Schools lack openness and willingness to deviate from the curriculum

Gabriela Grešková was awarded 2nd place in Category B of the Leaf Academy’s English Essay Competition.

Gabriela GreškováGabriela Grešková (Source: Courtesy of LEAF Academy)

This essay was chosen as one of the best essays in its category in the English Essay Competition organised by LEAF Academy, an international boarding high school in Bratislava. The competition was open to all Slovak students from primary and secondary schools who are passionate about writing in the English language. The Slovak Spectator has not edited the essays as participants were awarded partly on their English-language skills.

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Since the reform of Maria Theresa in the 18th century, when she introduced compulsory school attendance, schools were taken as a gateway to a quality life. Nowadays, however, it is very common to hear students or even many adults complain about the insufficient functionality of the school system. When we compare the past with the present we can observe a noticeable change in the point of view on schools. It is no surprise when I say that schools focus more on teaching general education classes and concepts than teaching students how to properly react to real-life situations. In my opinion, schools can significantly help us in many ways, such as to be disciplined, think critically, learn to work as a team, acquire required skills, or increase knowledge. Yet they surely do not prepare us for the real world enough.

In order to analyze this problem in depth, it is necessary to realize the difference between school efficiency to prepare students in the academic sphere and school efficiency to prepare students for real life. Even though one of the main goals of schools is to prepare students for their following academic life, they should not forget to make sure that the concepts they are learning should be applicable outside their class as well. I believe that scholars should benefit from those classes not only on academic levels but also in real-life situations.

According to the TED talk by Marcus Orlovsky, the education leader, following the standard curriculum is not a solution. He stands by the opinion that students need more than typical teachers. What they need are inspirators. People, who will get them to the level at which they want to find out more and they want to challenge their thinking. Mr. Orlovsky thinks that the problem lies in schools teaching students to follow more rather than to lead (1). In light of that, students should take an active part in learning, they should be conduit during classes.

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In my view, schools lack openness and willingness to deviate from the curriculum. I am convinced that it is essential to make changes which will lead to better preparedness. I even created a survey and asked my classmates if they think that our school prepares them enough for the real world. Results show that 80 % of the respondents disagree. I also asked, what change would be the most effective in ensuring this educational transformation. Most of my classmates would prefer open discussions with experts on various useful topics and all of them agree that schools should make some significant changes in order to help them become successful in their endeavors.

The real world requires from us the ability to have an open conversation on various topics, not just those that are pre-scheduled. For instance, schools should teach their students to cooperate and assign them different group projects. While in real life the need for quality cooperation is a must-have as it may affect the whole well-being of individuals, or the success of projects and businesses, schools only measure our results with grades. They do not show us ways how to help ourselves when we feel mentally exhausted, lack inspiration or even motivation. Their current educational methods may also often lead to demotivation, burnout or loss of interest. In my opinion, the most serious problem is that schools do not help us develop the skills we are good and which might ensure our success in life. On the contrary, they teach us all areas of knowledge to such an extent which many fail to achieve, lose interest in, or eventually do not even need. They try to improve our weaknesses before mastering our strengths, and I think that this is a big mistake.

Bob Talbert´s quote says that “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.” (2) A group of friends graduating from school with exceptional grades may sound good at first, but what if they are not able to handle money management? Many parents are not skilled enough to prepare their children in those domains as well because such appropriate education had also not been provided to them. Therefore, teachers as skilled individuals should play an active role in preparing their students for real-life situations and problems. Schools should be doing more than teaching chemistry or explaining how to calculate equations. It is indeed extremely important to implement necessary life skills into teaching. Good academics combined with efficient life skills make a winning combination.

Applying these ideas to the school system could lead to greater student satisfaction and it could provide a better outlook on the usability of schools in modern life. For instance, according to a survey by ARRA (Academic Rating and Ranking Agency), only something over half of the students involved considers the information obtained at school to be usable in real life. The rest of the students thinks the acquired knowledge as questionable and more than one tenth of the respondents considers it to be very little or none at all.

In conclusion, the stated facts support the idea that schools are not effective in their attempt to prepare students for real life. While we know about this often mentioned problem, we do not take sufficient steps and changes to remove it for good. What I think we can do is give our students space to show their interest and try to put together a curriculum with their suggestions for the better overall improvement of education. Collectively we can make a change and achieve that schools will be perceived by students as a gate to a whole new world of meaningful opportunities and better education. Together we could make Shakuntala Devis’ words come true, “Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.”

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