For a long time now the main goal amongst educators seems to be to teach students how to pass an exam as oppose to actually teaching them the subject itself. With this said, the option to develop learning attributes and soft skills seems to take a back seat which I find somewhat odd. The phrase 'give a man a fish' comes to mind here as developing a keen sense of autonomy towards learning as well as things like people skills, which are highly important especially in an industry such as the games where there really is no “I”, are incredibly beneficial in the long run.
I myself have pretty poor people skills and my angle on learning has always been half-hearted. During school I was never taught how to learn but how to memorize a text so that I can throw it back up during the exam.
Although it is important to teach the subject, it's also important to teach a student how to go about learning for themselves, proactive study etc. With that said a mix of the two is always best, I mean why not? Teaching a subject but stepping back a bit to let them discover for themselves is first of all rewarding, as it makes you feel smart and secondly it's less boring. More often than not being taught is dull, it just is. Rarely will someone inject fun into it that gives a lasting impression.
For me, a good example of this is Sir Ken Robinsons talk on whether or not 'schools kill creativity'. It was funny, enlightening and filled with food for thought yet I dare say none of that would've sunk in if it wasn't funny. I've watched plenty TEDtalks and the majority I was dipping in and out because they just didn't grasp me.
Someone once said that 'while their mouths are open for laughter, you can shove in some food for thought' and I agree wholly. Who doesn’t prefer humorous lectures over the dull and monotonous ones where they just drone on. Is it the students fault then for not taking it in or the tutors? Would that then affect the students grades to which would the tutor be held responsible for that as well?
I feel it's easy to place blame for such things however as usual it's rarely one reason, but many. Nevertheless, it is the tutors responsibility to engage their students and not to blame them for being unresponsive and seemingly disinterested. Make them care, if you make them laugh then their attention is yours. Food for thought.
Seeing as it's impossible to tell the future the only thing you can do is prepare them for it, just like parents prepare their children for the big wide world that's always evolving so to do tutors prepare students for the rat race; arming them with all the knowledge and problem-solving capabilities they can take, or want to take. However by way of preparing there's no point in teaching any random part of a subject, a certain amount of guesswork would be required yet seeing as the tutor is not alone in their vocation there is often some sort of committee that decides what to teach based on both past and present requirements within industry.
“Should we simply concentrate on meeting the current demand for specific technical skills, as the government (and probably most students and employers) would prefer?” I don't see why not. Seeing as the majority prefer it this way it would be the lowest risk, and seeing how the current economy is looking, risks aren't preferable. However, maybe that dwindles possibilities for learning a subject in depth. Looking back to the initial comment about how we're often being taught how to pass an exam as oppose to actually being taught the subject as a whole, pertaining to a specific skillset seems akin to this way of teaching. Which is a shame as although companies would benefit from it the individual might not. I'd rather learn all about drawing and 3D, widening my skill set rather than focusing on one specific part and be good at it. As artists, we should relish the chance to explore new tools and then be able to apply them later down the road.
“Some game companies want highly trained graduate artists and programmers. Some claim they really prefer creative individuals with a good Liberal Arts background. They can't both be right can they?” As with most cases I'd say a mix of the two is preferable. You need creative talent to create something of value however experience is always of value. So as to that it would seem teaching students a bit of both would be beneficial; the subject must be taught, as that is why they're there however giving them opportunities to increase experience with applying what they've learnt is also of great value.
A grim example of this would be a soldier, for this example a swordsmen (applicable even now): They may train in the yard for hours each day and they may be amazing, a natural, some sort of prodigy however the day they come to an actual fight to the death they sorely lack the experience of taking someone’s life, so despite whipping their foes ass and disarming them, leaving them kneeling cut and bruised, that moments hesitation for not delivering a final blow is all the other needs to slip the dagger from it's sheath and kill them. The man with the dagger had experience with killing, the prodigy did not and so all his raw talent was useless at that moment. What I'm trying to say is that we need to be exposed to what is required of us. For game art this would be creating a level. For up till that point we had been making assets and it was pretty straight forward, nothing big here, still challenging yet when it came to making a level (of which we will be doing some day) it knocks you through a loop as to just how much more work is required and all the extra things you need to know.
Now we know, and the next time it happens we won't hesitate.