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Going to College on 'Words to the Wise'

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Today’s we are going to school on ‘Words to the Wise.' I’m Caty Weaver. Here with me in the Learning English studio is Pete Musto. Hi Pete!

Hi Caty. So, we got a comment on an earlier Words to the Wise program from Ahmed. He wrote: “Thank you very much for your help. I would like you to talk about curriculum and tertiary education.” So, that’s why we’re going to school today.

That's right. And that’s why it's great you are here, Pete. Pete is an education reporter for Learning English. And he is quite the scholar when it comes to university education issues.

Well, that’s kind of you to say, Caty. So, I guess scholar can be our first education word to define. A scholar is a person who has studied a subject a lot and is knowledge about it as a result.

The adjectival form is scholarly. People often call research publications, scholarly journals. The Journal of American Medicine is a famous one. Experts usually write the pieces found in scholarly publications. And sometimes these experts are university professors. Now, we all know what a professor is, but there are kind of professors that confuse me. What is an adjunct professor, Pete? And, is it the same as an associate professor?

No, no, no. Adjunct mostly means part time, with no permanent tie to the college or university. The adjunct professor usually teaches just one or two classes. The teaching agreement with the school is often made individually for each course.

Oh, OK. So, an associate professor has a permanent position. These are full-time professors, and together, professors and teaching staff, make up what's called the faculty.

That's right.

So professors usually have tenure. I think that's another term we should explain, right Pete? Tenure is something professors can earn over time, right?

Oh yes. And it is important. It means permanent employment with a university. It usually provides the teacher with strong protection against dismissal. But, it's mostly common in the United States. Professors in other countries don't really have tenure.

And, of course, the word tenure is not only used for academic settings. Your tenure at a job, for example, refers to your period of service. But, when most people hear the word, they think of higher education, or what our friend Ahmed called “tertiary education.” Tertiary comes from the Latin, right -- for three or third?

That’s right. So, university is the third part of a person’s formal education. First, there is primary school, then secondary school and, finally, higher education or tertiary education.

Ahmed also used the term curriculum. Some English learners may not be familiar with that word. Curriculum is the program of study for a subject. The program of study will include many different courses.

Right. A course is a series of classes on a subject. For example if you seek a degree in psychology, your curriculum might require courses in human behavior, personality development and cognitive psychology.

So, psychology sounds like an interesting major. A major is what we call the central academic subject of your college studies. So schools usually require students to declare their major by the end of their second year.

You are able to change your major at most universities in the United States at any point. Sometimes it can be a really good idea.

Absolutely.

So, does all this tertiary education talk make you wish you were back on a college campus, Caty?

If you mean walking around a beautiful university’s grounds…sure! But I can do without the homework, tests and papers!

Yeah, I agree with you. I think I'll just stick to academic vocabulary for now. Maybe we could even do another education Words to the Wise soon.

To be sure...many more words to cover. And we’d love for our fans to keep posting messages about what subjects they’d like to hear about.

A big thanks to Ahmed!

I’m Caty Weaver.

And I’m Pete Musto.

Words in This Story

scholar - n. a person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it

adjunct - n. ​something that is joined or added to another thing but is not an essential part of it

associate - n. a member of a group or organization who is at a level that is below the highest level​

staff - n. ​a group of people who work for an organization or business​

tenure - n. ​the right to keep a job (especially the job of being a professor at a college or university) for as long as you want to have it

tertiary - adj. related to education at the college or university level

primary - adj. ​happening or coming first

familiar - adj. ​frequently seen, heard, or experienced​

curriculum - n. the courses that are taught by a school, college, etc.

course - n. ​a series of classes about a particular subject in a school​

major - n. ​the main subject studied by a college or university student​

campus - n. the area and buildings around a university, college, school, etc.

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