We’ve all been there before. We’re sitting in a class, writing notes, and listening attentively when a thought pops into our minds: “Why do I need to learn this? I’m not going to need to know this after I graduate.” For people that already know exactly what they want to do in the future, this is a fairly regular complaint. I can’t deny that there are times that I’ve felt this way about a course, where I knew I was going to forget everything I learned a week
Students will often question how a class will help them later in life.
In my experience, it seems like English has been the subject that has students wondering how it’s going to help them in the future. However, I’ve always found this notion strange; out of all the courses we study in high school, English is the only one that develops skills used on a day-to-day basis. For example, we communicate in oral and written English every day. The reality is that reading and writing are life skills that are required to have success in any field. Therefore, grade 12 University level English should be a prerequisite for entry into any university program.
Every undergraduate program, whether its Arts and Humanities or Engineering, requires writing at some point. Lab reports, long answer questions on tests, and even essays are things that are going to appear again in university. Imagine there’s a question on an exam that asks for an explanation of a concept using words. A student could understand this concept inside and out, but if they don’t have the ability to clearly express their thoughts in an organized way, the professor will not be able to understand. After all, it’s not like they can read the minds of their students. In English class, we learn and practice how to structure our writing and articulate ideas, and these abilities become even more important in post-secondary education.
As we enter the working world, our grasp on the English language becomes even more essential. First impressions are everything, from resumes to job interviews. Forty-nine percent of hiring managers say that they’ll dismiss a resume that has grammatical errors (Grasz 2005). In the workplace itself, presenting information and sharing ideas needs to be done in a clear and concise way. Whether a person is writing a scientific article or legal document, there is a standard of professionalism that must be met. Proper grammar, syntax, and a strong vocabulary are the tools needed to meet this standard. These are all things that can be developed simply by reading. For example, a study done by the Social Sciences Research Council of Canada suggests there’s a clear trend between volume of reading and vocabulary quality (Cunningham 2007). The fact that many students don’t read outside of school stresses the importance of English class, where novels are read throughout the semester.
But of course, there are more benefits from English than just improving communication. By analyzing pieces of literature, the ability to think critically is developed. In high school English, students learn to evaluate perspectives, read between the lines, understand context, and form logical conclusions. In other words, it’s a course that requires higher-order thinking skills. The level of thought and analysis required for English makes it unique from classes that emphasize memorization over anything else.
When you consider the push that schools are making to promote critical thinking skills, it’s easy to see why English is valued so highly by universities. For example, the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) has an entire section dedicated to verbal reasoning, where applicants are required to read and analyze written passages (van Hoek 2012). Since the MCAT is designed as a critical thinking test, it shows that medical schools value reading comprehension and analysis very highly – it’s weighted just as much as Biology and Chemistry!
The MCAT places a strong emphasis on verbal reasoning.
There’s a good chance everyone will forget all about the books studied in English after high school. But the skills used to analyze those books will always benefit us in the future. Throughout high school classes, we learn to communicate in a way that is both professional and clear. At the same time, we develop our ability to think outside of the box. There’s no doubt in my mind that grade 12 English completely deserves to be a prerequisite for every undergraduate program.
Cunningham, Anne. (2007). What Reading Does For the Mind.Journal of Direct Institution, 1(2), 137-49 Retrieved from http://mccleskeyms.typepad.com/files/what-reading-does-for-the-mind.pdf
van Hoek, Karen (2012) “Best Methods to Improve your MCAT Verbal Reasoning Score.” The Student Network, 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 February. 2017.
Grasz, Jennifer (2005) “Survey Reveals Top Three Fatal Resume and Cover Letter Mistakes.” CareerBuilder, 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 February. 2017.