God's Word for today

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Theories of higher education

Well, I'm back! I've had a couple of weeks of enforced blogging inactivity imposed by me switching over from hosting the blog myself to having it hosted on Blogger but still with my own domain name. Don't ask me how the technical gobbledegook works - all I know is that Blogger no longer supports FTP, my service provider had to do some tweaks on their side, and it's costing me an extra 150 bucks per annum to be able to continue venting my spleen in cyberspace.

Speaking of which, let me get onto the topic of today's post.

I've been giving some thoughts about how higher education REALLY works. For instance, when I studied BCom at the old Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) in 1987, I soon came to realise that the criteria for obtaining a degree was a combination of finding your way through the labyrinth that is a university campus to be able to get to all your lectures, schmoozing money from your bank manager / parents / pimp to pay the fees, and the ability to survive three Rag weeks without dying of alcohol poisoning. Somehow, in between all of that, you had to actually do some studying to complete thirteen subjects - five in the first year, four in the second, and four in the third.

My RAU tenure was unfortunately cut short after six months. It wasn't the alcohol poisoning (I don't drink), nor was it anything to do with being directionally challenged - we simply ran out of dosh, which meant that I had to go and get a job. Still, the "yearning for learning" remained undiminished, but now that I had joined the ranks of the working stiffs, the only feasible option open to me was correspondence study through the University of South Africa (UNISA). Being a distance learning institution, UNISA allows you to prtty much set your own pace, completing as few (or as many) subjects per year as your schedule will allow.

Eight years and an Honours degree later, I cried "enough" and said goodbye to UNISA. Three years later the studying bug bit again - this time back at RAU to do my Masters. It was a coursework Masters, which meant weekly evening lectures plus a number of mini-dissertations. And I loved it! Even though the second year coincided with me being nominated to do a management development programme through the University of Manchester Business School, I managed to get to the end of it without having a nervous breakdown or getting divorced.

Fast forward to 2006, when God called me to full-time ministry. This meant hitting the books again - this time at the Theological Education by Extension College (TEEC). For three years I was studying by correspondence again, and because the bulk of the evaluation is through assignments, I felt like it was as though I was doing Masters all over again. Since I enjoy research projects, this was a good thing!

But now I'm at the Seth Mokitime Methodist Seminary (SMMS), and it's a whole different ballgame. Having converted my TEEC credits to complete the BTh on the SMMS programme, and since we are now studying full-time, I expected this to be pretty plain sailing!

Except that (unbeknown to me) there seems to be too many candidates for the ministry at the moment. That's the only explanation that I can think of for the culling process that is being attempted. For we are not students, we are seminarians, which means that we are being formed, not just educated. I'm not quite sure what "formed" fully entails, but having 10 (yes, ten!) subjects this semester is proving to be a strain. Our periods are 45 minutes each with a 10-minute break in between, which means that, with the exception of Mondays and Tuesdays, if I need to take a dump during the day I need to request a dispensation note!

Add in the various chapel services, discipleship groups, seminary duties, and umpteen assignments, and chances are looking good that my 40-year-old body is not looking good to get to 41!

I guess that all of this is part of the process. But right now, I'm really taking major strain...


Jenny Hillebrand said...

I feel for you Steven. Keep being strong.

Anonymous said...

Ecclesia de Lange has now been fired by the Methodist church simply for getting married. There is no nice way to put this. What are your views?