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Students should have a supportive context

By Anar Tuvshinjargal

The governments of countries such as USA, Japan, and Germany cultivate highly educated workforces, recognizing them as vital resources in their countries’ further development. They understand that knowledge gained through higher education produces enormous benefits for their economies, and they therefore pursue policies that encourage students to attend university and technical institutes. In Mongolia, however, the government’s policy seems to be to discourage students from studying beyond high school.
On the one hand, it is easy to see why the government discourages students from going to university. Every year, forty to 60 percent of university graduates join Ulaanbaatar’s unemployed class. Despite their years of study, their degrees are almost worthless. Many of those who do get jobs become salespersons and waiters. Ironically, the advertisements for such positions say “must have university degree.”
Mongolia has abundant natural mineral resources, but these are finite. When our country runs out of such resources, we will need knowledgeable, experienced Mongolian people to further develop our country. And to make the most of these resources while we still have them, and to ensure that the benefits flow to Mongolia rather than overseas, we need to have skilled Mongolians working in the mineral resources industry.
Instead of discouraging students from gaining higher education skills, the government needs to make sure the education that is provided to the students gives them the skills they need to find employment. This could require such things as making changes to the curriculum for each field of study, and providing training to lecturers to improve the teaching methods that they use.
The government also needs to find ways to make it easier for low-income students to continue their studies.
The first problem facing many university students, particularly those from the countryside, is where to live while they are studying. The universities have dormitories but there are not enough dormitories to house all the students from the countryside. This lack of housing results in many students resorting to bribing the commandants of the dormitories to get a room. Low-income students are of course the least likely to be able to afford the necessary bribes.
Students who cannot get into a dormitory live with their relatives, if they have any in Ulaanbaatar, or rent a room. But rents in the centre of Ulaanbaatar are very high and even paying rent in outer areas is expensive. So many students have to work part-time, which of course affects their studies.
Another problem affecting students’ ability to continue their studies is the cost of bus transport. A return trip from a student’s home to university (or to the library on weekends) costs at least 600 MNT. In one month (of 30 days), transport costs for each student are at least 18,000 MNT. While this may not seem a lot to some, it is a significant proportion of a student’s monthly budget. Media reports suggest that the bus fares may be increased to 800 MNT. This will put even further pressure on the ability of low-income and middle-class students to study.
The Mongolian Student Union is supposed to distribute subsidized “Bus Tickets” to all students. But the union doesn’t do its job very well. While all students register in September for their bus tickets, they don’t receive the tickets for at least one month, and sometimes not for four or five months. During this time, they must pay the full cost of transport.
In Mongolia, the Mongolian Student Union is the only organization that exists to protect student rights. And to be part of the union every student pays a fee equivalent to one percent of their tuition fee. But they see few benefits of being part of the union. The union seems to only engage in political actions, none of which seem to help low-income students.
Four years ago, the previous government decided to move all of the universities to Nalaikh. The government announced on television that they would build specially-designed student complexes, containing university buildings, dormitories, and libraries. Of course, they specified that there would be no pubs and discos in the student complexes. The project intended to address many problems facing the citizens of Ulaanbaatar, including traffic congestion and air and soil pollution. But the project was only written in black ink on white paper, it did not eventuate.
Young people are sensitive and motivated. If we together drive our aspirations in positive directions, we can create amazing changes in society, like the democratic revolution of the 1990s. But if our spirits are crushed and we drive our aspirations in negative directions, the results will be negative, too.
Our country’s development fully depends on Mongolia’s youth. We know that we cannot simply criticize everything. We know we must change things ourselves. But we need a supportive context.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=3461

Posted by on Mar 28 2013. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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