Students cite the primary driver for their struggles in education as the perceived lack of relevance between life and their studies

Students desperately need to see relevance in their learning

Students cite the primary driver for their struggles in education as the perceived lack of relevance between life and their studies

Many students see no relevance between their education and the real world, and say they are struggling to find meaning in their education or find a career direction, according to a new survey from YouScience, a student engagement platform.

The paper, “Solving Education’s Relevance Gap,” is a call to action for educational institutions, businesses, families, students, and community leaders to analyze the state of student engagement and work together to shift educational approaches to better meet student’s needs.

If communities take advantage of opportunities to close the relevance gap, students can move from disengaged to motivated, with a deeper understanding of their own natural talents and their potential for fulfilling, long-term, in-demand careers, according to the paper.

Leveraging learnings from 50-plus years of scientific research and millions of anonymized student data points, the research asserts that many students struggle to find meaning or career direction from their education. This perceived lack of education relevance can quickly result in a number of undesirable outcomes, such as disengagement in high school, students dropping out, long-term underemployment, and education and workforce inequalities. Research has found that around 66 percent of students are not engaged with school.

Students cite the primary driver for their struggles in education as the perceived lack of relevance between life and their studies — because so much of what they study seems irrelevant when applied to their daily lives and professional prospects. They also don’t understand the practical applications of the material they’re learning in the real world. This is known as the ‘relevance gap.’

Reducing the relevance gap requires education and community leaders to first and foremost address the well-established question that students frequently and repeatedly grapple with: “how will this help me in my life?”

“We should expect, welcome, and embrace critical questioning and engagement from students,” said Edson Barton, Founder and CEO of YouScience. “It shows they’re paying attention, making inferences from the world around them, and applying critical-thinking skills, which are among the top attributes employers say they want from prospective employees.”

In order to close the relevance gap, YouScience argues that we must intentionally align an individual’s aptitudes to best fit their education and career opportunities. Moreover, the paper stresses how the current education dynamics negatively impact both students and employers, emphasizing the increasing “disconnect between what students and society require to thrive and what education is empowered to deliver” particularly in the current economywhere there’s a huge unmet need for employees.

The result: a two-tiered quandary. The first tier is the lack of information and a curriculum that puts students on a path to in-demand careers that match their natural talents. The second is the fact that the majority (79%) of employers believe that a candidate having the right skill set is more important than their college major and alma mater. This dichotomy is rarely communicated to students who need this kind of guidance, nor is it placed at the center of their education. As a result, many workers aren’t showing up with the right skills or knowledge, which in turn creates a challenge for employers.

“The critical question we should be asking ourselves is whether we are providing an education intertwined with aptitude-based career guidance. How can we guide students when we are unaware of their natural abilities and talents?” Barton added. “Through this paper, we want to start the conversation around the education relevance gap, and offer solutions that can help align students’ aptitudes with personally-satisfying educational and career journeys.”

To combat engagement declines, perceived educational irrelevance, lack of career paths, and opportunity disparities, YouScience offers the following recommendations:

  • Help students find their “why.”
  • Help students discover what they’re good at and match it with what they’re interested in.
  • Certify the skills students learn so they and employers know there’s a fit.

This press release originally appeared online.

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