Paul Lachine

Misvattingen over hoger onderwijs

CAMBRIDGE – Sinds economen hebben aangetoond hoeveel universiteiten bijdragen aan economische groei, hebben politici veel aandacht voor het hoger onderwijs. Terwijl ze dat doen echter begrijpen ze de rol van universiteiten vaak verkeerd en dat op een manier die hun beleid ondermijnt.

Zo heeft president van de VS Barack Obama herhaaldelijk de nadruk gelegd op de noodzaak dat het percentage jonge Amerikanen dat een universitaire graad haalt hoger wordt. Dit is ongetwijfeld een doel dat de moeite waard is en dat kan bijdragen aan de nationale voorspoed en jonge mensen kan helpen de ‘American Dream’ te realiseren, Toch bevestigen economen die de relatie tussen onderwijs en economische groei hebben bestudeerd wat het gezond verstand al suggereert: het aantal universitaire graden is lang niet zo belangrijk als hoe goed studenten cognitieve vaardigheden ontwikkelen, zoals kritisch denken en het vermogen om problemen op te lossen.

Het onvermogen om dit te herkennen kan aanzienlijke gevolgen hebben. Terwijl landen het massaal hoger onderwijs omhelzen, stijgen de kosten om universiteiten in stand te houden dramatisch relatief tot een elite systeem. Het gegeven dat de overheid nog veel meer programma’s te ondersteunen heeft (en dat mensen geen hogere belastingen willen betalen) maakt het vinden van geld om voor deze inspanningen te betalen steeds moelijker. Universiteiten moeten daardoor proberen om te voorzien in kwalitatief goed onderwijs aan meer studenten terwijl ze zo min mogelijk geld uitgeven.

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