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  • Writer's pictureolivershearman

Student advice: Changing traditional education

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Hi my name is Oliver and I am lucky enough to work in a non-traditional school which operates mostly online and is an excellent alternative to the traditional education system.

The school I work for is known as School Beyond Limitations (SBL) and while european-based, it is an international online school. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and locations, but have all had time in the traditional education system before they came to us. Having had experience in our holistic alternative offering and the traditional education system, I asked them the following question.

What would you change about the traditional education system?

This was a real hook to get students talking to me about their opinions and ideas for what would they change about the traditional educational system?

Nearly everything was the first comment and this comment came from several different students with a variety of ages. Through this lens of the anonymous google form a mixture of students of different ages gave their opinions providing a variety of ideas for improvements. The pupils provided a variety of items that they see as issues and suggestions for improvement. I have tried to stay as close to the source material from them with only small grammatical tweaks to improve readability, otherwise the words are all theirs. Some great quotes really highlight the lack of progress and creativity in modern education systems in most regions in traditional schools which make up the bulk of the global learning mechanisms.

90% - 80% of what you learn in school now is useless now in modern life. You don’t need most of what you learn in school.

Students pointed out that education hasn’t changed in 150 years and everything else has done so. Phones, cars etc. all have shifted massively, but a classroom remains the same.

The respondents did not fully sync up in their opinions on all matters. Some students suggested that there is too much pressure to choose subjects and career projection early on in their school journey. While others disagreed and proposed that students could use more choice and earlier on that they could focus on subjects of interest earlier during their schooling journey. This indicates that what would work for some students would not work for others. However, the option for choice could indeed be given earlier or to a small degree with increasing freedom to be more selective as their schooling progresses.

Students can recognize that the current school system is mostly aimed to push them into university subjects and studies and one of the students asked:

Who are the factory workers and ‘lower-economic people’ going to be if education is training them to be the elite?

They raise an excellent point and highlight the common missing attractive options of trade school or more practical training leading more directly to career opportunities that do not require further studies. Following these issues, what improvements do the young people of SBL suggest for the traditional education system? There is a real mix of responses and they cover a variety of topics.

Their ideas for improvements are:

  • Bringing in child psychologists to help change the approach to education and fully rework the educational system [from the ground upwards].

  • Probably work in something about club time such as class of choice such as sports for younger students, business for older students, the class would not be for any grades, but would be of interest to the students. Moving the clubs into the allocated class / school-time would be a possible improvement.

  • Maybe teach every subject everyday for shorter periods of time. So that students get constant exposure to all subjects. The ‘harder subjects’ would continue keeping longer duration and shorter blocks rather than a single longer block. Maybe the teachers could rotate rather than the students needing to rotate all the time.

  • I would change the timetable to 9 - 12 and afternoon to 2 - 4 so students have a break in between, and can also choose if they want to go to a programme while the break is on. I would also make the school design more friendly with more trees, plants and wood. More practical workshops would be added, and teachers will go through a coaching programme, to learn how to understand the students and make the lessons fun.

  • Eliminate mobile devices for classes 10 and under. They are so incredibly distracting that students should not have the temptation to look at them. They could be removed at the beginning of the school day and returned at the end.

  • One of our younger students proposed more variety of activities, more fun and less students in each class (reduced class size).

  • Traditional schools should not be obligatory, so that everyone can study in the way that is best for them.

  • School shouldn't start earlier than 9:00 am.

  • School must be based on every student individually and therefore classes should be smaller and every student should be encouraged to work more individually, so that the teacher's job is simply to support instead of guide.

  • The teacher-student relationship must be based on honest respect instead of the idea of a hierarchy.

  • Students should always be presented with some kinds of choices in their learning and their daily schedule.

Taking the above items may seem to be all blue-sky thinking; however students are realistic enough about the likely chances of systematic change coming anytime soon. One student expressed that they are not confident that there is [not] enough money, will-power or societal pressure to scale up to change the education system to suit students. Another believes that the system will never change because of capitalism, it automatically gears the system to give education to those that have money and are of a higher social tier.

It seems to me that our students have quite a grasp of many of the items that I myself a seasoned educator would propose changing in the coming years and decades. Of particular note to be reiterated is that a student would suggest reframing the educational system by bringing in child psychologists and using their insights to inform a new form of educational system. It is not a particularly new idea, but a gloriously self-aware suggestion from a student in their teenage years. A couple of other items that really stood out to me from the above were the changing of times and need for less time in school, later start times or more breaks so that school can better suit students' learning needs and what their requirements are. Finally from the above, one student believes that “eliminat[ing[ mobile devices for classes 10 and under” would be of benefit to education. The fact that this pupil understood the damage these devices can cause, breaks in concentration and constant temptation to check, look and respond to others was just sensational to hear and appreciate from their response.

It is my strong belief that many of the above changes could and would be for the greater good and here at SBL, we are already doing a number of these changes. While our approach is organically developing, it is iterative and constantly we are seeking input, improvement and an individualized approach to support our unique and variously talented students.

If you are interested to learn more about SBL and how this mainstream alternative works, then please do visit the school website (link here).

Cheers and thanks for reading - Oliver - The Teaching Astrophysicist

(Note: This blog post was NOT generated by AI and is conceived, typed and uploaded by a real person.)

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