Polytechnics are paid per student, per year and the system is creating lazy students, says Annemarie van Gaal.
My youngest son is in his second year at a polytechnic. His relaxed study mode takes some getting used to. When I wake him in the morning he says: ‘I’m staying in bed for a bit. My first class isn’t until half past one.’ When he comes home moaning and groaning at six on a Thursday I tell him I would count myself lucky if I could finish at six at least one day a week.
‘Yes mum, but it’s different for you. You work and I go to school’, he says. His idleness drives me crazy. According to my son, the school bears some of the responsibility: ‘I don’t have much to do and it’s making me lazy.’
Last week I led a conference for AlliantiePartners about new ways of cooperation. The first speaker was the head of a polytechnic. His speech blew everybody away. He described a visit from a Korean delegation. The Koreans were given a tour of the building and looked at the timetables. They noticed the students had twenty scheduled classes: ‘What are they doing for the remaining twenty hours?’ they wanted to know.
‘A bit of homework, a couple of assignments’, came the answer. ‘But they can do that in the evening, can’t they?’, the Koreans asked. ‘No, the evenings are strictly for relaxing’, the baffled Koreans were told.
A course at a polytechnic takes four years. According to our speaker, each course could be finished in the space of two years on a full-time basis, with time to spare. ‘My fellow directors and even the students agree,’ he said. Wouldn’t it be great if a student could decide to do the course in two years? Think about it: a two-year head start on the jobs market, two years of paid work instead of two more years of student debt.
This possibility won’t be considered by the boards of the polytechnics. The government is giving the school a certain amount per student, per year. The longer the student stays, preferably all four interminable, unnecessary years, the more money flows into the coffers of the polytechnic. Supposing courses at a polytechnic could be done in two years and that the number of students were to remain equal, polytechnics would see their student population halved or half the polytechnics would have to close their doors.
If the government would stop paying per student, per year and start paying for every student who finishes the course, my bet is that polytechnics would soon become smaller and more efficient. They would also receive a premium for every student who finishes the course within four years. And if the government were to pay not for every student who finishes the course but per student who finds a job afterwards, the courses which many students sign up for but won’t lead to a job will disappear as well.
Annemarie van Gaal is an entrepreneur and head of AM Media. She is also a writer and television personality.
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