Should we give pupils a greater says over their education? There’s a new project being launched by Demos aiming to do just this and thereby trying to rectify the growing crisis of disengagement and poor attainment amongst young people.
Adults have always assumed that kids couldn’t have a say – what do they know? And this has left young people with little control over what happens to them under the guise of education.
But some people are now beginning to recognise how dis-empowering this is and how it is having the damaging effect of switching them off to education per se.
Having seen first-hand how home educating families give their kids more say in the educational process I believe that children are better equipped to do this than many acknowledge. And it is having this involvement which prevents them becoming disengaged with education, like so many of their school-going contemporaries.
Having a voice, and consequently some power over their learning activities, gives home schooled children a real understanding of education being for them, for real life, not because others are forcing them to do it.
Unfortunately children in school miss out on this opportunity, all educational emphasis being placed on needing to know stuff to pass exams. And everything is so enmeshed in this outcome – knowledge and skills for exams sake – that youngsters don’t ever get the more important point that they need knowledge and skills for other reasons – life reasons – and that’s why education is valuable.
Much of the curriculum, about which kids have limited choice, is presented in dull, uninteresting and seemingly irrelevant ways, again through approaches that pay no regard for individual learning preferences. The objective of lessons almost pared down to test passing, delivered in prescriptive bites disconnected from real living. Consequently and even more damaging; the essential skills of thinking out, creativity, innovation, and motivation required for real living are neglected.
So through young people’s boredom with that style of schooling they become disenchanted with education in general, fail to achieve, or drop out. It is this which the Demos project is trying to counteract by giving kids more say.
An education, or an educated mind, is a continually questioning mind, one that seeks further knowledge, develops an extensive range of skills, and finds ongoing interest in a diverse range of activities. But schooling is numbing youngsters before they appreciate that, or what a wonderful opportunity education really is. And how life-enhancing and pleasurable it can be.
If we gave young people more say over what they learnt and how they learnt it, in real choice terms rather than in terms that suit an institution, maybe this would go some way to solving the problem.
And it can be done. Most home educating families allow their children to have an influencing voice about their activities and education, perhaps just a little at first but increasingly as they grow, and the youngsters are incredibly astute and reasoning and show intelligent understanding about their educational journey, what they need, when they need it and why.
Giving children more power in schools and through our parenting, where their wishes and preferences are listened to and respected, the flood of youngsters disenchanted with education might abate. And then there would be less need to force them to stay in school for longer and longer.