From the outside, it might seem like the education system is doing a fine job but what do those within that very system feel? Is our education really helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own, as renowned philosopher Noam Chomsky put it? Besides teaching the basics, is it helping create the curiosity and the confidence to help a young person grow to – and beyond - his full potential? Is it preparing children for life?
ScooNews asked the students of G D Goenka World School, Gurugram, to ponder these questions. They responded enthusiastically about the subjects they find particularly useful and interesting at school, and also topics that are unnecessary in their opinion. More hearteningly, they opened up about the skills that schools should help develop for life beyond school, and how schools could go about doing it. Weighty topics, yes, but our future adults of a new world proved more than worthy of the challenge…
Daily tasks & survival
“School is a pathway for education, one of life's essentials and a school may be the most important part of a student's life. School is the one place where students learn to express themselves and their concerns. It is a platform that helps in making an individual the person he is. We as students think of school as a way of life, something important and necessary, something that is there to always teach and guide us.
In my opinion, one of the most useful subjects in school is science. The sciences are very important as they challenge us to question the way of the world, why is the Earth round? Why do we eat food? Why do we sleep? Why is water colourless? Why does it rain? They provide the logic behind the many things in the world.
Subjects like English and foreign languages increase our communication skills which is necessary in this fast-moving modern world which also requires skills like technology.
As a student, everyone thinks that there are a few things which are just not important. I think that is no such thing as an unnecessary topic or subject. Education and learning have no limit. All subjects are somewhat important in various aspects of life. Everything is taught for a reason. All subjects provide individual skill sets that we acquire in order to excel during different times in our lives.
Even though we learn a lot, there are still some skills that are needed by every individual, which are not taught in school. I feel that schools should teach us about daily tasks like household duties including cooking and cleaning, as these are important aspects of everyone's lives and teach us not to be dependent on others. We should be taught how to survive in the worst of the times and how to make the best of what we have. Overall, we should be taught patience and acceptance.
Life beyond school can be tough and challenging. Not everything is given just like that. We must fight and survive. We must be strong, not only physically but mentally as well. We should be able to communicate and stand up for what we believe in. We have to be quick thinkers and problem solvers in this contemporary and experienced world.
Ideally, students should be able to learn how to become independent individuals who are intellectual and have all the skills needed to live life to its absolute best and schools should teach us just the skills needed.”
Need for life skills
“I particularly find Business and Economics useful as I wish to pursue a career in this field in the future. They help me understand the entrepreneurial world in depth, and I get a better understanding of what I enjoy doing and if I am suitable for this career. I find various topics in maths unnecessary as I don’t think I will ever have to use them in the real world. For example- Calculus.
I feel that schools should teach student life skills so that a student isn’t lost when he or she graduates from school and steps out in the real world. Life skills include abilities that’ll help us deal with the basic challenges of life in an efficient way. These include communication, as many students are shy and need to be motivated, making connections so that students aren’t lost because they won’t find the same environment to make friends like they do in school. We need to be taught how to be open minded and less judgemental because most of us are planning to go abroad for further studies, and we will come across people from various backgrounds. Various other life skills like self-control, focus and taking on challenges need to be taught as without taking risk nobody can move forward towards better change.
These skills can be taught to us by workshops, interactive sessions and a friendly relationship between teachers and students. That is vital in the motivation and growth of students as our teachers are our mentors and with a strong bond student will feel more comfortable and learn many different life skills our teachers already equip.”
Mandatory health management
“The literary analysis that English A Language & Literature students do in their course work helps build a meticulous understanding of the academic and non-academic material they read. IAs and EEs are miniature models that assist students in learning what research papers - a major part of higher studies would be like.
Speaking of unnecessary topics, letter writing doesn’t seem to be the most appropriate form of communication taught to students in the middle school. They must be taught email writing in today's technologically advancing world.
Mandatory classes on health management - outlining the importance of exercise, healthy diet and lifestyle, and environment sustainability - outlining the importance and ways of conserving our environment to have a flourishing eco-system, should be a part of the curriculum.
Stress management is one skill necessary for life beyond school as students may have to deal with larger amount of stress in life apart from the IB course work. Students should be taught about the best way they can regard people around them - be it a student-teacher, student-staff, student-parent or a peer relationship.
Students will best learn and adopt to these skills when taught with unconventional methods. A class having ‘discussion’ as the only mode of teaching with no examinations would keep students stress-free to concentrate better and will remain engaged in the best way.”
