There’s a growing opinion that something is wrong with our education system. We send children to school to learn and develop their skills, to encourage them to think differently and prepare them for the real world.
However, with the rise of technology over the past decade, it has changed the way we behave, work and think.
Sir Ken Robinson, a British author, speaker and international advisor on education said: “The current system of education was designed, conceived and structured for a different [industrial] age.
“If you run an education system based on standardisation and conformity that suppresses individuality, imagination and creativity don’t be surprised if that’s what it does.”
Given how much our world has changed, why hasn’t our education system changed with it?
1. The Outdated and Ineffective System
The education system was built in the 19th century during the British Empire. Schools were built on the basis that if a factory lost a worker, the next person could take over, thus making them identical.
Today, we still follow this system and in our modern world, this makes our education system flawed. The courses themselves have changed of course but the system at the core remains the same. We simply cannot teach children in the 21st century, a system which foundations were built in the 19th century.
We educate children by telling them to ‘do this, do that’ and tell them when they can or cannot leave the classroom. This follows a similar pattern to those of factory workers. Once you’ve left school, you’re told to be creative. You’re told to communicate efficiently with others and to engage in conversation so long as the work is done. Rules are rules at the end of the day but you cannot expect students to sit at their desks for 6 hours in silence and expect their communication skills to flourish upon leaving.
It’s a system based on industrial aged values and since then, the world had developed drastically. For example, technology has undoubtedly come a very long way. The evolution of smartphones is a testament of our ability to adapt to better suit our needs, however our education system is simply not following suit.
If we’re changing our technology to adapt to the 21st century, it would then be wise to change our education system with it.
2. Effective Learning Material?
You’re sitting in maths class trying to solve a problem.
“Is it tan, cos or sin?”
You eventually solve the problem. You learn. You improve. You sit the exam. You forget. Parents are finding it more and more challenging to help children with their maths homework nowadays and surely if they used it in their daily life, it wouldn’t be an issue, right? You would have thought learning about tax, bills, house deposits and budgeting would be valuable skills to learn compared to trigonometry.
What about a class where they teach you how to apply for a job, CV lessons or interview skills? Nope – today you’re calculating the length of a triangle and tomorrow we’re learning about Bob who bought 500 watermelons – thrilling!
You can always argue parents should teach these skills to their children but that would imply school doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the ‘real word’. I may not know how to pay my taxes, how to afford a house or put down a deposit, but I did know trigonometry – so that’s alright (did being past tense because I‘ve actually forgotten.)
Evidently, what students are being taught has no legitimate value in adult life. Therefore if it has no place in adult life, there is no need for it in our childhood.
How much material do you remember from your time at school?
🚨 STUDENTS & ADULTS 🚨
Do you think the maths you were/are taught at school has/will prepare you for the real world?
— Sophie (@trafotoz) April 21, 2018
3. Incomplete Understanding of Subject Material
Students have a limited time frame to achieve a certain outcome. If they don’t achieve 50% they either move onto a different subject or try again. This becomes an issue when students are barely meeting the minimum threshold and progressing to the next level, despite lack of understanding for the complete course material.
In a book called ‘The One World School House’ written by Sal Kahn from Khan Academy, he refers to this as ‘Swiss Cheese Learning’. Eventually, all the gaps in their learning catch up to them and they hit a point where the material stops making sense no matter how hard they try. Why? Because the students didn’t have time to comprehend the information given previously.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) league tables are published every three years by testing 28 million 15-year-olds from 72 countries. These examinations are designed to determine whether students can apply what they are learning in school to real life situations.
The average performance across all countries revealed 21% of students do not reach the baseline level of proficiency in science meaning they simply cannot draw on their knowledge of basic content to procedure and identify an appropriate explanation to interpret data and identify the questions being addressed.
Despite Wales having the lowest result in every subject across the U.K., Scotland dropped 13 places in Maths currently sitting at 24th place. The recent results and history of the league tables show us that these findings not only demonstrate the system is failing but the children cannot apply what they have learnt to real life scenarios, something school aims to prepare you for.
Seemingly, these 28 million students show how different they are to one another – some thrive in these environments whilst others don’t. Students are now regurgitating facts rather than learning how to apply them and why.
Simply put, just because one set of students achieves an A, does not imply the others are incompetent. It does however mean they understand and take in information differently, which is never a bad thing. If anything, it proves schools across all 72 countries are a ‘one size fits all’.
The real problem with our education system is that it tests memorization skills, not learning or intelligence. Retweet if you agree #TeacherAppreciationDay
— Joshledore (@Joshledore) May 8, 2018
4. Home vs. School
On a Loose Women panel, parents Nadia Sawalha and Stacey Solomon discussed why they had chosen to remove their kids from school in order for them to be home educated. Nadia explained: “My kids were getting really stressed and they were not happy children – they weren’t the children that I had originally sent to school.”
Stacey’s son followed a similar pattern of behavioural changes and realised her son who loved to ask questions was becoming introverted, she said: “Their personalities are not suited to school life – I do think it’s a one size fits all at school and every single child is different.
“There are certain things on the curriculum that don’t get taught that I would really love to focus on with my children – there’s a difference between growing into a different person and maturing through life and then starting not to like himself personally because of the way he’s being taught.”
Given the majority of students may not actually be suited to this way of learning, we must acknowledge this and therefore adapt our ways of learning to ensure school is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ scenario. As per the PISA league tables, this seems to be the main cause for concern.
5. Inauthentic Learning
If you think about it, exams don’t simply test how good you are at a subject, they actually rely on your memory. In order to retain information, you must first have a basic understanding of the subject material, but not always.
Students stay up all night and attend after school classes with their tutors. They’re very likely to forget most of the material after the exam, thus, creating an unhealthy culture for both students, teachers and parents alike. This is where the mental health comes in. They begin to develop anxiety and depression amongst other issues all because of a test.
It’s obvious to anyone that children and young adults are suffering because of expectations. The system is teaching children to be creative but in a certain way. They’re becoming disempowered, they’re not engaging with the teacher nor the subject and that’s when they begin struggle.
Kids these days have anxiety and depression over exams and school yet still no one questions the education system ?
— ciara (@HarringtonCiara) May 10, 2016
Unique skills and attributes need to be developed but because one student thinks differently, they’re classed as a failure. Bad memory equals low grades resulting in people not feeling good enough. When we’re upset, we’re told to try and remove ourselves from the toxic situation. It’s never okay to be upset at work every single day, yet when it comes to our education, students are told ‘it’s life’, ‘suck it up’ and ‘get on with it.’
According to a survey carried out by YouGov, 77% reported a fear of failure, with one in five saying it interferes with their daily lives. Additionally, 71% of students said that work from school, university and college was one of their main sources of stress.
There is no doubt we need regular testing to ensure what is being taught makes sense, but what we don’t need is a treadmill of testing resulting in mental health problems.
We must be able to provide an effective yet enjoyable education system – one which will teach our children skills to help them in their adult life. If this is not achieved, we mustn’t be shocked that education is now becoming more of a forced motivation rather than a natural motivation.
Our world is forever changing and with it, so must our education system.