Tuesday, January 10, 2017

70% Third Level Drop Out Rates #SnobValue

In today's Irish Times, Carl O'Brien writes that Over 70% of students drop out of certain college courses - a worrying statistic for everyone involved, not least the students themselves. O'Brien cites evidence that "Courses with non-progression rates of more than 70 per cent include computing with software development at IT Tralee; computing and games development at IT Sligo; industrial physics at DIT; and computer forensics and security at Waterford IT". These seem to be stand out figures, but no information is given about class sizes and actually how many students this represents. "70%" is a headline grabbing figure that that does not reflect the general picture - the following chart (from the Irish Times) shows rates much lower than this:

Image source: The Irish Times.

Misleading headline?

At 26%, Computer Science drop out rates in ITs are the highest - just a third of the headline grabbing "Over 70%" rate. No figures are provided for non-IT and non-University Colleges. 

It is a complex subject trying to figure out why a high rate of 26% drop out from ITs exists. I'm not from the IT sector, so I'll not try to guess why this is happening. Even a 15% rate for Computer Science in the Universities is very high - that'as almost one in six students. Commentators point to the lower points required for entry into IT courses - but I'd like to see hard evidence of this. O'Brien reports that "Senior academics" recently "expressed concern that students who are totally unsuited to higher education are being shoehorned into universities by their parents”. All this because of "snob value". Again - I'd like to see the evidence for this. My three children all went to College - to learn and get a qualification, not for "snob value". I myself went to College - no one who comes from Carnew could ever claim this was for "snob value".

There is no mention of teaching standards on O'Brien's article - perhaps he will write about this at another time. As I have written before - education is not just about learning, but is about teaching too. High drop our rates, no matter what the figure is, is not due to students alone - there are probably many factors, and we cannot rule the Colleges/ITs themselves out of the equation. It is so easy to point the finger at "snob value", or at students who are "unsuited to higher education" - let's look at the mirror too.

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