READER COMMENTS: Two here, two there model for education

Last week CMJ asked its readers to weigh in on whether the "Newfoundland model", that educates budding geologists f...


Last week CMJ asked its readers to weigh in on whether the "Newfoundland model", that educates budding geologists for two years at their local universities and then provides the final two years at a single school, would work in Ontario. Our readers thought this could be a workable solution by a count of three to one.


Here are some of their comments.


A most thoughtful letter on the "No" side was received from Gib McArthur of Victoria, BC.


"I do not think that applying the Newfoundland model to Ontario is a viable answer. It is a good idea in Newfoundland with its sparse population (about 500,000) spread out over 9,650-kilometre coastline.

"For a large province such as Ontario with at least 10 times the population, it is also a good idea to offer the first two years in numerous small local colleges, BUT, the 'big but', is that they should not just feed to a single university for the final two years. There is at least one good example of practical consolidation of geoscience departments (at the graduate level) with the close … relationship that created the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre from the earth science departments at Carleton University and UOttawa.


"Here in British Columbia there is a very well-developed two-year 'transfer' program in our many colleges that feed our three largest universities (University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University). We have at least three smaller universities plus a couple of private universities that were started by a couple of exceptional geoscientists turned academics. The education model used here in British Columbia is working well and I believe would work in Ontario," he offered.


"What is not working in British Columbia (and possibly in other provinces) is the budget cut to the BC Geological Survey resulting in the cancelation of the program to hire geoscience students for the field program this coming summer. This is sending a very negative message to students contemplating entering geosciences and mining programs. For over 100 years the BC Geological Survey … has provided valuable field training for many generations of geologists who are essential for the sustainability of the mining industry. Three or four summers of progressive field experience for a student before graduating is the de facto 'apprenticeship' to become a working geologist. It is widely recognized that the training and mentoring received while working for a geological survey is unique and cannot be matched elsewhere.


"For the past few years we have all heard the cry about how we need to train a

new generation of people to work in the mineral industry and our government resource departments. Now we are 'kicking out one of the legs of the table' with short-term thinking by cutting out hiring of student geologists. This part of the model has been broken and needs fixing," McArthur concluded.


Chris Pickles, who teaches in the Mining Department at Queen's University in Kingston, ON, added this to the discussion: "This idea has been discussed many times in the past and I think there must be a reasonable solution to the problem.


"People involved in this issue, such as professors, administrators, alumni and politicians should look past loyalty, parochialism and autonomy and do something good for the future of the discipline. If we put our combined creative energies into saving the discipline then perhaps we could come up with some pretty amazing solution. United we survive, divided we all fail," he said.


And then Pickles suggested the model proposed in Europe. "Although that system is different from ours, the basic idea is that students can spend most of their time at one university and then specialize at other universities in the upper years. Most undergraduate programs are similar in the lower years. This should reduce the need for the individual universities to cover too many topics. Maybe the students would like this," he said.


Weighing in with a "Yes" vote was Prakash Mullick: "With the deep recession and layoffs, may parents have lost their jobs and are unable to financially support their children's university education. Add to this the number of summer jobs for students have also dwindled. Furthermore, the tuition fee and other expenses have all increased in recent years.


"This [Newfoundland] model would permit the students to pursue two years of education at home without having to pay for room and board at a different location. They would also mature during the same time period and would be in a better position to decide the curriculum of their choice for further education.


"Not only Ontario, but all Canadian provinces should consider this.


"I used to live in Fort McMurray and the local Keyano College used to offer certain university courses which were transferable to one of the universities in Alberta.


"I would say it is a very good idea," Mullick concluded.


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