Many people have had one or more teachers who they will never forget: someone who perhaps saw their potential, awakened their thirst for knowledge and opened the door to a new world – at any level of education whatsoever.
This is why it is so deeply worrying that far too few people want to become teachers today when there is such a great need for them – particularly in the natural sciences, which lay the foundations for anyone eventually wanting to apply to KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
This information comes from the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s annual report, (in Swedish) a 222-page document which provides an outline in figures of daily life at university as well as the changes that have taken place over time, including the numbers of applications made for this understaffed profession.
The role of the teacher at university level is naturally highly significant too, and the art of providing educational stimulation to students to enable smart intellectual achievements and critical thinking is a skill to be proud of.
There is a tendency at research universities – which particularly applies to KTH – for research to be more highly valued than teaching. But as I have mentioned previously, I think that researchers at KTH should work as teachers too, and vice versa. A mix of diving deeper into your research and sharing your knowledge in an accessible way is both educational and stimulating for all parties concerned. Encountering inquiring minds that question things and challenge you to explain complicated phenomena in a new way is a fun aspect of being a teacher.
But the skills required for teaching – just like those needed for many other areas – need to be updated continuously and kept alive in order to remain relevant. This is especially true considering how our entire learning environment is being digitised and the platforms used for teaching are constantly being developed and changed, such as courses and seminars available online as MOOCs. Lifelong learning applies especially to teachers at universities.
Remaining at the forefront and developing new methods for learning helps to ensure that the quality of courses and study programmes remains high. There are many committed teachers at KTH who are constantly developing the courses and programmes to ensure that they are relevant and useful.
The fact that fewer students graduated from Swedish universities last year, and that there are still too few who take the opportunity to study abroad during their programme – these are just a couple of the phenomena emerging from all the statistics that reflect the situation Swedish universities currently find themselves in.
It is clear from the figures in the report that having a university education pays when you want to enter the labour market – particularly for those with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in engineering. At the same time, the figures show that it takes a long time to graduate from an engineering programme. Studying on a full-time basis and being committed to your studies increases the likelihood of graduating within the allotted time. Even if it’s tempting to start working before you graduate, the ability to complete what you’ve started is also something that will help you in your career.
The fact that more women continue their studies after upper-secondary school and perform better than men is another current trend that applies in most OECD countries. Among recent graduates, 64 percent were women and 36 percent men, for example.
This provides food for thought for KTH. Gender equality is, as I say, a quality issue.