Why I think a change is needed – #edchat 11/24/09

Picture this: a teacher walks into a classroom with 45 to 50 teenagers. The classroom is organised in orderly rows so as to make sure students do not work together. Not that it would matter, anyway. Most students haven’t got many options in life but to work for a factory, or simply doing work which requires very little creativity and critical thinking of them. These kids are being trained to listen without questioning, to simply take in what their almighty teacher tells them. They aren’t supposed to think. Instead, they’re merely supposed to copy whatever the teacher dictates and writes on the board. They’re expected to memorise lists and do well on standardised tests.

The scene above seems like something taken from Dickens’s Hard Times. Students were being prepared to work in mechanical, repetitive work industries required. A handful of them would have a chance of doing something else, but nothing exactly thrilling.

This is what schools were for. Preparing children to become adults capable of getting a job in those days. Actually, isn’t this one of the roles of schools? Preparing our youth to thrive as adults? Aren’t schools supposed to prepare children for what they are going to have to face in the real world, as well as helping them develop their full potential? I think that’s the purpose.

Now, look at the world as it is nowadays. We’re no longer in the industrial age. We live in the age of information. Our youth needs to learn how to participate in today’s world. They need to learn to collaborate. They should learn how to think critically, question. Teachers should encourage creativity, not stifle it!

Needless to say, the classroom of today is way different from the classroom you pictured in the first paragraph of this post. Is it? If it is for you, then you’re lucky. That’s not what I witness in any regular school I visit. Are we still preparing our children to work in factories? Are we still teaching them to simply take for granted what the person in charge (their teacher) has to say?

Why is a change needed? Who will start this change? How can it be done? It’s definitely hard to answer these questions, but it’s high time we started thinking about them.

6 thoughts on “Why I think a change is needed – #edchat 11/24/09

  1. Unfortunatelly.. In Brazil good Education is something for very few people. I think that there isn’t incentive for good teachers to stay in class developing their projects and new possible young talents don’t feel attracted by the low salaries payed. To make things even more difficult,schools are hiring very unexperienced teachers and the families think that education is a problem of the school. If things don’t change drasticaly ,I can’t see a good future for our educational system. The first step towards changing is empowering the teachers.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. My biggest concern is that people will not see what’s happening in time. We’re going on a down-ward spiral towards educational failure. I have been teaching students from one of the top schools in town, and even though there are many young talents there, not even one of them would like to be a teacher. Who will the teachers of the future (5 – 10 years from now) be? Frustrated professionals who couldn’t make a living elsewhere? What about the students who will them be learning from these teachers?
      But I agree with you. Empowering teachers is one way of changing things. Teachers should really be praised for what they do, financially compensated and professionally rewarded. So far, we’re stuck with the latter.

  2. This is the biggest problem with schools I think. As a student in the US I always felt that the majority of my life (my time at school) was being spent preparing us for the workforce. Is that really all our lives are about? How many schools are even interested in preparing their students to be responsible citizens, moral people, critical thinkers? How many schools are focused on knowledge accumulation rather than skills training?

    When I walk into a classroom in Turkey or when I remember a large portion of classes from my childhood this is what I remember. It is not positive. I’d love to see a shift in the focus of school systems to education for education’s sake rather than as preparation for work.

    1. I agree with what you think, Nick. That’s exactly the main problem with education these days. It seems like things are changing in all fields but education. Schools are not the ones to maintain the status quo.
      Fortunately, I guess things may change in the near future if we take into account the number of teachers who actually care about education and who are expressing their opinions online. Little by little, we are bound to promote change, to motivate other educators to join the movement.
      Education for education’s sake is what I’d love to see as well. Schools should worry about fostering autonomy, independency, creativity and critical thinking. If that’s done, we’ll see schools fulfilling their role and students living up to their potential.

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