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Computer Science – the best plan B for any student

The STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) are believed to be the most unexploited fields of activity judging after their popularity and mass attendance. A lot of fuss has been made about these vital domains that are in true need of experts, since the technological means and programs seem to have taken over the manufacturing ones more and more. While many education experts believe that we’re facing a STEM experts crisis, other argue that this is just a myth. The main identified problem is that if the United States of America won’t push its students towards these fields it is in danger to lose competitiveness and the importance as an innovator because of its poor policymaking management.

On the one hand, STEM employees represent only 7% of the total workforce of America, as the current tendency is attending managerial boards once being over the age of 35 – so literally stop working in the domain as it is. This is the reason why STEM jobs are believed to only be effective for a period of 10, maybe 15 years long, after which the employee will most likely occupy a regulatory position in the organization or company he works for.

There has been a ranking made after some relevant constituting criteria, such as work environment, stress level and job position and the results show that, while it’s basically impossible to obtain the best ranking in any field, there are some favored positions, the first one being software engineer.

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And because the anticipations made in 2010 about the way the fields are going to evolve in the next 10 years presume that only 14% of the STEM employers will focus on science and engineering and only 2% in math, it’s vital to constantly remind to anyone who decides to follow any form of higher education that a) a double specialization is never unwelcome and b) we very often tend to ignore the importance of analytical thinking.

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And as point a) is self-explanatory for the most part (it is common sense based to presume that obtaining two certifications can help you to easily find a job), point b) needs some supplementary explanations. Architecture, humanist sciences as well as the medical field and any other domain of activity you can think of is constituted on computational thinking. It is, therefore, vital to invest in it in order to better perform in our own fields of activity. For instance, understanding causality is completely necessary for a doctor, as well as for a town planner or marketer. And the truth is, general knowledge and, globally speaking, pre-university education doesn’t stress enough on the analytical, critical thinking part. While proving a theory as being either right or wrong, some tendencies have to be analyzed, closely followed as well as some behavioral patterns have to be identified. But since we don’t work on this on a satisfactory level, even the easiest conclusions can take a lot of time for being drawn.

In conclusion, be it (or not) that STEM fields need to be occupied and a larger number of students should follow them, it’s essential to permanently encourage their attendance in these technical fields for a better critical thinking that can be exploited afterwards in the STEM domains per se or in any other activity fields. What’s being ignored during this whole debate about profitability and sustainability is sustainability and profitability themselves. Investing in a nation’s innovative processes and technologies, as well as in trend-setting actions has to be based not on pure happenings and fortunate series of hazards, but on strongly scientifically related processes that we have to encourage in every domain.

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How much does the college certificate matter? Changing paradigms

The educational paradigms inside which we’re developing educational processes on a side or another (as teachers or students) is continuously changing and so are the perceptions on it. The college fees in the United States of America alone have surpassed the immense number of $1 trillion in terms of student debt and the question to be asked is if it really is worth it, given the growing unemployment rate, especially in some sectors of activity.

education1Of course, taking successful dropouts like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as role models would be a faulty way of thinking, pretty counterproductive as well in matters of the innovation and trends that have to be anticipated in an extraordinarily accurate manner in order to be a successful person as well. This second prejudice, is, therefore, far from flawless and the only thing that remains to be done is analyzing the market tendencies as well as the educational directions that are to be followed.

Instead of just dropping college or deciding not to attend it, the future students should better be very careful when choosing what courses to follow, guided after the employing tendencies and the evolution anticipations made the year when they finish high school. Also, research has found that word to mouth strategy doesn’t really apply in this case – or at least it shouldn’t. Opting for other specialization or course just because of having one or two friends that didn’t succeed in hiring after finishing college is wrong because of the intelligence and passion differences that we tend to ignore, especially about people we care about – and such biases are not recommended either.

The highest rates of unemployment, according to a study made by Anthony Carnevale, Ban Cheah and Jeff Stroh from the Center of Education and the Work Force in 2012 is in architecture (over 13%) because of the recession that has stopped the construction and home building tendencies as well as in non-technical majors such as social sciences, law and public policy, humanities and liberal arts.

