WHY SCHOOLING SHOULD BE MORE THAN SHAKESPEARE AND PHOTOSYNTHESIS (Opinion Editorial)

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With 8760 hours in the year, an average Australian primary school student will spend 1230 of those hours at school. In my opinion, my context being a pre-service primary teacher, the purpose of primary and secondary schooling should be broadened from solely a place of standardised academic rigour, to a more progressive system that fosters the development of independent and well-rounded individuals who will benefit society and make the world a better place.
An awareness of self and things beyond the personal realm should be encouraged. For many children, school is a place of exposure to the unfamiliar which encourages young individuals grow up to be more accepting and worldly people. Curriculum should include subjects that teach children how to be good citizens within their communities, and how to benefit not only themselves and those important to them, but the vulnerable and disadvantaged. An example of this is Australian Catholic University which runs a compulsory course called UNCC100 that “explores the elements of life that contribute to human thriving in community and the vulnerability that is part of the human condition” (Australian Catholic University. 2016), therefore educating students about their role in society. In a perfect word, children would be taught about this topic from birth, through their family and the influential people around them, but this does not exist in all circumstances and therefore mandatory teaching about common good and society should become a part of the Australian curriculum.
In order to fully understand self and community, students should be encouraged to learn from real world happenings. A textbook can only take you so far, whereas exploring reality has infinite opportunities and experiences. Children should be able to experience the good and the bad in the world through experiences, and exercise their problem solving skills in order to find out what makes the good so good, and how to solve the bad. For example, you don’t have to take a class far to see the effects of pollution in the local environment, which therefore makes the importance of looking after the environment a reality. The Steiner Waldorf school movement “provides enjoyable and relevant learning through deep engagement and creative endeavour, to develop ethical, capable individuals who can contribute to society with initiative and purpose” (Steiner Education Australia, 2016), a stark constant to mainstream schools. Alternative approaches to education should be taken into consideration when deciding which method is best to educate our children.
As well as looking after the community and environment, children should learn to treat themselves and their peers with respect.  Human dignity is something that should be taught from when a child enters school in kindergarten until they graduate in Year 12. It is not something that can be taught in one class for a year and then inadvertently migrate to the back of children’s brains as they make their way into adult life. The teaching of human dignity links one’s dignity to human rights, and stresses equality for all. Shocking events such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (Norington & correspondent, 2012), right down to name-calling and leaving peers out of social groups, make it clear that the need for education about human dignity is needed now more than ever.
This editorial may seem to some as an attack on the current school system, which it is not. Having graduated high school in recent years and studying education I can see that the system is functioning well, but there is room for improvement. By changing the curriculum to support such notions, possibly in subjects such as Religious Studies (in religious schools), we will be educating generations to be more focused, aware, dignified and well-rounded people. While a change in curriculum is not easy or quick, teachers can foster th notion through being a good role model and supporting their students to be the best they can possibly be. Thus, I believe that a more progressive perspective to schooling is the way forward. Ubuntu’s philosophy has been on my mind as I have written this editorial “I am what I am because of who we all are”, and I truly believe that teaching children beyond how to analyse Shakespeare and the stages of photosynthesis will impact individuals and communities in a way that will change the world. 

Reference List:

Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. (2010). What Causes Mental Illness? Retrieved October 20, 2016, from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/F602B63256E116BBCA257BF00020AACF/$File/whatmen2.pdf

Australian Catholic University. (2016) Unit Outline UNCC100: Self and Community: Exploring the Anatomy of Modern Society. Retrieved October 17, 2016

Steiner Education Australia. (2016). About SEA - Steiner Education Australia. [online] Available at: http://www.steinereducation.edu.au/steiner-education/about-sea/ [Accessed 22 Oct. 2016].


Norington, B., & correspondent, W. (2012, December 15). Shooting at Sandy Hook claims 28 lives, including 20 children. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/gunman-kills-26-at-us-school/story-e6frg6n6-1226537406849

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