Here’s what my ideal school would look like (it’s probably incredibly naive and unreasonable, but I’m indulging in fantasy here) :-
Have students elect their own group of ‘governor’ students who would then be responsible for the school (new ones each term so everyone gets a chance.)
The governors would work alongside the teachers and education board etc and be directly involved with organising and spending the school’s budget, timetables, discipline, general building maintenance etc, thus teaching them financial and mathematical skills in relation to the workplace, how to work as a team, how to be an effective boss, how to be responsible for the overall running of a business, and care of the individuals they are representing. They’d learn all about the frustrating red tape and testing standards etc to which schools are subject, hopefully teaching them some respect for the teachers as well.
They would assign rotating jobs to other students- such as: cleaning, cooking, serving food, working on reception, doing odd jobs and handyman jobs, ordering stationary supplies etc. Rotating so that every student gets some time learning essential skills for living, and discovers mundane things that they might actually be really good at.
‘Surgeries’ would be held twice a week, wherein disgruntled students could meet with their governors to air problems and help reach solutions.
The important basics would be strictly adhered to, so that no student leaves school unable to read, write, or do basic maths, although a large part of lessons wouldn’t subject specific, but instead focused on housework schedules, early human development and child care, interview techniques, CV writing, employment protocol, time management, physical fitness and nutrition, emergency survival skills, first aid, personal finance, self-care and how to deal with depression and anxiety, human rights and equality studies, philosophy and spiritualism (NOT religion-specific, but meditation techniques and journaling tips and other tips on how to find one’s best self) and invention/ creative thinking. Subjects would be introduced and used as needed in conjunction with these aims; students would be actively encouraged to do further reading and researching on anything which interests them. They would also be taught effective research and note-taking/ memorising techniques, therefore giving them the tools they need to continue learning throughout their lives.
Basically, treat students like the future citizens they are, and let them learn by doing and gaining an understanding of how life works. Don’t baby them- just be there to advise and oversee.
If you make students responsible for their own environment, I believe they will rise to that challenge, and no one will leave school unable to save money, do their own laundry, look after their children, or manage their workload so they can chase their dreams. Instead, some responsible and caring people will have been nurtured into existence: those that can sensibly assess their country’s needs and their own personal requirements, and meet them.
It would also future-proof our own lives- I want to get old in a world full of sensible citizens who want to take care of me, not a bunch of self-serving capitalists who think getting old won’t happen to them so is therefore not worth paying attention to.
We can’t expect kids to suddenly ‘know’ how to ‘adult’ the second they turn 18 if we’ve spent those years coddling them away from life so they can ‘learn’. I’d argue that life’s basics should be taught first- people can specialise academically after this, as they will have the tools in place they need to pursue any interests productively.
The world has changed but education still tries to cling to ways of doing things that are leaving us with a whole swathe of people lost and floundering and unable to cope with the pressures of normal life. And yet, at the same time, a lot of young adults are showing inventiveness, creativity and humanity – why are we not nurturing this instead of letting people figure it out for themselves (which in some cases, means they never do).
Is it perhaps because a world of blind and helpless consumers is ideal for a ruling system to control? What’s more terrifying to a dictatorship than a country full of educated, balanced-thinking, capable, questioning, diplomatic and just people?