We should support all those in the Education Department who embrace the creation of associate degrees. Not only individuals but also society as a whole will benefit from the increase in learning opportunities which such programmes can create.
Unfortunately, the Education Department has yet to move in that direction, missing out on the true value of associate degrees and, as a result, possibly failing to improve present methods of learning and thus possibly wasting resources.
Associate degrees were introduced in the 1960s in the US and since they have been growing in popularity, with ever more courses being made available. Even the community colleges created for such degree programmes have been growing in size and number. An associate degree programme is successful because:
It offers everyone opportunities irrespective of age and educational background. Therefore, students who attend community college tend to be self-motivated;
Classes are smaller, so students get more attention;
Classes are held during the day and in the evenings, , allowing those with jobs to take them;
No minimum number of courses or maximum time frame is required to attain a degree;
Successfully completed courses earn credits transferable to other accredited colleges for a higher degree; and
The cost of operating and attending a community college is lower than that for a regular college or university.
An associate degree programme would be unsuccessful if it was an independent degree with no linkage to a higher degree. But as it derives its curriculum from university, its role is to create more opportunities for learning and does not weaken university or high school curricula.
The US associate degree programme runs parallel to those of universities, in that it is structured with modular units to constitute study in a particular speciality. These modular studies allow students the flexibility to change their specialities without abandoning the overlapping requirements of similar, completed modular studies.
Our universities should seriously reconsider such an open system, with modules and academic credits transferable between speciality and university. A well-run associate programme would attract students who are still in high school or who plan to attend university.
I advise the Education Department to investigate thoroughly the success of associate degree learning in the US as an example.