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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 7, No. 7 July 26, 1944

Room for Reform

Room for Reform

If the present University system is accepted, whereby the only guide to intelligence is the presumed ability to pass examinations, then practices are evident in which some changes for the better are warranted. Comment here is only on the system as it is misapplied at this College, but some of the points are probably applicable to the N.Z.U. m general. No dynamic changes are advocated—the remedies are obvious in most cases, but it is considered that if students must work on the present system then a fair interpretation of it should be made by the professorial staff.

The major point is that of lectures, defined by an anonymous commentator as "a process whereby the notes of the professor become the notes of the student without passing through the brains of either." It is impossible for the student to take down notes word for word from lectures—fortunately so in some of the less edifying cases—but at present lecture times have to be spent feverishly scribbling; missing the points on which emphasis should be laid; not appreciating the substance of the remarks; wasting time on sidetracking diversions, not knowing if in the end there might be some vague connection with the subject; listening to discourses from lofty pinnacles of intelligence from which the lecturer flatteringly refuses to descend. What is the objection to the provision of printed lecture notes by reference to which the lecture as delivered could be properly appreciated, and to which any scholarly gems could be added.

As the average professorial length of service is approximately twelve years, it is a matter for wonder that in that time lecture notes have not been pruned of irrelevances, and reduced to intelligible order and cohesion. There is one thing, however, of which students simply cannot complain and that is monotony of lecturing techniques. Consolation can be found in the many varieties offered—half the syllabus in twice the detail—twice the syllabus in half the detail actually necessary for finals, according to taste. The inherent gambling tendencies of students are fostered by the provision of lectures in which the proportion of finals requirements covered varies unpredictability from year to year. For all of this students (the majority now part-timers) are given the privilege of paying suitably impressive fees.

To turn to exams. As a basis for estimating the amount of work that should be covered in a year, the syllabus has been laid down, but what relation do examinations bear to it? Papers are set on minute detail of single portions of the syllabus and on points entirely outside it. Why should not the syllabus be as binding on the examiner as on the examinee, and the exams, be a representative test of knowledge of the points set out, and not merely a proving ground for professorial preferences? As it stands at the moment one is compelled laboriously to construct a digest of previous papers to arrive at the examiners' requirements. A year's work can not be said to give an all-embracing, even elementary knowledge of any subject, and therefore if the present syllabus is too large to be covered adequately in one year, nothing would be lost by deleting any excess.

If those who have the direction of our higher education in their charge are blessed with the inestimable gift of seeing themselves as others see them, then all this is superfluous—if not, the sooner they dispel the fogs of reaction and inaction in which they are shrouded and raise themselves above the status of guides to the library, the less will students' difficulties become.