What does a school mean?

Imagine dropping your teenage child off in an isolated island or somewhere in the middle of the forest to survive for at least a week. What do you think will help him overcome this challenge? Or what should have you taught him in advance to ensure that he will beat the odds? I am sure, many would say – adaptability skills, passion towards long-term goals and sustained perseverance will make him thrive in this situation. Yes, it’s indeed the strength of a character we need to instil in students today.

Grit is an essential component of education – not just an option and we know that we lack it in our system. What is the real motive of education? Is it able to produce independent learners? Does it offer student ownership over their education? In a robotic age, how do we ensure that we don’t lose artists, inventors, philosophers, mathematicians, and musicians to take humanity to a higher level tomorrow?

Deviation From True Learning

A paradox where students have to learn something they are not interested in or where there is a disproportionality between a teacher’s teaching style and students’ individual learning style has been proving to be a great blocker in education. It’s quite obvious that if students find no passion for learning, there is no motivation to go ahead if they ever get stuck. Ultimately, the chance of development vanishes.

Students are given a map to read and then climb a hill. They are the ones who will witness the global issues hitting a peak in the near future which is one of the hottest topics for discussion today – global warming, sustainable energy, corruption, hunger, etc. Are students being prepared to confront these problems? Can they develop solutions to change the world for good? The focus of education should be on teaching our children how to make a map first before reading it.

Eighty percent of the world’s most valuable knowledge is not found in schools but acquired through actively seeking information, researching, reading and experiencing. We sincerely hope to see our schools merge with this reality of learning.

What An Improved School Education Looks Like

Assuming an ideal education framework, for the first three years of his life, a child will at least learn three different languages. Learning will be playful and experimental; there will be no books or heavy bags. He will be exposed to drama, music, puppetry, poetry and music. For the next five years, he will acquire fundamental literacy and numeracy and pursue his interests such as science, sports, painting after identifying his talent under the supervision of trained teachers. The next five years will be the time to achieve vocational training and cultivate critical thinking abilities along with mathematical skills as well as mastery over two or three subjects of his choice. He will be led to talk on global issues and present his own ideas to resolve them. The exams will be designed to test his understanding of core concepts and not his memorising skills.

The idea is to save kids from thinking about unimportant things or worrying about things that are irrelevant and tap into their capabilities that they are naturally born with. I truly believe that the following points will be path-breaking reforms in education and shift the focus to producing well-rounded individuals for the twenty-first century knowledge economy:

Teachers With Effective Teaching Skills: To deliver high-quality education and prepare students for greater goals, responsibilities and challenges, twenty-first century teachers need more than a degree to be successful. The primary requirement for today’s classrooms is to bring engagement in students. Teachers need to strategize the sharing of information in such a way that it takes students to the next level of understanding. They must have strong communication skills to form a disciplined relationship with students and promote a high level of concentration in them. Topics must be presented in various formats which should reach out to all students with different levels of intelligence. While teaching a new skill, more use of senses such as seeing, hearing, touching etc. must be involved. Teachers must encourage students to relate new skills to their own lives. Additionally, they must have the ability to understand the unique talent of each student.
Equal Hours For Learning And Playing: Studies have shown that play stimulates the growth of brain cells. Children, when they have been physically active, are more likely to feel good, be disruptive and show greater concentration levels to their subjects. Rigorous school standards and standardized tests don’t support overall development in children. Incidents of bullying and emotional issues are much frequent in schools that minimize playing hours. Play is an act of exploration and investigation which enhances creativity, problem-solving and social skills. Schools must realize that physical education and emotional well being of a child is an integral part of their development and as equally important as cognitive abilities. There is a close association between movement and learning. To enhance students’ efficiency in learning and achieve higher output from studies, schools must incorporate the same number of hours for outdoor play breaks or experiences, sports and activities as study hours.
Curriculum On Life And Survival Skills: No one ever knows when he or she might have to deal with a potentially life-threatening situation. Today is the age of convenience that we are letting our children dwell in which only promotes lack of responsibilities, laziness and unruliness. Getting children outside of their comfort zone and exposing them to wild situations will create an awareness of the landscape increasing their knowledge about trees, animals and topology of their surroundings, enhancing their self-esteem and sound decision making. As they practice life-saving tactics, they begin to appreciate freedom and opportunity and develop an unparalleled understanding of one’s own life, privilege, uniqueness and capability of tackling adversity. Schools must ensure that students go back to their houses with adventures being more open and receptive to experiences, well-exercised and tired. Schools must also take initiatives to prepare children for professional careers through vocational and comprehensive education.
Emphasis On Military Training: A common misapprehension about military training in schools is that it consumes time and energy available for general academic work. Experiences revealed that military exercises boost mental activity and vigour. Students become more alert, self-reliant, polished, disciplined and intellectual than ever. A military environment inculcates truthfulness, morality, self-control, obedience, duty and patriotism. When schools incorporate military training in their curriculum, it indeed helps a nation make it stronger by preparing healthy and wise citizens to safeguard the honour of their nation in times of defence.
Weekly Visits To Museums And Industries: Learning outside the classrooms through excursions, field trips, visiting NGOs etc. raises students standards and improves personal and social development in the real world. Such experiences broaden the horizons of students by opening their eyes to the wonders and workings of the natural world such as arts, heritage, culture, history, economics, market etc. They begin to understand the importance of their contribution to the world through visual and practical experiences. Schools must encourage such educational trips to bring lessons to life by immersing students in information. This offers them to not just read the content of a subject superfluously but visualize it with curiosity.
Incorporation Of Dramatics: Drama develops spontaneity and confidence in students to express their ideas and fosters coordination with others. To introduce new concepts, schools must introduce scenarios to stimulate interest and improve retention in students through participating in role plays, playwriting, dialogues, enacting a real incident etc.
Guest Meetings And Debates: Guest speakers are those game-changers who can motivate students in an intimate environment to ask questions and spark debates. Exposing students to real-world life experiences from the position of a celebrity, scientist, CEO etc. helps to generate insights and perceptions of a specific field. It has been found that when students learn from guest speakers, they are able to create links between their lives and the natural world. If guest meetings are incorporated in the school’s academic structure then it benefits students by offering them to understand a topic with a different point of view to understand it better.
Guidance For Fixing Goals: Students need a robust school strategy for achieving the school’s objectives and excelling in life. They need a mentor to detect their interests and potential at an early age to drive them towards goals that they are meant to achieve. Schools must inspire students to be overcomers in all phases of their lives and impact the world positively with their knowledge and calibre. Schools must conduct programs such as one-on-one meetings with students and talk to them personally to know about their aspirations and guide them about their future goals to help them succeed.

Education issues affect the system as a whole. Though the current learning system of the world faces an achievement gap and is believed to be dysfunctional and fragmented, we have the ability to revive it and make it a hundred times better than what it is today. True education is a source of empowerment and enlightenment. It is about awareness and discovery. It is to understand the essence, beauty and purpose of life. It is meant to bring freedom to explore, use and reuse one’s potential to the fullest. It is to make one wise and not just intelligent. It is to fuel curiosity and create well-rounded individuals. Youth must not be treated as a product; they are a generation who can define the impossible. Let education combine knowledge with imagination to become an experience to them that they will forever cherish.