The employment rate is, however, relative and has to be cumulated with the economic predictions for the following years, in order for the choice to be truly made wittingly, in the know. For computer sciences, for instance, the things to be taken into consideration vary from the specific field of the software or hardware course that the student is going to follow to the hiring tendency that seems not to take into consideration the major of the future employee unless it’s a shootout criterion. But most of the college degrees in computer sciences don’t really qualify the student in a specific field of activity, the reason for which even though they do bring a general field knowledge input, the hiring process won’t always be taken into consideration. And this is where the problem really becomes complicated. The MOOC educational systems seems to gain terrain in the educational field and to be perceived as truly convincing courses that improve the specific knowledge of the future employee, especially if they’re cumulated with a formal educational degree.

It is, indeed, true, that over 40% of the working adults in the United States of America have now a college degree, compared to less than 7% during the ‘50s, but the past is not really what we’re looking at when we’re trying to identify the tendencies to come. Bottom line, following college just for the diploma doesn’t guarantee hiring, especially in the fields where the unemployment rate is high or growing, while the student loans have reached a new record, but when finding a specialization there are other aspects to be taken into consideration as well.

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Education, health care, professional systems and business are, nonetheless, domains in which having a formal degree is one of the most important criteria in hiring – so, for what we know, those trends also take into consideration the working field we want to be hired in – while the unemployment rate is also quite low as well, because of the continuous need of experts in the working area, regardless of the economic factors. These basic social commodities need to be developed in order to give the society grounds to develop on, so if the student decides to follow one of these study areas, there’s not so much to question.

Outperforming the BA degree is also highly important so that the employer can see that the future employee stands out and brings a critical, valuable advantage to the company or institution he or she is going to work for or collaborate with. Voluntary work, as well as supplementary courses, are of great help when trying to prove competence, interest, and implication, as well as inner motivation that doesn’t only depend on the amount of money you gain from a working (or similar to working) experience. These are the future employees that can easily be ‘dragged’ into the retention process, which is – most of the times – a win-win situation. The company gains a faithful, loyal worker and the employee has a stable job and the possibility to advance in function accordingly.

Worst combination. There are lots of students who opt for the fields with huge unemployment rates and small earnings as well, which makes it hard to be exploited down the road. Of course, the significant structural and economic shifts are to be taken into consideration as well, as are the directions that seem very hard to be predicted. On the other hand, the young adults’ work participation has decreased back to its 1972 rate, while the 2000s weren’t exactly the most fruitful period for the employment rate of the young adults, decreasing from 2000 to 2012 from 84% to 72%, a quite alarming fact.

Nonetheless, the current state of affairs in higher education isn’t clearly the perfect way to do things either. This explains the MOOCs as a necessity, a developing trend based on the young generation’s need of specific education, unlimited by social, cultural and geographic boundaries in creating and consolidating a consistent expertise based on which the hiring process should – we’re not saying it does, either – take place. This flawed mentality that you take what you pay for especially in the United States of America has turned into – pay for as much as possible for not to follow a district college but as this becomes as trend the chances to be hired after finishing a well reputable college decreases and the entire high educational perceptions is that it becomes massified and overflow.

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Critical thinking – or why we should encourage creativity in higher education

Human creativity processes are a true miracle even for the scientists in the area, since they can’t be artificially developed and represent a form of exclusive human behavior, differing at the same time from a person to another in such manner that the chance that one thousand made to speak on the same topic, say a famous painting or a band they all like, will say the approximate same things is so unlikely that’s almost impossible. Rarely can you find resemblances between two people’s opinions from that crowd of subjects made speak on the topic in cause. And why is this a highly important thing to be taken into consideration by all the representatives of higher education? Because this fact has to be connected with another extremely important one, as it follows.

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Think of the unpredictability rate concerning how world is going to look like in a dozen years. It’s not only groundless to make assumptions and presumptions, but also tedious somehow. Technology, politics, education itself are following some trends that twenty years ago were so unlikely to happen that it was almost useless for anyone to have tried to make a foresight. The capacity for innovation makes us evolve in ways that you’d think are not only implausible, but almost impossible as well.

