One of the major concerns of the tourism industry is that there is a mismatch between graduates’ skills, acquired from higher education institutions and the skill sets needed in industry. Many of the current graduates are found to be lacking in creativity, communications skills, analytical and critical thinking, and problem-solving skills (Teo & Wong, 2000; Tan, 2000). As such, there is much need for institutions of higher education to focus on training future graduates to be more adaptable to the needs of the industry.
I personally see the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding is complex and subject to much discussion among all of those engaged in education. However, the educationalists understanding of how students learn has improved considerably in the past couple of decades. It is now established that students are most effective in acquiring knowledge when they use a range of cognitive processes, including asking questions, using knowledge and being shown principles for solving problems, and conveying understanding of complex issues to others. Effective learning goes beyond the memorisation of facts.
I believe education should be designed to effectively educate students by: ✓ Building genuine inquiry and the excitement of discovery into all my travel modules, and ✓ Giving students actual experience in the process of tourism.
In view of the fact that I keep up to date with other providers I have found that travel and tourism courses in many of the Polytechnics and the private providers to date do not do this and are instead characterized by the prevalence of passive rather than active learning, emphasis on factual knowledge without experience in the process of tourism, and a lack of relevance of course material.
Tourism and travel courses offered by private providers are habitually diluted, since they integrate the unit standards in an effort to shorten the national certificate in travel both level 3 and 4 into 9 months rather than 18 months. By reducing the time in class the provider not only fails to produce a class of literate in world issues and processes, but also fail to meet the work force needs of the community. In particular, most courses do not successfully give students the communication and teamwork skills that are desired by employers.
The travel and tourism industry needs to address both the shortcomings of how courses in tourism are taught and what skills are taught to students. We first need to broaden the goals of instruction in tourism to go beyond coverage of a certain body of content supplied by our industry-training organisation. Travel industry instruction should not only incorporate authentic client inquiry and hands on experience but also teach communication skills, teamwork, critical thinking, and lifelong learning skills.
Innovations that promote this broader perspective on student learning should be integrated into all courses in Tourism. Such innovations include decreased emphasis on fact- focused, lecture-style courses, increased emphasis on actively engaging students during class time, integration of research and research-like experiences, emphasis on improving oral and written communication skills, and working in teams to solve problems.
Field studies are vital in connecting tourism content to student’s life experiences and should involve students in questioning, data gathering, and interpretation. I have just returned from an 8 day tour of New Zealand, this tour included every form of transport learnt in class, plus all categories of accommodation from 5 star hotels to backpackers. This tour was constructed and operated entirely by the tourism students. Hands-on learning provided learning by doing thus helping the students to acquire knowledge and skills outside of books and lectures. Learning occurred through putting together the tour and consequently experiencing the tour.
As part of my pursuit in supporting...