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Sarah Hardjowasito: A student’s view of quality education



The Province

The essay below by Sarah Hardjowasito, A Student’s Musings on Education, was one of two winners of the Burnaby Teachers’ Association’s annual essay contest for Burnaby students. The other winner was Marina Gonzalez, a Grade 11 student at Burnaby South secondary school, for her essay, The Shift of Accreditation.

In an age of distractions and shortcuts, it is difficult to get students engaged and caring about learning. They languish in agony, waiting for the bell to free them from the classroom, so that they can return to the comforting blue glow of their phones. This only encourages a future society of self-absorption and obliviousness to the surrounding world.

It is therefore imperative to humanity’s future that an active and enthusiastic school community is developed, and that the education system is not only able to foster a love of learning and equip students with the ability to form deep and thoughtful connections with their knowledge, but also to ensure that every student is able to benefit from the system and come together with many other individuals to create an innovative and active society.

The basis of any education system should be a respect and appreciation of learning and an enthusiasm to come to school. This starts with reversing the stereotypical portrayal of school as being boring, restraining and full of judgmental and vindictive peers.

For students to enjoy and succeed in school, they must feel that they are in a safe environment, free of bullies or social hierarchy. This stigma attached to school is passed down from one generation to the next through the influences of popular culture. Television shows aimed at school-aged children commonly feature school atmospheres tense with social classes and divisions, with quintessential pitfalls and horrors that include, but are not limited to, wedgies, being shoved into lockers, or being drowned in a toilet.

Pop culture also degrades school and the value of education, and defines those who do strive to do well as “nerds” or “losers.” If students come into school with a poor attitude and a predisposition to believing that school is a waste of time and energy, they are more likely to not get the most out of the system that they otherwise could.

If our society builds a positive school environment that actively engages students, they are more likely to look forward to school, rather than dread Monday mornings. Creating a healthy respect and love of learning encourages an appreciation for education as a privilege, rather than as a sour obligation.

To maintain a passion for learning, students should be left room for both self-direction and creativity, and should also be equipped with meaningful skills that are applicable to real life. The constraints of the curriculum often do not allow for a detailed and in-depth approach to every element of the course or subject area, and sometimes an area of study that interests an individual student is quickly glanced over.

Setting aside time for self-directed study on a self-chosen topic would maintain interest in school, and allow the student to gather enough information on said subject that they could create a sufficient knowledge base for critical thinking.

The competitive reality of school, and the demand for high grades to ensure a greater range of opportunities in future paths, fosters a culture of learning for the sake of success rather than learning for the sake of learning.

A fast-paced curriculum allows students to excel in the course by way of memorization and regurgitation of material. Critical thinking skills are sometimes neglected because students have not had enough time, or have not recognized the importance of gaining a deeper understanding of the subject area, and are therefore unable to make informed or deep assessments of the learned material.

This practice of repeating information and not doing more research than otherwise required will have a negative impact on society.

Society’s inability to analyze, think critically and creatively, or problem solve, will be reflected in ignorance.

These are essential skills for innovation and social evolution, but many students graduate without these fundamental skills that allow them to look for more than one solution or point of view, and make informed decisions.

A public education system that is beneficial to individuals and society is one that encourages taking information at more than face value and looking for more than one solution.

This approach is good for allowing time for individual learning, and more adaptability in lessons. Students often have different learning requirements that cannot be encompassed with one style of teaching, which is why smaller class sizes are essential. With smaller classes, teachers become familiar with the needs of each student, and have more time to help them develop deeper and more meaningful knowledge of the subject material using strategies that are relevant to them. In this way, all students have a chance to develop critical and creative thinking skills.

While obtaining relevant life skills to assist them the future is invaluable, students also need opportunities to help them gain experience in applicable situations and to give them a goal to work toward. Extracurricular programs, such as clubs and sports, not only foster a sense of school pride and identity, but also teach students to work and co-operate with others, and to get involved in their community.

Playing a sport with others builds on an individual’s ability to work with others in high stress situations, and helps create enthusiasm within the school itself when they come out victorious. Organizing events through clubs is a hands-on approach to teaching students to become effective leaders.

Clubs can also open students up to possibilities and paths that they may otherwise be unaware of, and aids in their consciousness of the world around them. This creates a strong generation of people who are aware of the events that occur outside of their living room, and helps society evolve as people who care about more than just themselves.

Education is an invaluable gift that is often taken for granted. Ensuring that students utilize it to its full potential starts by stimulating a respect and enthusiasm for learning, and is reinforced with the idea that learning for learning’s sake is not worth less than learning for the sake of advancement.

A one-size-fits-all approach often leads to students falling through the cracks, and not obtaining the life skills that they could have. By being flexible and encouraging creativity and critical thinking, as well as providing students with equal opportunities, a collection of individuals can come together to form a mindful, inclusive, and innovative society that can genuinely say that they had an incredible educational experience.

Sarah Hardjowasito is a Grade 11 student at Burnaby Mountain secondary school.

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