Why do we need school…or rather do we need school?
How many parents consider the question ‘why do we need school’ before enrolling their child at age 3?
How many truly answer their child’s Monday morning grumbles of “do I really have to go to school?”
Most parents would say that school is important for both knowledge acquisition and developing social skills…but is it really?
Do we need school to learn?
Most children spend thousands and thousands of hours sat in a classroom. During those formative years they’re developing as individuals with different personalities, skills and opinions.
Our education system focuses primarily on one aspect of our child’s development…knowledge acquisition.
A rigid curriculum leaves very little flexibility for our young people to truly explore their strengths and beliefs or to find their place in society.
Teachers are forced to teach to exams rather than focus on developing skills and enthusiasm. Pupils are forced to learn subjects they despise just incase they fancy a career in it at some point in the future.
We’re afraid to let children lead their own learning incase they choose the wrong path or want to sit watching TV all day shovelling crisps down their faces all day.
We don’t trust them to want to do well.
We’re helicopter-educating them.
The truth is though that children do want to learn.
Kids drive their parents crazy with hundreds of questions as soon as they learn to talk.
Learning isn’t something we need to force…our children are naturally inquisitive.
However, that doesn’t mean that they’re willing to sit indoors all day completing worksheets and memorizing multiples of two.
That isn’t learning.
Unfortunately, one of the first things that school teaches many children is that learning is something negative.
Learning is boring.
Learning is something you can be bad at.
Learning is a something we have to do if we don’t want to get shouted at.
Learning is something that stops as soon as the bell rings.
But, that’s not learning.
Real learning happens in real life.
It leads to real actions and real consequences that we learn from again and again and again.
Children in school aren’t there to learn.
They are there to memorize, to pass tests and to make a school look good.
Any child who can’t or won’t oblige is often labelled as “stupid” or “naughty” and written off.
Schools currently do not have the capacity to nurture and teach children in the way that they deserve.
We’re told that our schools are failing because they don’t have sufficient time or funding yet Finnish schools which are thought to be amongst the best in the world have less of both.
Children start school when they’re older.
They have a lot more time for free play.
They spend far less time in school with shorter days and longer holidays.
Self-motivation and pursuit of personal interest is valued.
They have fewer tests!
Finnish schools weren’t always this way though…they changed because they had to…
Do we need school to be sociable?
I think my old teacher said this better than I ever could…”you’re not in school to socialise”.
She was right…I learnt very little about socialization at school.
Being sociable means so much more than being able to talk to peers.
School teaches us that we must conform to fit in.
It’s not a safe space for self-discovery.
To be sociable young people need to interact respectfully with people of all ages and they should expect that same respect in return.
Currently, that’s not something we see much of in our culture. With many of our education and parenting practices based on authoritarian methods, it’s perhaps unsurprising.
Can we be successful without school?
The internet is full of stories of people who “failed” at school that are now hugely successful.
As teenagers we used these examples to make ourselves feel better about poor grades and lack of effort.
But…the truth is that these people were never “failures”.
A system that was ineffective at recognising the drive and ability of individuals labelled them as failures but they were never actually failures.
How many people do you know who were given a label at school that stuck with them into adulthood?
“Stupid”, “ugly”, “boring”, “fat”, “wierd”.
I know so many people who were made to feel stupid in school so they just gave up.
Imagine if those people had been educated under a system that nurtured their strengths and helped them to develop their individualities.
A system that had faith in them.
As a society we tend to measure success by how much someone is worth, how big their house is and how many cars they have parked in the driveway.
We’re told that the pathway to success involves school, university and finding a job…but, is that really what we should be pushing our kids into?
With so many employers telling us that young people are leaving school lacking practical sills and graduates are being left with huge debts and no jobs.
Teaching our young people how to learn and to adapt to change is what is fundamentally important. Instead of training them for jobs that won’t even exist in a decade or two.
This will never happen while we have an education system that refuses to budge.
Unfortunately, most kids in our school system have to wait until they’ve left formal education to develop these skills.
Should we push our kids into a system because everybody else is or should we consider what success truly means to us?
What I want most for my boys is the freedom to discover the things that they are good at and for them to have experiences that will help them to become successful at whoever they choose to become.
There will always be a place for school in our society.
Parents need to work and some wouldn’t want to home educate given the option.
However, the focus of our schools drastically needs to change.
There needs to be much more focus on respect and choice.
Teachers need to be given more freedom to actually educate children.
Young people need to be equipt with the skills and determination they’ll need to make it in the world to come…
not taught how to pass an exam!