School is for Learning

What do you actually learn in school? Facts, equations, literary devices, or nothing at all? For many, even though they don’t realize it, the answer is nothing. More often than not, school becomes a redundancy, something that only repeats and recycles what we already know. School is supposed to prepare us for life, but with every passing year it is becoming more of a test taking center filled with unenthusiastic individuals. This is especially true in the US, where most teachers don’t do their jobs and students are just test takers. Finland is one of the leading countries in education, and more countries should try to adopt its methods.

Each year, there seems to be a new standardized test that is mandatory for students to take. In fact, New Jersey has just recently introduced the PARCC exam, and the education system has made it illegal to opt out of taking it. Now, students don’t attend to school for the sake of learning something new to help them in life; no, they wake up in the morning to learn how to take a test. Is that what life is about? Taking tests? Not even close. For this very reason, Finland has eliminated standardized testing altogether. Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture, says that they “prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test”. There is only one test given at the end of high school, and kids seem to be learning much better this way.

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For kids to actually learn valuable knowledge in school, teachers must be passionate about their jobs and put forth full effort. In the US, many teachers just hand out worksheets they found online and tell themselves that their job is done. They don’t bother to help struggling students unless the students come to them first. There is much that needs reform in this situation. Teachers should be ready to take on the challenge of helping a student who needs additional guidance. Finland’s education system recognizes this, and the teachers are actually enthusiastic about teaching their classes. They are dedicated to helping kids learn and will try to accomplish their goal at all costs. If one method of teaching fails, multiple teachers work together to try something else. If educators all over the world were this committed to their jobs, each generation would be far brighter than the last.

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For an education to be effective, students must be attentive and genuinely interested in learning. High school students in the US are falling asleep in class more than half the time because of a lack of sleep. The cause of this lack of sleep? The stress of having to balance homework with family and extra-curriculars. Fatigue hinders the learning process and is a major setback for American students. As usual, Finland has a solution for this problem. Kids, especially young ones, are allowed downtime in between classes to clear their minds and refocus. Play is considered an important part of life at this age, as it should be. Schools in the US put an end to recess after elementary school, a change which students couldn’t be unhappier about. A “de-stresser” is needed for students to learn to the best of their ability.

Schools across America have introduced a new concept of “student-centered learning”. At first, this seems like the teachers will be focusing on the students more. However, the term actually means that students will be expected to teach themselves and are to use teachers for guidance only. Why are teachers even getting paid if students are just self-learning everything? They might as well just study on their own and not go to school. Changes need to be made immediately in the American school system to avoid generations of people trained only in test-taking. School should be, and this may come as a surprise to some, for learning.

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