I have from July 2011 to June 2012 studied at USC in Australia, and has during my stay, noticed certain differences in the education system from USC to Aarhus University in Denmark. In this article I will try and highlight some of the key differences between the two education systems.
- Several Tests vs. One Exam
The system I experienced in Australia consisted in general of a mid-semester test, a possible presentation, a written report and a final examination. In Denmark a typical semester would consist of an end semester report and an oral examination.
The difference between the two systems is that the Australian keeps you focused and requires full attention from day one of the semester to achieve good grades overall, where the Danish system allows for the student to relax during the first half of the semester and still achieve good grades from hard work during the study break.
- Written vs. Oral Examination
The Australian systems does as standard not allow for oral examinations, despite a possible presentation in the beginning of the semester. In Denmark the use of oral examination is a pride and allows for the student to express in words, his or her knowledge on the subject. Both methods have its advantages and it really comes down to personal preferences. One of the aspects of the written examination is the use of multiple choice tests, which on average gives the student a probability of 25% to hit the correct answer without knowing about the subject at all. However, the oral examination as well allows for students with good communication skills to shine, where more shy students will not do as well of, despite being more knowledgeable on the subject. However, as said, it is all about person preferences.
My experience at USC was very positive and in particular in consideration to the structure and order of each subject. Prior to each semester a course outline for each subject would be published, giving the student a clear overview of the semester’s challenges and lessons. These course outlines are followed very punctual and makes it easy for every student to schedule his or her studies for the semester. This is one of the aspects that the Danish education system could learn a lot from. Allow the students to schedule his or her semester by clearly stating every single lesson, test and deadline.
- Independency vs. Supervision
USC is on a bachelor level, very much assisting the student in his or her studies, which seems a lot like a Danish high-school. Coming from a more independent system, as the Danish where the student is 100% responsible for his or hers own studies, it can seem a little too much like kindergarten. However, taking into consideration that it is common for Queenslanders to start university in the age of 17, it might be understandable. Aarhus University is on the other hand not offering much supervision what so ever and you as student are really relying on your own ability to read those books and keep your studies going. Finding a decent balance between independency and supervision might help more Danish students be more successful in their studies.
One last dot point in favour of the Australian way comes down to the possibility of forming your studies as preferable. At USC I was met by the opportunity to choose between a large range of subjects offered by the different faculties. Internationals as well as full degree students have the opportunity to form their own studies by selecting the subjects in the order they like to finish their degree. This freedom gives very unique qualities to every single student and encourages the student to work hard. Of course there is a range of subjects that are mandatory for the student to finish his or her degree, but the freedom allows for the student to do things in his or her phase. This kind of systems could be greatly adopted at Aarhus University and should be considered for the sake of educating Danish students of a challenging future.
So what is the conclusion of this little comparison of the two education systems?
The two systems deliver the same product, but do it in two unique ways. Both systems have its flaws and both systems can learn from one another. I have come to really admire the flexibility and possibilities of the Australian systems demonstrated at USC, which allowed me to do subjects that I wouldn’t usually have done. However, USC really needs to drop the multiple choice tests and allow for students to challenge the rules. In Denmark the realization that multiple choice tests just doesn’t allow for academic expression is just great.
However, Aarhus University should learn from USC and try to encourage its students to stay tuned from day one with the use of mid-semester tests or similar. Simply to keep the students in the fire and experience an overall learning process, instead of just end-semester exam reading. Furthermore, the structure and order experienced at USC are to be admired and really comes in handy for students when scheduling part-time work, travel, friends, party and of course school. I recall an American student telling me that college life in the USA is as much a personal experience as it is an academic journey. To be hones I believe the Americans are on to something here.
“University is as much about personal development, as it is about academic success.“ Keeping that in mind, why not try and design our educations systems around it.