ISSUE-110

Educational institutions have a responsibility to dissuade students from pursuing fields of study in which they are unlikely to succeed.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


Do educational institutions have a responsibility to dissuade students from pursuing fields of study in which they are unlikely to succeed? My answer is firmly negative because in theory the purposes of educational institutions are not to guarantee personal success and in practice it is hard to predict the likelihood of a student succeeding in a particular field.


To start with, what responsibility of educators and institutions have with regard to their students hinges on the purpose of the education. Here, the claim that students must be dissuaded from pursuing fields of study that they have little chance of succeeding in stems from the notion that personal success is the ultimate goal of education. As a result, it is logically reasonable and necessary for education institutions to encourage and discourage students from certain fields based on the chances of success.


However, I must disagree with this type of view on the meaning of education. From my point of view, the purpose of education is two-fold. For individual students the purpose is to impart them with sufficient knowledge and skills to become a qualified citizen in the society. Such necessary knowledge and skills include critical thinking, logical reasoning, compassion, and public speaking and so on. That is why universities today have classes that do not seem to be directly relevant to one’s field of study. If the sole purpose of education is to ensure personal success, students should not spend time on those irrelevant classes and may benefit much more from classes that can prepare them for their success in a given field.


On a societal level, the purpose of education again is not to create successful students, unless the educational body is a professional school. Instead, the social benefits of education are to maintain a meritocratic social order. In other words, talented and committed students will be able to stand out in the education system and can be promoted to more important positions of the society, thereby maximizing the values they can create. In this regard, education institutions are not obliged to facilitate students’ success, but rather are tasked with the responsibility to fully evaluate an individual’s potential on behalf of the society. An example of this responsibility is the use of scores for student evaluations. Those scores are designed to convey the personal competence to prospective employers and the society as a whole.


Even if we acknowledge from a theoretical perspective that the purpose of educational institutions is indeed to maximize the likelihood of personal success, in practice it may be exceedingly difficult for educators to predict whether a student is likely or not to succeed in a particular field. The first reason is that fields of study can change rapidly. New theories and technologies in and outside of a field can revolutionize the prospect of the discipline and relevant industries. Second, students can change, too. Merely based on a student’s performance on schoolwork one cannot have a comprehensive understanding of the student’s strength and weakness. Thus, the impracticality of predicting which fields students are likely to succeed makes schools free from the responsibility to guarantee personal success for its students.


Finally, the discussion above demonstrates both in theory and in practice that education institutions do not bear a responsibility to encourage or discourage students from a field of study based on the predicted likelihood of success. The goal of education is not to increase the chance of personal success, and even if it is, the practicality is another issue.

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