Changing schools, outside-in

Students spend about six to eight hours a day, five days a week (sometimes more) at school. These long hours are supposed to equip students with enough knowledge and skills to prepare them for future work. After school, students continue learning in tuition centers or other self-development institutes to compensate for knowledge or skills that schools do not teach.

At home, students continue learning through homework. In other words, an average student (regardless of performance level) spends about twelve to fourteen hours per day learning. High school students preparing for standardized exams may spend more than fourteen hours per day.

Society’s obsession

While learning itself is not harmful for students, the assumption behind how students learn needs to be re-visited. Long hours are required for learning because society wrongly believes that people who know more are more successful than those who know less. Secondly, society fails to acknowledge that students are humans whose capacity for learning is proportional to their qualitative experience in life. Thus, unlike a robot or machine, students’ ability to learn effectively is not only dependent on repetition of facts and/or cognitive skills, but more importantly, on meaningful repetition (which only comes as a result of connecting learning with personal experiences and reality).

The amount of knowledge acquired and the number of skills mastered have become an obsession in our society. Students are expected to learn at school and then at home. Instead of asking children, “How are you and how did school go?” parents ask, “How did you do in Math? Did you get a good grade? Are you going to work on your homework?” Students are pressured to learn at all times.

Competing outcome

Surprisingly, if adults are asked what they remember from school, the most common answers pertain to friends, fun experiences, good teachers, and other things related to human interaction. It is rare for people to talk about what they learned at school, leave alone applying their knowledge in real life. If this is the case, it is logical to think that we require students to spend countless hours in learning to pass tests for no apparent long-term gains. However, the trend continues without much hope for a significant change in the overall system.

Where does the problem lie? How do we change this scenario to reflect a genuine sensitivity toward the learning process that allows us to provide students with only relevant learning experiences?

Change agent

Society, past and present, continues to expect schools to manufacture individuals who are heavily equipped with subject knowledge but devoid of everything else important to humans (e.g. social-emotional intelligence, physical development, global citizenship, etc.). Despite numerous attempts to change how education is practiced, schools find it difficult to change because the people who make up the pillars of the system refuse to value new approaches and ideas.

Since 1960’s, literally hundreds of educational and psychological research have indicated that children learn only 10% of what is taught and that they learn through different modalities. In other words, not all children learn at the same rate and with same style. However, schools remain unchanged because parents (society) refuse to give their children an education that is different from their own. Parents figure that if the education they received made them “successful” it should work well for their children as well.

What they don’t realize is that different times require different learning. If society does not raise its expectation of student learning, schools will continue providing what they are asked to deliver. Hence the inability of schools to provide a more progressive education to students is directly linked to the unwillingness of parents (society) to relinquish their wrong ideology about the sacredness of traditional education or way of teaching/learning.

Society’s role

Schools do not and will not rise above parents’ expectations. A holistic change in education system worldwide will only be possible when parents raise their expectations of what schools should and can do as a center for learning.

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