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    The spirit of contemporary educational system

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    How is Generation Z sharpening their minds and would they be prepared for the labour market – Anna-Maria Spassova, 11th grade student at the Language High School “Simeon Radev”, Pernik, researches that question.

     

    Have you ever been pondering how many countries are in the world or about the exact date Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, or even when America was founded? Despite being nowhere near important, it is general knowledge, all should know. However, why does it occur? Why do we tend to forget such small details? Well, those are the fruits of our educational system, or put in other words – the side effects. The truth is, everybody is talking about education these days, but it hasn’t translated into improvement. It’s not about gradational rates and tests scores. It’s about what those things mean to the outcome of human lives. It’s about potential realized or squandered, dignity enhanced or denied. No longer does the passive way of learning fit our changing needs since the world requires more and more active processing of information. In the light of modernization, this opinionated format will analyse the current situation as well as propose a variety of ways, which being implemented, would decidedly show results.

     

    Questioning customs

    Undoubtedly, the classroom model is from time immemorial and therefore no one questions it. It has formed the aspects of society such as human nature, customs, and institutions, which prevents many people from seeing its downsides. However, taking the habit of our society for granted seems like following unpractical patterns. As John Stuart Mill has said, “The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement.” The key notion for success is the accordance with present and future. If only the lessons were created with a vision of understanding, interest, and innovation, then the students would soak up and apply extensive knowledge and advanced skills in the future.

     

    Instead, traditional models aim at passivity. Normal classes make students sit, listen, and finally show what they have remembered by assessments. Nevertheless, measuring certain skills that would be useful or necessary for the practice of the relevant arts does not give a clear picture about a person’s potential to achieve true mastery. Universities conversely make students become extremely proactive, identify their own difficulties, and actively look for ways to cope. Isn’t it too much to ask for something like this from a student who has been taught the opposite all his life?

     

    Another major disadvantage is the curriculum itself. Not only doesn’t it follow the students’ tempo, but it also runs speedily throughout the units. Thus, lessons are dedicated to listening and remembering, while little time is spared for analysing and creating. It should be noted that students have short attention span (less than 10min), so this approach does minimise the amount of information obtained.

     

    How has it come to be that global education systems have become structured to enforce conformity and reductive thinking? And more importantly why have we allowed this to happen? Referring to the view of Leyla Acaroglu, a TED Speaker and Australian educator, “in order to maintain a linear economic system of production, extraction, and waste that devalues inputs and takes limited responsibility for outputs, you have to reinforce these devalues in society, and you do this by making young people conform through educative structures that perpetuate the linear system. As a result, school often forms oppression, rather than liberation, of the mind. This is not a new invention — humans have been using schooling as a way of enforcing the dominant ideas of the day for a very, very long time”, highlights she.

     

    If schools were intended to nurture the potential, then they would be designed to exploit external aspects of learning, as well as foster an ability for young people to build esteem, creative independence, and diversified thinking for active application in the world. Making it clear, none of these is a priority since it only impels students to memorise data systematically. Therefore, some have the only ability to keep facts, figures, and formulas in their short-term memory just as long as they need to receive a good mark.

     

    For instance, here is Vanessa’s case, a former high schooler, and current university student. She was one of the most diligent and hard-working students, who moved heaven and earth to receive an excellent mark. Even so, she admits that she has received good grades without learning almost anything. Yet being amid the best ones in class, her preparation was unsatisfactory. „To me the meaning of the term education has completely changed for the worse.“, states Vanessa. “The things we are taught in school do not help prepare us for the difficulties we will have to deal with after graduation. “

     

    Unfortunately, her story is not exceptional. While developing the material, I met with several adolescents from the local high school. They confessed to emphasising on subjects they find important, whereas the others are simply a “stuffing” that could be jumped over by cheating. All of them shared how the pressure of grades destroys the mental state, and thus they obtain a wrong idea of what life is. “No one is good at everything, yet that is exactly what is demanded in school in order to be recognised and to succeed.“, they agreed unanimously.

