Last night, the Australian Federal Government announced a restructuring of university fees. It’s an attempt to attract more people to study for what the politicians believe will be the growth-jobs in the near future, as we emerge from the COVID-Crisis.
One decision they’ve made is to double the cost of a Communications Degree, as they believe communication skills won’t be in demand in the near term – go figure. I have to declare my hand here folks, as I lecture and tutor subjects in a Communications Degree, as well as a couple of other degrees. I also run a lot of training and education courses in the private sector.
My main concern about this decision is it’s lack of understanding about the average student’s ability to communicate, not to mention the typical blogger, community manager, content marketer, people publishing on LinkedIn, academics et al. They operate under one of two mistaken beliefs: “I type, therefore I can write” or “I talk, therefore I can teach“.
As I’ve written about in these pages before, The OECD International Adult Literacy Study revealed the following:
- 48.5% of people have difficulty reading basic language
- 32.7% of people have below average literacy ability
These people, who are struggling with basic language and literacy, are the people creating content for marketing purposes, among other things. It’s no wonder so much ‘content’ is completely ignored, or not understood.
And I recently read that the biggest fear of about 66% of graduates when starting a new job, is having to talk to colleagues. Our graduates fear conversations with humans – partly because they spend so much time staring at screens and texting rather than talking, they have little appetite for verbal communication.
The alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear – communication skills are an essential service in which we need to invest – now more than ever.
As Confucius said in the 5th century BC:
“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”
And Confucius was correct. Right now, our people are standing about in helpless confusion:
- People don’t know if they have a job or can get a job in the near future.
- People don’t know how long they will be supported financially by government assistance, if at all.
- People are worried they can’t afford their rent or mortgages and may end up homeless.
- Physical distancing rules are applied inconsistently.
- Schools are open for students, but universities are not.
- Borders are open/closed, while health advice is ‘spun’ for political purpose.
- The bipartisan parliamentary support has evaporated, as politicians have turned the COVID-problem into a political football.
I urge the politicians making these decisions to reconsider – after all, just look at the (lack of) communications skills of so many pollies. Reduce the cost of a Communications Degree, don’t increase the cost. We need more people who can communicate, just as much as we need more people studying nursing, psychology, agriculture, mathematics and so on.
Gotta go, I need to communicate some assignment results to my students. Maybe I’ll just email them…