Each time the Academy has a chance to celebrate with students who have completed their qualification, I am reminded that growth is a slow process. Plants and animals develop much faster than homo sapiens and then there is education. During our last commencement ceremony, I spoke about perseverance as a principle for life and work. Here, I look at it from the perspective of an academic institution. Perseverance is a key value any academic institution must have as education is a slow process. In fact, research has revealed that perseverance (grit) can be a more important determinant for success, than intellect. This holds true for an academic institution and its staff. Anyone that has raised a child will understand the analogy, as raising a child is an education and learning for both parties. A key component incorporated in child-rearing is the love bond between child and parent. In academic education, as a service, there is mostly just a business relationship. Having this business mindset is however not a good point of departure. Education is about learning, and this involves far more than paying a fee and getting a qualification. There are places where this is done, but the Academy is not one of them.
Rightly or wrongly we care about our students, but the process requires the institution’s staff to constantly deal with all the issues that test perseverance – criticism, failure, hostility, rejection, pressure and bureaucracy. I do not intend to share any evidence here or with anyone, but we often ask ourselves, “Is it really worth it?” and “Are the students committed to learning?” We have to deal with endless repetition of the same errors by students, all the attempts at shortcuts that lead nowhere academically and the one that never ceases to astound me; enrolling for a learning process, but not being willing to learn. And then, at the end, there is the commencement. That very happy occasion when success reigns supreme. When all the frustration, disagreements, resubmissions and failures dissipate; where the learning is replete; where success is celebrated.
Whenever, we as staff, get despondent about the education process, we simply have to look at the joy and pride on the faces of our alumni and their families. That is our joy and our reward.