can get their hands dirty to create something.
From a traditional perspective, academic qualifications are deemed to be the measurement of a student’s success. In today’s modern world, the barriers in achieving academic qualifications are lesser, which also dilutes the value of a certificate, making it lesser too. The straightforward answer is a no, as certificates are valued differently in today’s hiring trends. Research has shown that current hiring trends are changing to become more experience-based, rather than certificate-based.
In many of my classmates, our goals and interests will slowly diverge into different paths which leads us to the career of our choice. Like crossroads, these diversions are shown clearly when we are put into different classes with emphasises on focused subjects such as Science, Accounting, Economics, and so on, heading towards a different direction and destination. As we graduate, the focus becomes even more significant when we specialise into the career field that we desire, entering different colleges, working out of high school. These are fine points of how unique an individual student is, with exclusive passion and strength leads to each unique career pathways and goals, each doing their own part in contributing to the society that we live in.
It is without a doubt that academic qualifications are beneficial for anyone’s career. However, we need to recognise that not everyone will thrive in a singular educational setting, there are many other individuals that are far talented to each their own unique skills. Equally, they should be appreciated and valued in today’s society. If you are someone who is struggling in understanding theories and concepts, perhaps a better approach in practice and application will allow you to learn better, being hands-on and getting your hands dirty into applying theories to practical situations.
Whether it is at home, school or with friends and family, we are exposed to many different perspectives and experiences from very different individuals who are keen to share their stories on how they’ve gotten to where they are in their careers. Often enough, these were the pieces of advice that most will give in search of a ‘more comfortable life’ which is to “pursue a college degree or your life will be very hard.”
While these are mainstream advice, they are also half-truths. A college degree does indeed potentially lead to success in a more comfortable life, yet it does not guarantee anything. On the contrary, success is determined by the realisation of our potential and goals. With a target in mind, the fog clears up a little for us to pursue the best educational setting that sets us up for success, allowing us to learn best from systems that allow us to strive for excellence. Pursuing applied studies does not mean that you are worse off than others who pursue academic studies, when in fact, there shouldn’t be competition in the first place.
When it's all said and done, do what’s best for you. Pursuing applied education might be out of the norm, but it surely beats struggling in mainstream education systems when there could be better opportunities to enhance your already obtained skill and talent, or even getting real working experience while learning on the job. Sometimes, it's more fruitful to be in suitable education environments to produce better results, than to follow what mainstream beliefs are.