/ #Column #Study 

Column: When is it too much?

Back in the old days, Electrical Engineering students studied a bit longer than nowadays. A way to increase the success rate of students, with lower costs, was the implementation of the Twents Onderwijs Model, TOM for short. This had a lot of influence on students. The different subjects throughout the year were woven into modules. The subjects in those modules were way more coherent and the module itself had a very structured way with a project as the climax. Instead of passing subjects and projects apart from each other, you now had to pass everything in the module to pass the module itself. Only when you pass the module, you get the study points. This had some benefits.

People would study harder as the stakes were higher as well. For example, if you passed everything except the math, you would try even harder to prevent redoing all other parts. Modules were more coherent with modules of others studies and hence collaboration between students of different disciplines; these students could then work together in projects more easily. Also different studies with the same subjects could conjunct and this reduced the costs of the lectures as well. The success rate of people getting their bachelor within three or four years did increase, with reduced costs. TOM seemed a nice solution.

However, some problems came with TOM as well. First of all, redoing a whole module when the student only failed one small part of the module decreased motivation for the passed subjects. Secondly, as the stakes were higher, people experienced more stress. This stress can be useful to get the best out of you, but it has a lot of negative side effects as well. More and more students ended up at the psychologist. Sickness, sleep deprivation and depression occurred more and more. To get an appointment at the psychologist takes weeks nowadays. With these increased mental or physical problems the ability to learn is decreased and grades get lower. With lower grades, the stress rises as you don’t want to redo everything. Consequently the student has arrived in a cycle of getting stress, getting bad grades and hence getting more stress again, which lowers the grades even more, etc. Instead of filtering people based on their skills and intelligence, people get more and more filtered based on how much work pressure and stress you can handle. The question: “Is ambition and career more important than a student’s health?” rises.

The study is getting segmented again slowly and although the work pressure maybe stays the same, it is organized better and the stress or stakes are reduced step by step. However, the TOM describes only an example of one of society’s upcoming problems. More production and efficiency, with lower costs. The work pressure on students, working people, on all people actually, keeps rising by the day because of this. Maybe the costs in dollars and euros get lower, but costs in mental and physical health are forgotten. A problem which can be tackled by creating better work environment. Or just simply hire an extra physiotherapist or psychologist. However, we are sitting in a rollercoaster of technological advancement and innovation. It goes faster than we can adapt to and at a certain moment it will be too much for us. So maybe we should stand still sometimes and ask the question: “When is it too much?” and maybe take a small step back.