How are we preparing young people for university?

Young people are dropping out of university before they even complete their first year. Sadly, the 2020 matric class will also suffer the same fate. 

Financial exclusion and academic workload are some of the reasons students drop out of university. But most importantly, students are inadequately prepared for higher education institutions.

Dr Jocelyn Logan-Friend, High School Design and Implementation Strategist for SPARK Schools, explains that first-year students struggle at university because they have to be responsible for their education. 

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With some students having to take this responsibility for the first time, the workload can be challenging to manage. 

So whose responsibility is it to prepare students? Is it the responsibility of the schools, universities or parents? The answer is everyone should play a role to ensure that students are ready for university. 

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As a high school that prides itself on equipping its learners with skills that will prepare them for the future, SPARK Randburg High School offers its learners real-life experiences. Furthermore, as part of Life Orientation, learners have to co-write their transition plan from high school to university. This transition plan includes career goals, a roadmap to achieving these goals. What support the learner will require from their school, peers and family. 

University of Johannesburg (UJ) Manager: Media LiasonStrategic Communications and University Relations, Herman Esterhuizen, agrees that students are inadequately ready for higher education when they leave school.

“Higher learning institutions have a moral responsibility to create an environment where all students have a reasonable chance to succeed,” says Esterhuizen.

To help address the challenges students face when they get to university, UJ established the First-Year Experience (FYE) programme to help students transition from high school to university. The initiative offers academic skills reinforcement with fellow students mentoring their peers. 

“Student tutors selected from the third-year level do well academically, are good communicators, identify with students’ needs and act as an interface between students and teaching staff,” Esterhuizen says. 

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The university also has academic advisors in university residences and approved off-campus accommodation facilities. Initiatives such as the First-Year Experience by UJ  are paramount for students to succeed at university. 

Having programmes that prepare students for university is even more important at a high school level. Before leaving high school, learners have to be equipped with skills to set them up for success. 

This includes social & emotional skills, such as accountability and resilience.

Dr Logan-Friend, explains that at SPARK High School, learners gain considerable social-emotional skills through the Character quotient course. “We’ve adjusted the high school Life Orientation curriculum to include what we call Character Quotient,” she says. 

The course helps learners develop a voice to advocate for themselves and be responsible for their actions. 

These skills build character and help learners have confidence in their abilities to overcome them when faced with an obstacle. Preparing students for university life is vital for students success; more schools and universities should play a part to ensure that students succeed. 

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