I have been studying in schools for many years. As I look back, I can tell there are great problems with our education system.
One big issue is the hierarchy of teacher and student relationship.
When students go to school, they are forced to submit to the teacher, the symbol of elitism and authority. Teachers give their lessons and the students listen. Even though the school curriculum have shifted towards a more communicative approach where there are more interactions between the teacher and the student, there is still a level of self-restraint from the student’s end.
Students see the teachers as the sole source of knowledge. Whatever they say is supposed to be absorbed as the absolute truth. One may give their opinion in class, but still get shut down compared to the one truth that ignores all other possibilities.
While it is “logical” to have a point of reference to which the teacher can go back to during discussions (otherwise, headache-inducing confusion may arise), it is important to take into account that the absolute truth is always subject to changes. Why? Because the system and the circumstances within it is always changing.
However, the teacher is not to blame. It is the system in which they are placed. They are obligated to follow the regulations and policies instilled by the education department of the government.
Not only is the teacher habituated to the role of the holder of all knowledge, but the student is also conditioned to believe that they only take in information and they should refrain from all forms of dissent. Students don’t think they are as intelligent as their teachers.
This kind of thinking is harmful since it pushes students to hold back, further reinforcing the hierarchy of teacher-student relationship.
What we need to do is to start giving a chance to each student to share what they think is the best for them. I’m not talking about student committees, which I personally believe continue to promote the same hierarchy relationship. I’m asking schools and education policy officers to give all students a space in the creation of the curriculum and programming. Since there are a lot of students, it’s important to separate them into groups (especially for introverted ones who may not speak up during large assemblies) and listen to their opinion. It seems easy to just send out surveys and gather information that way. However, that would risk rendering this procedure ineffective because the students won’t feel as if they are actually making a difference and contributing to their own education (not to mention a lot wouldn’t even bother filling in bureaucratic forms of “contribution”).
By putting students on the level of teachers and policy makers, we are giving them a chance to gain independence and confidence in their thoughts and actions. With that comes big responsibility, so students are expected to take this task seriously. We may need to start with setting examples and allow students the time to adopt this new dynamic.
As a result, we are investing in the creation of active leaders whose imaginations can bring great change to our world.
We need to stop stifling students’ potential and give them a say in the world. There are reasons why a lot of motivational speakers tell people to go back to their childhood dreams. It is during that period where we are the least inhibited by our fears and by years of educational conditioning that we can only do so much.
Let’s not let students’ dreams die. They may be our only hope to building a better, kinder and more sustainable world.