Passing exams, not enough

National Yemen has recently been running a series of advertisements looking to recruit newly graduated students and then provide them with an extensive training program and guidelines to be able to report on the news of the day and conduct in-depth interviews. The majority respond to the ad with great enthusiasm to work in the field of journalism.

Despite their enthusiasm, most applicants are unsuitable for the position. But the glaring reality is that it seems that it is not they who are deficient, but rather, it is the system of education they received has failed to qualify them for the job market. Students study to pass their exams, teachers train them to pass, but not to critically grapply with ideas, and not to gain any professional training throughout their four years of undergraduate study.

The major interest of most is to simply get a job based on a good salary rather than having good experience and training, that they are qualified for. Personal professional development is not an ‘end in itself’ here, nor is it even a ‘means to an end’ in the case of many. People look to make some quick money with little knowledge or experience. In our case, journalism needs strong interpersonal skills, a flair for writing, a knack for research, an eye for detail, and a nose for a good story. This kind of professional constitution is hard to come by. Yet it is necessary.

Through the past several years, I have met countless Americans, Brits, Canadians, and many other nationalities who come to Yemen to study Arabic and take on part time work – mainly editing for English language newspapers. Those whom I met were an excellent example of the kind of motivated experience-seekers who eventually go on to work in all kinds of international organizations. Whether the term of their employment was long or short, they were taking courageous steps to enhance their future by gaining some serious work experience.

The message here is to call on professors and teachers at the universities to develop their curricula to teach the students to work hard and be more creative, rather than simply copying the handouts and books that they prepare for the students to pass exams. Learning by rote allows student to memerise information, but not to apply knowledge. Passing exams has no practical benefit in life and is not sufficient to provide you with a good future. Before they graduate, students should be taught how to apply for internships and do freelance work in order to develop their skills, and make them more likely to secure work.

Much to the tune of Mohammed Al-Asaadi’s article in this issue, we truly need to invest in developing people, just as much as we are investing in industry. The harsh truth is that the majority of Yemenis aren’t professionally developed, and this is something that needs some urgent, and serious, attention.