"Why we need to change the Education system", by Liam Aierstock (15)

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Foróige July 15, 2013

Let me take you to a place where you have all been before; where in fact most of you spend your day to day lives. An enclosed space with nothing more than a table, chair, pen and paper and a voice. The voice usually drones on for lengthy periods of time, telling you what to do, telling you what you must know. After the voice has spoken it’s your turn, you are told to take the pen and paper and repeat exactly what the voice has just said, only in writing. When you have finished writing you leave the room behind you and move on to a new room; with new tables, chairs, pens and paper, and a new voice. This voice also drones on for lengthy periods of time but this time about something slightly different. The whole process is repeated around five or six times a day. That description may not be what a classroom looks like, but for many of us it’s what a classroom feels like. This is what we know education to be, and how education is delivered. This needs to change.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines education as ‘’the process of giving or receiving systematic information, especially at a school or university.’’ Over two hundred years ago when the need for this definition came about, it wasn’t enough to simply rub two sticks together and make fire. A new fuel was needed for this fire, and the solution man came up with to solve one of his many problems was knowledge. Back then if you had the knowledge you were worth something; regardless of whether you knew how to apply it to what you were doing. The problem they ran in to was how to give people this knowledge. The solution was education: ‘’the process of giving or receiving systematic instruction’’. These instructions told people how to read, write and do maths. People were hired to repeat these instructions, people we now know as teachers. Schools were set up and soon taught other instructions (now known as subjects), which included the likes of History, Geography and Science. Everything was going great; so eventually something was bound to go wrong.

Up until recently schools and education just kept getting better and better. They added more courses, different exams and curriculums. In recent years however education has been grinding to a halt. How do we know this? We only have to look at facts and figures. In Britain today, one in five teenagers will drop out of education at or before the age of sixteen. Eight out of ten teenagers say they find school boring, which follows a recent report by the Guardian which suggests high school dropouts could be to blame for high truancy rates. What is failing is the education system; how young people are taught. The needs of today’s young people are not being catered for; their need for an education system that recognizes their individual skills and talents is not being catered for. Their need for an education system that not only gives them knowledge but teaches them how to apply that knowledge is not being catered for. Their need for a fun and intuitive way of learning is not being catered for. Education, the very thing that was set up to cater for the needs of today’s young people, is failing to do so. Education, just like children and young people out there today, is failing.

At this point I would ask you to put yourself in a young person’s shoes and walk around in them for a while to see what it’s like. But I don’t need to do that, because you are already wearing those shoes and have been for more than a decade. You know what it’s like to be a young person; you know what it’s like to go to school five times a week; you know what it’s like to have to get up every morning for school; you know what it’s like to be under pressure from exams and coursework. You know what it’s like. Let me ask you then, do you enjoy school? Because statistically eighty percent of you don’t. Eighty percent of you, young people, are not being catered for by the education system. How to deal with this some say is relatively simple. Education doesn’t need a reform like some politicians suggest, because all they mean by a ‘reform’ is adding or taking away little things that in the long term will have no effect on you as a young person. The need for change in education is real, and real change is needed in education. We need revolutionary change, not evolutionary. Revolutionary change.

Many of you are now probably thinking ‘’Okay okay education needs to change, I get it. You’ve said it so many times all I can think about are the words change and education. But how do you plan on changing education?’’

Well I can tell you this; how I plan on changing education is not important. What is important is how we plan on changing education, together. We have three key changes to make in education. Three key things we need to change, for good. We need to be recognized. Not just as a group of adolescents, but as individuals. Each and every single young person needs to be recognized as an individual. That means not being taught in general, but being taught personally. Your skills, your talents, what you are best at. You shouldn’t be forced to make the best of something you’re not best at. If you have a talent, use it. And don’t tell me you don’t have one; because you do. The reason you may think you don’t have a talent is because of school. School and education don’t fully recognize your talent, your skill. School and education don’t fully help you develop that talent and make the most of it. Perhaps this is why truancy rates are constantly rising; you don’t get recognized based on your talent so therefore you turn to crime, because at least that way you get recognized, even if it’s in a bad way. You need to be recognized, we need to be recognized, each and every single young person needs to be recognized, and in a good way.

The second of these three key changes is how we are taught. We need reading and writing and other skills; there’s no doubt about that. What has to be changed is how these skills are taught. Not in a plain, dull and boring classroom environment but out there in the real world. The word is practicality; we need a more practical approach to education. Let me give you an example; you are sitting inside in a physics lesson learning about movement. The teacher talks about how different surfaces restrict and allow movement, and how some can cause friction like ice for example. Would you benefit from sitting inside for the rest of the lesson and doing exercises from the textbook using equations etc or would you prefer to go out into the real world and learn and feel for yourself, and then with a better practical understanding do the textbook exercises. Not only would this change how you learn, but it would completely change your approach to learning. Leaning in a fun, interesting and new environment is much more appealing than learning in the same old boring classroom day in and day out. The more appealing the subject is, the more you listen and learn as opposed to switching off after the first sentence you hear in a classroom. The word is practicality.

Now we also have to change not just how we learn, but what we learn. Schools always talk about how they are educating us to take on the real world and take on a challenge when we leave school. But let’s face it; when you leave school no one is going to challenge you to find the longest side of a triangle using Pythagoras’ theorem, or even name the different type of rock erosion that can be found along the south coast of England. The reality is that you will face much tougher challenges such as finding a job, writing an impressive CV, shopping on a tight budget, taking out a bank loan, paying a mortgage, fixing your broken down car, carrying out first aid, setting up your own business, finding somewhere to live or even just coping with the stresses and challenges of everyday life. The reality is that school doesn’t teach us those things; education doesn’t recognize our need for those skills.

Education, which was set up to cater for the needs of the worlds young people, is failing. It is failing to educate us, failing to recognize our talent, failing to teach us so we may learn, failing to teach us what we must know and failing to teach us how to apply our knowledge. In return we as young people are also failing. We are failing to use our talent, we are failing to learn, and we are failing to be educated. I believe that we as a people, young people, have the right to be educated in such a way that we may learn. How can we change this? You have the answer! How do you want to be educated? How do you want to learn? Speak up and voice your opinion, for that is something we haven’t been taught to do properly. We have not been taught to encourage, in return we have been discouraged. I am asking you now from one young person to another, to be encouraged. Encouraged to change your future.