Showing posts with label student. Show all posts
Showing posts with label student. Show all posts

Monday, September 13, 2010

The student's quest for the ideal CV

 | Carl Andrew | Comment is free |


A degree is not enough. These days, students have to do much more than study in order to make themselves employable once they graduate. They are forced into a balancing act as they juggle their time between their degree, extracurricular activities and that golden nugget of CV enhancement: work experience or internship.


From the moment they begin their degree, students now must look for the best ways to make themselves marketable. Leaving it late (I started building my CV in the second year) has made me realise just how much this put me at a disadvantage.


Joining student societies is not necessarily just a matter of personal interest or enjoyment. Serving as president of the Fifa Appreciation Society, the Free Hugs Society (does pretty much what it says on the tin) or the Comic Books Society is not going to look very impressive on your CV. Employers are far more likely to look for students who have instead been president of their university's politics, history or debating society.


This can also be harmful for the societies when students join them, or seek positions within them, purely to boost their employability. Last year, I turned away a student from the Just Vote campaign I was organising (to encourage voting in the general election) when he mentioned that his CV was the only reason he was planning to come on board. Hypocritical though this may seem, it made me realise he would not put in the full effort this position needed and was purely applying for personal ambition.


The same can be said of the unpaid work experience that I and many of my friends undertook during the summer. This was not wholly for my CV, but also partly to help me decide which career I wanted to follow.


It is true that the bigger the name of the company where you do work experience the better it looks on your CV. But that does not necessarily mean you will gain any useful experience with a big-name organisation.


A friend of mine dropped out of a placement with a well-known NGO after one week due to the lack of experience she was getting, and the way she was treated as the office slave. She argued that making coffee, photocopying articles and filing offered no real benefit for her – though her friends thought she was foolish to give up this opportunity.


At a recent careers event, I listened to other students talk of how they spent every available week during the university holidays in placements at different companies, constantly attempting to enhance their CV and chasing that improbable goal of getting a job guaranteed before finishing their degree.


It disheartened me, and scared me, as I realised that I would never be able to replicate the number of work experience placements they had managed.


The pressures on students to make themselves the perfect job candidates are huge, and they are forced to look for new and creative ways to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Interning in another country is one such example, such as the intern scheme for UK students at the US Congress. The scheme is unpaid and a very costly; and students have to fund their own time there, so, as with many similar opportunities, it is purely for those who have the money. But for those who can afford it, the career benefits probably outweigh the costs.


University is becoming less a time for lazing around and more about building up experiences and creating connections. With more applicants to university each year, and fewer jobs, it looks as if the task is getting even more difficult for students as the expectations become higher.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

an immigrant Chinese father accused of trying to bribe a teacher to give his son a favourable assessment for selective school entry

Asian values are no bad thing in the classroom - Opinion -
Given the shape of Australia's education system, it is hardly surprising to find an immigrant Chinese father accused of trying to bribe a teacher to give his son a favourable assessment for selective school entry.

The father, Quinghua Pei, has correctly read the landscape: a fine education is the key to upward mobility, and one of the greatest gifts a parent can bestow.

After decades in which governments have overendowed private schools, underfunded comprehensive schools and elevated parental choice to a mantra, it is little wonder allegations of cheating have come to light. Denied any real choice, some parents are desperate enough to try anything to secure their child the best education.

Parents with $20,000 a year to spare have the choice of buying their children an elite education at a private school in the belief it is the best. Well-off parents have been able to buy their child entrance to university should he or she have missed out on a HECS place, to the exclusion of poorer students with higher scores. In effect, that is like buying them a higher UAI - not a million miles off Quinghua Pei's action in trying to buy his son a better assessment ranking. Private school fees are legal, and so, too, university fees that allow people to jump the queue. But slipping teachers money to try to secure preferential treatment is not allowed.

Poorer parents who set a premium on a first-class education pin all their hopes on the selective school. It is widely believed - and backed by HSC results - that comprehensive high schools are second-best academically. It was not always the case. The more money that flowed to private schools, especially under the Howard government, in the name of "parental choice", the less there was to lift the standards and profile of the comprehensive schools and to maintain a critical middle-class student mass.

What we have now is frenetic competition for places in selective high schools. The selective high school is for many parents the light on the hill. It is no secret Asian parents, particularly those from Chinese background, put a high premium on selective schools. There is much debate as to why Chinese - and Jewish - parents rate education so highly. Is it genetic? Cultural? Is it that both ethnic groups come from long traditions of literacy and scholarship that have survived to this day? In the case of parents from Singapore and Korea, is it that they themselves have been beneficiaries of first-rate education systems? Whatever the reason, Australia can be thankful so many Asian parents, including economically disadvantaged ones, put such store on intellectual attainment. It is their children who will help turn Australia into a clever country, and not just in commerce, science and medicine, but in revitalising the culture.

Recently, for example, Nam Le, a young Vietnamese-Australian short story writer, won a prestigious international prize for his first book.

In contrast to Asian parents, too many parents from Anglo or other cultural backgrounds from poor backgrounds have a lackadaisical attitude to their children's schooling. Many are actively hostile to school, or simply lack the interest or skills to help. Their children, even if bright, may not get to sit the selective schools test because their parents did not bother to fill out the form.

We live in a country in which sport is king, and in which clever children often hide their talents to survive in the playground. The big problem in Australia is not the pushy parent. It is that too few parents from poorer neighbourhoods understand the power of education to transform their children's lives.

In the race for a selective school place, Asian parents are derided for embracing coaching colleges and for not letting their children "be children". These parents are not fooled by the blandishments of education department officials who insist coaching makes no difference to the results. Practice and hard work always make a difference. And the hard work is evident in the domination of top selective schools by students from Asian backgrounds. It is no mystery; the success of these students is not to be sneered at but to be applauded.

The reverence for education and success can go too far; the pressures on some children are too great. Some children are terrified of letting their parents down and of losing their love, and of parents "losing face". In the biography of Lang Lang, the acclaimed Chinese concert pianist, his father's single-minded dedication to the son's success emerges as terrifying. Then again, Lang Lang triumphed in an arena where most fail. He was robbed of a childhood - but so, too, are many Australian child swimming proteges who ply the pool for years in pursuit of future Olympic glory. Many Australians have no qualms about the sports stars' lost childhoods but are deeply suspicious and disapproving of the effort so many Asian children put into their studies.

In his apparent effort to secure his child the best possible education, Quinghua Pei went too far. He grasped the fundamentals of the education system - that it is divided into well-regarded private schools for the well-off, low-status comprehensives, and intellectually oriented selectives.

But in a system in which money usually can buy special treatment, a place in a selective school is still the one thing money can't buy.