At most universities, core curriculum or general education is required, whether that be two or more courses in core academic subjects. These core academics are composed of mathematics, science, history and English, which are used to provide students with a broad range of academic knowledge and aid in their individual development. However, are these courses more beneficial or detrimental to students?
Based on studies from across the region there is a gap between the necessities and burdens of general education courses. According to an article by Best Value Schools, students sometimes uncover a hidden passion for a field of study while taking general education courses.
Although this may be true, students also report that there is a repetitive nature to the core curriculum, finding that much of the information taught is similar to what they’ve previously learned in high school.
The purpose of the core curriculum at universities is supposed to be to provide students with the skills of critical thinking, writing efficiency, mathematical literacy, physical education, service learning and community engagement. However, many students perceive the program as “a collection of courses without connection, coherence or meaning.” The negative perception of these courses could possibly be connected to the fact that many students don’t actually obtain these skills.
According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a survey of employers by the Conference Board and other business associations listed writing, reading comprehension and mathematics as very important basic skills for job success.
However, few of the employers believe four-year college graduates actually have “excellent” knowledge or skills in any of these areas. Perhaps there is a lack of understanding of the motive derived from the program that is causing these skills to not be obtained, or could it be more than that?
Many schools have been working to improve their core curriculum program by developing the adoption of mission, goal and outcome statements. Some UNCG professors have recently been requiring students to take self-assessments and complete assignments based on how to develop critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills, as well as apply them within and outside of the classroom. It is through these channels of self discovery that students can often find their passions, which can possibly lead to choosing a major.
Typically, one-third of first-time college students change their major within the first three years. Major changes can be for a variety of reasons, many of which can be associated with a dissatisfaction in coursework. It can also be due to the discovery of a major which simply fits a student better. General education classes can play a massive role in helping to make this discovery.
Though students’ opinions vary on the importance of core curriculum, the basis of the program should be taken into consideration. At the same time, institutions should continue to work towards developing more authentic ways to provide a sense of importance and pride in the program to aid in student learning and the development of real-world skills.