And yet let’s take a look at the higher education today. Asia’s top universities are experiencing tremendous scientific competition, and have spectacularly evolved in the past two decades, online education and home schooling are gaining more and more terrain because of the reliability and glibness, yet the classical university framework still exists and disputes its territory on the worldwide tops.

And what does this have to do with creativity? Connecting the capacity of innovation with the improbability to anticipate the future trends and directions of evolution will take us to a multitude
of possible directions where no anticipation is necessary. Universities will, therefore, encourage creative thinking instead of just solving rigid tasks, this way helping any of these directions come true and develop into a future trend or set of concepts around which the academic activity will blossom as well.

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Classical means of teaching such as lectures can’t even attract the students the way they used to when our parents were in school. Why is that? Because of the stimuli explosion that we’re getting in contact with every day from which we have empirically learned that any impulse has to be powerful enough for us to keep focused and not only content-wise, but formally and structurally speaking as well.

Exploiting creativity at the level of college students is important, but clearly not enough. The association and free thinking has to be encouraged from primary school, because – as any other capacity, imagine the locomotory one – creativity drastically diminishes over time if it’s not frequently and constantly used. Therefore, encouraging it means giving new lines of thought to the university studies in the future as well instead of just adapting to a new trend. Making universities creative incubators is being one step forward concerning all types of research in any domain you can think of. It’s focusing on encouraging trend genesis and commencement, walking off the beaten path.

We barely acknowledge the existence of creativity in most of the fields in higher education today, while many neuroscientists have shown that favoring its manifestations of all kind is in itself a sign of well-being inside the paradigms that we’re scientifically supporting.

What to do. Three basic steps

It’s also a sign of critical thinking, as we promised to link to you. Acting critical inside an educational system supposes questioning every supposed fact in order to falsify it and give something better in return or, perhaps more than just this, moving forward with the conclusions of someone else who’s been researching in the domain before the new student generations. The value addition is not only thought provoking, but a very pragmatic consent we’ll have to unanimously admit: drawing new paths and sketching directions rather than just following the already assigned ones.

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These changes can’t, though, be made overnight, but through some policy making devised in some steps to be followed, as a guide, by the professors and class holders (regardless their function). Being open to change is the first thing to be done and formally encouraged. Creativity doesn’t just occur, it has to be determined, maintained and managed.

Challenge. Such constant tasks represent a quality mechanism that works like a slippery slope in the causal chain of task – work – performance and raises the involvement rate and the active interest of the students significantly. All the innovative solutions brought have to be further exploited in other directions in order to raise responsibility and awareness concerning the relevance index that they attribute to the projects they’re working on. A very important factor are the environmental conditions that have to be designed flexibly enough to encourage problem solving as a general thinking direction.

Another very good and already used strategy to some level in universities is organizing the traditional research team in clusters, in order to encourage communicating and to maximize the inputs. The scientific challenges would be more punctual and specific this way and the thinking processes would focus exclusively on the methods and results instead of planning and structuring the duties and tasks. Combining top-down and bottom-up thinking is a great approach combination designed to create a perspective without the possibility of ignoring important details.

Accepting failure. Encouraging rational intellectual risk taking is vital in keeping the creativity level high and the people motivated. Just as brainstorming is believed not to work in larger groups than 3-4 members because of the reluctance of having all the ideas exposed in public, raising the acceptance level of wrong assumed directions consequently attracts directly proportional creativity level and, further, a higher accountability level in all the developing projects.

Interdisciplinary connections. The occidental paradigm today follows the idea that a researcher or scientist in a certain field has to have a very specific specialization in order to maximize the in depth approach and to validly contribute to the scientific community with relevant, distinctive outcomes.

While this direction is perfectly understandable and respectable, as being believed to have brought really significant scientific conclusions under this concept, interdisciplinary connections are welcome in order to widen the connection – making processes as part of the transduction and analogy – based perspectives. This method is especially valid for the connected or complementary fields, since the comparisons may stand easier when exposed to different falsificability criticism.