     

    • What would happen to these kids and their potential, which has been
      systematically stifled?
    • Not being stopped on time, they will become crowd followers, without the remarkable abilities of critical thinking and decision making. – points out Diana Atanasova, an English teacher, and humanist.
    • Their curiosity is being drained away by boredom in class and by the unremitting background noise of a dumbed-down pop culture. – adds Salman Khan, an American educator, and the founder of Khan Academy.

     

    In effect, those kids have fallen victims to Swiss Cheese Learning. Although it looks solid on the outside, their education is full of gaps in knowledge, skills, and attitudes. There is every likelihood that material was covered too quickly and superficially, and related concepts were isolated by diving them into separate lessons. Examination was sat constantly but the tests lacked rigor and any deficiencies they identified weren’t being corrected. Furthermore, students went on with the new material, not having mastered the previous one 100%.

     

    Following this method, no matter how talented you are, you will eventually find it extremely hard to deal with. In any case, the idea of complete mastery seems to have been crushed by the enormous weight of the tradition in education. Caring yet more about testing and metrics is not a guarantee neither of wisdom nor employment. As Einstein often reiterated, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. In view of having lasting and practical knowledge, students should be encouraged to fill all the missing gaps. After all, it is more useful to comprehend algebra than superficial algebra, calculus, and geometry. Following the Socratic dialogue “The Republic”, “The elements of instruction should be presented to the mind in childhood, but not with any compulsion… This will better enable you to find out the natural bent of the child.”

     

    Education for enlightenment

    Like any other system created by the human mind, education is bound to develop. Currently, there’s a crack between the old way of teaching and the new one and kids around the globe are falling through it every day. The world is changing at an ever-faster rate, yet systemic change, when it happens at all, moves glacially and often in the wrong direction. Еvery day—every class period—the gap grows wider between the way kids are being taught and what they actually need to learn.

     

    Unless there is a change in the way we share knowledge, young people will continue to encounter the same problems. Let’s begin creating sustainable future that encourages development of any kind, supports creative approaches and last and foremost bring teaching and learning into closer alignment with the contemporary world.

     

    To begin with, quality should not be sacrificed for quantity. It is well-known that curriculum is designed to hasten the teaching process, but very few focus on the key points like remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Students learn at different paces, and it is vital to be given tools and support, instead of prevention.  In the light of achieving active participation and natural enthusiasm, learners should be motivated to work smoothly, naturally, and independently. Adopting this approach, the efficiency of self-paced learning will significantly increase, which will lead to full mastery. It is disservice to allow them to advance without the level of proficiency, because they’ll fall on their faces sometime later.

     

    An equally significant aspect is boosting creativity. Living in a ground-breaking world of technologies and innovations, it is valuable to be able to see something in an entirely new way, to create something from scratch, to explore ideas that never existed before. No longer are original approaches and bold thinking selective, they are now a survival tool. Of course, creativity is considered not only as an innate skill, but also as a paramount level of proficiency. So, it’s time to interfere with the role of educational centres.

     

    The real goal of education is compelled to discover and promote the natural gift of every child. That’s true to certain extend, but it will become apparent only when centers become accustomed to the competency model of teaching and begin to focus on skills development rather than memorizing information. Why is it so difficult to create a place that teaches both abstract and practical, or even better, wisdom through skills?

     

    Тhe point that drives at here is that creativity in general tends to be egregiously underappreciated and often selected against. Even as our world is being daily transformed, many people still underestimate the connection between innovations and originality. The benefits of creative expression are numerous, and all should be going for it.

     

    Reflection

    It’s high time education underwent transition from passivity to productivity. The responsibility we bear for future generations through the choice of bold and effective pedagogical principles in the digitization of processes is enormous. Even though there are opposed opinions about the reform of educational system, undeniably all of us are fighting for sustainable, modern, and inspiring ways of learning. What we certainly cannot afford is to leave things unchanged. Тhe school must nurture curiosity, encourage astonishment, and cultivate confidence, so that later children have the means to find answers to many questions we still do not know how to ask. This is the challenge and opportunity that stands ahead today.

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