Thinking about education: Is a student perspective needed?

I’m prepared to bet that they wouldn’t get many students interested in their application, because they haven’t asked students what features they want in their study application! For that reason, the app is not made to suit the target user, it’s made to what the designers think the users are. Do you see the gap here?

The same dilemma is present in the way our society delivers education throughout your schooling life. We, as students, are the consumers – the people using the education service; yet in the creation of the curriculum and system, student input isn’t exactly high up on the priority list of the curriculum designers. This is reflected in the level of freedom we get in NCEA – you can choose your subjects, yes, but the material and methodology is very much based on the learning ideals of what ‘education specialists’ think about educating young New Zealanders.

You might be wondering why this is even an issue, as we all have to go to school. You might be thinking, let’s just get it over with; it’s not impossible to get NCEA now and I’m doing alright… but here’s the thing: if you could design your own curriculum, would you make changes to what we have now?

For most students, the answer is yes! A bit of choice in assessment and the way that we learn are definitely two of the most important aspects of a high-school student’s life which aren’t emphasised enough at the moment. Plus, in the future the amount of diversity and specialisation possible in the jobs that we will be doing means that if I have an interest in video production and not in making big science fair boards, it’s much better to cultivate that interest and learn about video production, than do something irrelevant to my future.

It’s not just a problem for the decision-makers and people designing the curriculum, it’s a problem for us students. And it’s something that young people around the world are tackling – the right to play a role in society and remove that label placed on us of “youth.” Something about our age means that, especially in education, we aren’t considered consumers in the normal economic sense, but rather subjects to be instructed. Only once we have completed our education are we considered able to make certain decisions surrounding our preferences and desires for the way the world should be.

Here’s the crux of what I’m trying to say: we, as youth, need a voice in education. Not just as consumers, but as innovators, as knowledgeable and informed people sure about the direction we want our education to be going in. After all, going to school will become more engaging and relevant to everyone involved, even if only a small percentage of students were to be asked their opinions. We have a lot to say, if only someone would ask…!

… But they needn’t ask! Share your opinions, get talking about education, and start thinking about how we should receive education, and what it should be about. If we don’t talk, no-one will think to ask, let alone listen!

Published in Tearaway Magazine, 22 May 2017.

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