What does school teach?


I know parents who believe that academic success comes first in the world above all else. These parents do everything they can to send their children to the best colleges.


What do we expect from our children as they are forced to cram knowledge in their heads while sitting in the confined space we call school five days out of the week? This is a contradictory situation: A child is expected to learn about life at school, not in real life. Learning how to live depends on real-life experience.
Students are naturally bored of school because what is taught to them has almost nothing to do with life. Moreover, we limit their interactions with real life so much that it becomes virtually impossible for them to make the connection between school and real life since they do not know anything about it.
In a similar way, I always feel pity for the fish in an aquarium. They go on living in a confined space without ever being offered a chance to discover the outer world. They die before they can swim in a real lake or river. The owner of the aquarium does his/her best — not all the time — to take care of them. Though possessing a mouth, fish cannot speak and, thus, can never tell us about how they feel nor are they aware of the world and the endless opportunities. I compare our students to a fish in an aquarium. They are stuck between home and school. They see life through the windows of their classrooms, school busses and homes. While viewing the world through glass just like fish do, students suddenly find themselves working through college before ever actually experiencing life itself. Imagine that, an adult guppy in an aquarium, lecturing baby guppies five hours a day and talking about the outer world they have never been to. Occasionally, tested by the adult, the baby guppies complain about the quizzes and tests in the aquarium, while they are not aware of the fact that real tests are taking place in the outside world. Closely following their children’s academic success, parents do not even realize that the relationship between academic success and real-life achievements is limited.
I once asked a group of students that hated their science class why the sky is blue. None of them could answer me. Then I asked why the wind blows and why it blows from different directions. Again, I got no answer. Another question about high pressure and low-pressure areas was also left unanswered. The very same students didn’t know how to get to the downtown area using public transportation, how to spend their money and time efficiently, how to speak with someone politely or how to choose their friends. They couldn’t even provide an explanation as to why they should wake up early in the morning. Parents, on the other hand, do not seem to realize the fact that academic success is actually the result of learning to take on responsibilities in real life. While swimming in the lake a fish learns how to protect itself from potential threats and how to use its fins to go faster and make sharp turns. An aquarium fish, on the other hand, only learned in that confined space what it can see through the outer glass of the aquarium.
In my humble opinion, we, the teachers, parents, principals, experts and educators at the Ministry of Education, need to consider raising our children like a fish in a lake rather than like those in an aquarium.

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