How to ‘adult’
“Whether or not schools prepare us, students, for the real world, is a long and hard debated topic and while both sides have valid points and this question also greatly depends on the board of school, here’s the perspective of a student:
School not only introduces to us academic learning but also encourages socialising and sports as well as activities that could turn into career pursuits. The one ‘activity’ that turned into academic learning and is now my main career option is visual arts. Visual arts gave me the capacity to express myself freely and became a method of communication minus any constraints. However, not every student is as fortunate as to pursue what they enjoy, being tied down by the monotonous - “But sports and arts is just a phase right? Don’t worry you’ll soon realise things about pursuing academics” and are stripped of their voices. And although you have subjects that allow you to communicate, calculate and introductions to business, science and the environment, the one thing I never learnt at school is what being independent and alone in foreign instances is like. Without a guardian to cook for you or maintain a budget, I’m afraid of reality, of having to go through it all alone. That is a skill I want to be taught at, at school. Not many schools include home sciences in their learning streams and even under home sciences, there is only so much we learn. In my opinion, school exposes us to a lot of aspects of life but the one aspect I’d love to be more prepared for is ‘how to adult’.”
Robotics & design technology
“I personally believe that biology, physics, computer science and mathematics are the most useful subjects in school as there are many upcoming career options related to these subjects. I find several topics related to Economics and English unnecessary as I don't plan to pursue them in the future. Topics which can catch a student's interest such as robotics and design and technology should be taught at school. Leadership, teamwork and communication skills should be developed in schools of today. These skills should be taught through practical sessions and experiences.”
Science & washing dishes
“I like and am fascinated by sciences the most because they teach us a logic behind everything and tell us that there is an answer or a solution for everything. Like do you know why does the liquid inside the thermometer go up? Is it anti-gravity or magic? Well no its simply because the mercury inside the thermometer expands to the heat and hence rises. Now I know why it's more cool inland in the day near the coast and the opposite in the night, because of conventional current of air. When I learn such things, I am in awe of the science behind such small things. I don't feel any subject is unnecessary because they have been chosen by wise adults to teach some basic life skills and I respect that. I think some household chores should be taught as an activity in our schools like washing dishes or sweeping because these are the basic life skills that we need to survive and to be independent. I believe thinking out of the box should be taught or encouraged the most because that's what makes all of us unique and special. Thinking out of the box is not a lesson to be taught, it is an activity to be done to embrace our mind's intellect.”
S. L. Aditya
Problem-solving & leadership skills
“In my opinion, only partially because schools promote competitions, there is no actual team effort because scores are a matter of pride for the students, without actually learning anything useful. Moreover, team building happens just as an exercise and not as a practice. I feel the simplest of tasks, should be given more importance. The subject that I find most useful is Global Perspectives. It gives you an insight as to what is happening in the real world, making you consider local, national and global impacts. Furthermore, it makes you realise the importance of an open-minded view. Knowledge in all facets is important, therefore I don't find any subject or topic irrelevant. The topics that should ideally be taught at school are life skills and self-help. The skills that we should be taught for life beyond school are problem-solving which could be taught by theatre acts, effective communication, probably could be taught by adventure sports, where you need to learn to work as a team. Leadership skills could be taught by making sure that each and every student is given leadership positions. Etiquette can be taught by organising a social gathering, where everybody has a role to play. Crisis management can be conducted by having drills for natural calamities and teaching basic life skills by presenting the students with hypothetical problems, so they can try and find solutions to it with the help of guides or teachers. All of these skills I feel equip the students with the knowledge and skills that they need, to be empowered individuals and responsible citizens.”
Nidhi K. R
Communication, confidence, creativity
“In the modern world today, education plays a vital role in the society. Personally, I feel subjects such as global perspective and psychology are interesting and useful at the same time. Global perspective as a subject gives students the ability to be able to empathize with others, value diverse perspectives and cultures, understand how events around the world are interconnected, and solve problems that transcend borders. I personally enjoy lessons where speakers from different walks of life are called to interact with us and talk about their journey and experiences. In a time where there are endless number of careers that you can choose I don’t think there is any subject or topic that is unnecessary. I think the most important skill that should be taught to students in a classroom is to be fearless while speaking what they feel and to be able to accept others’ perspectives that may be different from their own. Young people need to understand how to communicate, compromise and share credit so that they can be a valuable and contributing member to projects. This can be taught in school by encouraging teamwork on some projects and assignments. Thinking out of the box is a skill that is not at all easy to develop. If the school would teach us this vital life skill, it would indeed help us to come up with new and improved ways to deal with problems and situations. There should also be some stress put on things like good manners, so that the we can grow up to become responsible and level-headed adults. James Truslow Adams once said - “There are obviously two kinds of educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.”
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