We do believe that the best way to show how WYRED truly brings out the voice of youth is by presenting the artifacts realized by the young participant to this project. As a matter of fact, nothing tells us about the youth of today more than turning their own words, their own feelings and ideas down into tangible objects for you to see. The success story we are about to tell you is quite a representative example of how this is true.
Valentina Borowansky, a 17-year old from Austria, has written an essay on the topic of future education, called “The Prison School – How the System Fails Us”.
“We study. A lot. But we don’t really know anything. We can’t use it. We are not smarter than before.
But how does this work out? We go to school. We study. Then why don’t we know anything?
Did we fail the system? Or did the system fail us?” – is what she asks herself, and us, in her paper aiming to show how today’s school system makes children, young people and their own parents “all prisoners”.
Her ultimate objective is that of demonstrating how school actually doesn’t just provide children and young people with knowledge, but also takes knowledge from them. “The current school system is twisted, outdated, unauthentic and hostile of individuality. But it doesn’t have to be like that. There are alternatives.”
Valentina outlines six essential points that, according to her, turn school into “a prison”.
- The 50-minute school lessons: often meaning that students are forced to stop in the middle of a vivid discussion, an experiment or a fruitful analysis, and forced to focus on something totally different;
- Young people do not have enough free time:this is especially frustrating as they enter into their final years of school, as they could devote their time to their interests to relieve themselves of the burdens imposed by school, homework and tests. Their spare time is too often overloaded with school-like activities (es. cram school), with the goal of helping them to succeed in school. Any curiosity for something different than school is put off, as school often takes more knowledge from students than it gives.
- Too much importance is given to marks. Everybody has to achieve their best results. Since no mistake is allowed, young people are always put under the pressure of having to achieve good marks. Doing bad at school often leads to low self-esteem. To be successful students have to put on a mask to hide their own individuality. “Do not invite unwanted attention, stay somewhere in the middle”, then you will succeed. Even after school is just the same.
- School topics have nothing to do with real life. For example, there is no connection between the formulas forcibly memorized in maths and reality. They are being just learned for the test and forgotten after 2 minutes…
- The school system will not admit responses differing from “YES”. A student’s life is all about agreeing, respecting rules, being subjected to somebody. These teachings might prove useful in the future, but which one? This has nothing to do with the future we are heading to.
When focusing on solutions, Valentina argues that there already exist teachers with innovative approaches in didactics and methodology. However, this is just one side of the coin. The other side is the entire education system, which keeps parents, teachers and young people together. Valentina proposes a new, democratic, alternative model of schools: for example “Kapriole in Freiburg”, or “The free school in Leipzig” which focus on childrens’ and young people’s individual skills and interests and let the teachers take over the role of empowering “Learning-Coaches” that foster the curiosity of the learners.
“Maybe this is not the ultimate solution for our old-crusted system, but it takes the right direction. We need to start learning, understanding, exploring and researching again. The people of tomorrow need a school of tomorrow.”