The future is in natural science education and vocational training

Article published on April 18, 2010
community published
Article published on April 18, 2010
Written by Éva Csorba; Translation: Györgyi Darida

On the evening of March 4th, 2010, Cafebabel Budapest organised a debate about the chance of fresh graduates and the value of a degree in cafe Apacuka. Our guests were Ildikó Hrubos, higher education researcher, Imre Szilárd from the Public Employment Service and Gábor Varjasi, the leader of competence development and HR in Mol Group. Together with the guests we were looking for the answer, whether the increase of the unemployed graduates might be the result of the economic crisis, or other factors take part in this.

All the guests considered that one of the most important reason – beside the economic crisis - is the increase in the number of university students. The universities let from year to year more and more graduates to the labour market, so the degree is starting to lose its value.

According to Ildikó Hrubos the Hungarian higher education system is in crisis for more than ten years. The main reason of it is that the finance of the growing number of students can not be solved. In the past, graduates had much more opportunity. Through the growing numer of university graduates the diploma is no longer a privilege: a degree is often not enough to stay competitive in the labour market; on the other hand, who missed the higher education system takes a big risk, as without a proper education has even worse chance of starting. The increase in the number of the students requires more financial resources; in addition, new pedagogical methods would be needed – the system seems to be expanded itself. The problem is mainly that we do not really know the body of knowledge, which prepares students: general or specific?; long-term or short-term? The labour market has become heterogeneous, but the education is not keeping pace with this development. However, if you want to be successful, trainings should meet labour market needs, that for graduates should not be a problem to find jobs. The Bologna system seemed to be an outbreak, but for now it is clear, that the BSc and Msc mixes in practice: the BSc also requests research, not only the theoretical MSc.

Imre Szilárd considers that the employment rate of university graduates is still very good, it is worth to be graduated, despite the fact that in 2009 – due to the crisis – the employment rate decreased to 55 percent and increased the number of unemployed graduates. Szilárd acknowledged that the Public Employment Service concentrated mainly on the mass of unskilled, while the demand for services provided to unemployed graduates is decreasing as well.

Therefore of paramount importance to good education policy. However, experiences show that education policy and thus the knowledge change through goverments, cycles, which is quite difficult to keep up. Moreover, the Hungarian education also has to deal with the increase of students and the need of modernization – besides the implementation of Bologna system. It is important to see that these processes are not Hungary – specific: similarly, Western Europe fought with it, but there it has taken place for several years – emphasized Hrubos.

According to Gábor Varjasi, the New Graduate Program at Mol Group is a good example, how theoretical training can be complemented by practical skills, so mean time both the employer and students will benefit. Mol Group works with more and more universities and faculties togehter, making it easier for graduates to find jobs. Besides, the company employees assume training activities, and Mol seriously finances certain departments, herewith creating locally the company’s future labour. Not only to help with writing the thesis, but to participate in the internship program also helps the young people, that finishing their studies do not have the question, where to go on. Not to mention that the company also benefits, if it „produces” the efficient workforce for itself – he added.

According to the guests, chemistry and electrical engineering professions are the most popular. But most of the students chose still the faculties of finance and law and they wonder if a broad labour market does not wait for them leaving the university. Although the popular professions are based on natural science education, unfortunatelly, the number of university graduates of such specialization will continue to decrease, which could result in the future that there will not be anybody to teach these subjects. But Gábor Varjasi warns, that we should take China or India as example, where a lot of money are spent on natural science education; there is already figured out that this is the basis for R&D, namely the future.

Ildikó Hrubos explains, that one of the reasons to have so many newly graduated lawyers and economists nowadays is that there was a lack of these professions at the regime change and then the number of these faculties was increased consciously due to the social need. But now there is too much of these faculties, which could indicate that that these are less expensive than medical or science faculties – which involve a lot of experimental work therefore a lot of financial resources.

The guests emphasized, one of the possible solution of way out from the crisis is to raise the vocational training up to master level. Through the development of vocational training would be available other alternative to those young people, who forced to go to higher education – not only university or college. More and more graduated engineers are going to take part in training programs -showing the importance of vocational education - to improve their skills, which was previously almost unimaginable. The promotion of vocational training among young people can decrease - long-term- the number of graduates, thereby valorizes the diploma.