STUDIES are demanding throughout, but when it comes to undergraduate and graduate studies, it only gets tougher by the year. It no longer remains about acing the subjects being taught in the class; instead, it requires mastering the art of life along with studies. That is where extra-curricular activities chip in as they offer a unique set of expertise and skills to students which they can later utilise to excel in their professional lives.
There is said to be some sort of a direct relationship between students’ achievements and their participation in extra-curricular activities. Studies have revealed that students who actively take part in such activities have a chance to score slightly higher grade point averages (GPAs) and miss fewer days of academic routine. To better assess the students’ learning capacities and gauge their skills, there is a greater need to truly understand the impact that participation in extra-curricular activities has on students’ achievements.
Arranging and attending seminars, symposiums and workshops, joining reading groups and taking part in healthy debates; all these things are important for students’ grooming, and leave a long-lasting impact on their career progression.
The sole objective of an educational institution is not just to impart academic excellence, but it is more about striving to achieve overall development of a balanced personality. The activities help students harness a lot of traits like a sense of citizenship, social responsibility, qualities of leadership, teamwork, sportsman spirit, hard work, a sense of responsibility and punctuality, among a host of others.
There is a lot of learning to be had outside the classroom which is just as critical, if not more, in terms of preparing the students for life beyond the universities.
Seminars, workshops or symposiums are conducted with the objective of bringing together a group of interested students on a common platform for facilitating the exchange of ideas, views and developments related to certain pre-defined topics. Usually the workshops and seminars are organised around a particular theme which can further divide into several related topics over the course of separate sessions.
Holding such co-curricular activities is a huge investment in terms of time, commitment and hard work both on the part of students and their teachers, but hard work and dedication make this arduous journey end pleasantly in the form of learning. Such activities also encourage constructive use of time, develop confidence and help in decision-making. Students who have attended such purpose-oriented training workshops speak highly of their experiences, saying the exposure at these events had helped them gain confidence to face professionals.
Taking education beyond the confines of the classroom not only rewards the students academically, but also presents them with an opportunity to test their mettle as professionals. They interact with other students having mutual interests and have the opportunity to deliberate on a number of issues to enrich their lives.
Omer Siddiqui, a young civil engineer, said he attended quite a few workshops and seminars during his student life and it helped his intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. “Technical workshops help explore newer concepts and ideas that might not be covered during the studies or can improve existing knowledge,” said Siddiqui, who now works with a renowned construction company.
He believes that the skills and abilities of students get highlighted during workshops and seminars, and can “help in affirming the path they take towards their professional life”. He continued: “Honing their communication and managerial skills improves their overall work performance.”
Siddiqui also drew attention towards the recent ‘trend’ by certain institutions and workshop organisers of holding leadership trainings. He describes these trainings as “unimpressive”, saying “they are on a fixed pattern and very repetitive”. He added: “I don’t think much of some of these workshops and think that they are nothing but misleading, moneymaking ventures … (they) do not add much value to the students’ experiences”.
Aliza Anis, a communications student who recently graduated from a public-sector university, was of the opinion that attending workshops and seminars only helps if the audience is selected carefully, or the people who sign up for the event are actually dedicated and motivated, “otherwise it’s just a waste of time and breath”.
Oonib Azam, a journalist who covers education beat, said he himself had gained big time from academic seminars during his days at the university, and feels the same for those graduating after him. Not only attending the seminars but also being part of the organising team helped us students “learn public dealing and communication”, Azam said. “We made contacts with professionals and people working in the respective field; it was a great experience,” he added.
Experts have been of the opinion that students who actively participate in co-curricular activities are more focussed towards their academics. Involvement in extra-curricular activities results in improved attendance, student behaviour and academic performance.
Another opinion on the matter is that it may not be entirely correct the participation in co-curricular activities is the factor responsible for producing better grades, but it could be possibly the other way around that ‘good’ students participate in such activities.
Teachers and industry professionals differ in their approach towards imparting skills among students and thus it is through workshops and seminars that students get an opportunity to learn from professionals, in addition to improving their own skills and network.
Moreover, academia and educationists all need to not just rely on what happens in the classroom, but also spare focus on making such co-curricular activities more inclusive. Workshops, seminars and training symposiums should be accommodated as part of the syllabus to enhance the overall studying experience.
The administration of educational institutions should also arrange for such initiatives on their campus premises so that students can tap into the benefits of joint learning and sharing experiences. This also provides students a platform to showcase the skill and abilities they have honed inside the classroom.
Seminars and workshops are a great platform for students to exhibit good knowledge, skills and rich understanding of the things they have learned.
More than just books
EDUCATIONISTS have been of the opinion that education should be more than just books and that the teachers should encourage the learners to participate in co-curricular activities by putting emphasis on the benefits associated with such initiatives. Teachers believe that some students are reluctant in participating in such activities simply because they do not realise the benefits they stand to get out of them.
Khushbo Rafiq, lecturer at a public-sector university, said: “Holding seminars and workshops are very beneficial for students because students learn more outside the classroom”. Quoting Bloom’s taxonomy, she said applying knowledge was a higher category which comes after “remembrance and understanding”.
When asked about how much interest students take in attending workshops, she said: “Majority of students only take interest in such activities if the theme of the seminar or the workshop is attractive. These platforms allow students to gain first-hand knowledge from experts of respective fields. Exchanging work experience is a good way to learn more and eventually prepare about their professional life.”
Khushboo narrated how arranging a small workshop helped them, the teachers, understand and highlight the potential of students. “We recently conducted a workshop on photography skills. Following the workshop, the students were asked to take photographs out in the streets — a downtown locality of Karachi. Students showed great enthusiasm in the exercise and creatively applied the techniques they were taught during the workshop,” she recalled. “We were totally amazed by the quality of student’s work, as they took some really creative photos which were later sent to national and international competitions,” she added.
Humna Mehwish, who teaches at an engineering university, said workshops help student learn about real-life scenarios and challenges, and lets students find solutions to it. She said that these workshops and seminars bring out the true potential of students, like this one student who hosted an event and was praised for her skills, went on to become a public speaker.