Brahim Ait Hammou
Brahim Ait Hammou
Morocco World News
Tinghir, May 10, 2012
I was walking around in my classroom today and I was attracted to some recently written graffiti which was on the wall. The graffiti was a multiple choice question in which the writer asked his or her classmates the following question:
“What is this place? Choose the correct answer: Prison – Hospital.”
The writer or another student seems to have chosen the first option, “prison”.
This graffiti has pushed me to think about what makes our students see school as either a prison or a hospital. I asked some of my classes about why school is a prison for them and they answered in different ways. Some of them think that schools don’t offer what students really need in their life. Some of them have expressed their opinion in written form saying that they study English, math, geography and all the other core subjects, but there is no space for other extra-curricular activities. Some students have said that the absence of subjects that appeal to students’ interests really demotivates them and makes school a boring place. The word “boring” was repeated in the answers of many of them.
Other students have said that school is a “prison” for them because of the behavior of some of their classmates.
So much of the other writing on the walls of our school reflects the degree of dislike that students -not all students of course- have towards school. Among the other writing that you see on the walls of our school are “rubbish,” “Sh**t!” and the like!
What is important in all this is not the words as such, but how we can make students love school. The “reflections” that students write on the walls of classrooms while the teacher is busy with an activity or writing on the board show that students have other interests that are not catered for by the lesson that is taking place at the time of their writing.
Schools have to move from top-down systems where everything is decided from the top to a system where students have more freedom of choice. Schools should move into the era where students and teachers have more power over the materials they use, the activities they deal with and how they teach.
You might say that teachers are free to do all that! It’s not the case in our situation. The syllabus comes in the form of ministry circulars, and the text-book is agreed upon and authorized by the ministry. The exams and the tests (the number, the methods, duration….) are all that are decided by the teacher. The amount of time that can be dedicated to a huge text-book -the syllabus- doesn’t match the huge content that has to be covered, which makes it impossible for a teacher to think of other things except when and how to finish a program in which students will be tested on the national and regional levels .All these constraints are so heavy of a burden on the teacher’s and the student’s back.
It’s high time for our educational authorities and school headmasters to see extra-curricular activities as a “paradise” for the school and the student. A huge amount of materials (grammar, reading, functions…) dealt with in a text-book doesn’t necessarily mean that those students have learned a lot. It means neither that the teacher has worked a lot or even better. Less is more when students see it as great. Too much materials leaves no room for the teacher’s and the student’s creativity and that’s exactly the job of old-time prisons. No wonder if students see school as prison.
Look, we shouldn’t forget that in many parts of the globe, including my country, our children have more freedom outside school these days than they have in schools. It’s so sarcastic and funny that we keep teaching about human rights, values and freedom of choice, while school is the place where these rights are least expected, at least in the present situation.
High school students are around 16-18 years old. They are mature enough to make decisions and have their own choices. Teachers are there to cater for the students’ needs, and they should be given that ethical right with no reservation. Teachers are the only ones who know what, when and how to teach. They also know that there are times where teaching grammar or any other language skill wouldn’t work. So give them the freedom to skip grammar and do something else that will certainly be of great benefit for the student. I am not advocating an anti-syllabus or anti-textbook aproach. A road map is always necessary for the goals to be achieved. My view is that the road map should be the teacher’s business. The road map can be altered or simply ignored when it is necessary. With the present status-quo of education, teachers and students are obliged to follow a map that might lead to no where.
School should match the kind of life that students are living outside, either at home or outside home, if it is really to be called “school”.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
A teacher of English as a Foreign Language, Brahim Ait Hammou, has been teaching for ten years. He is interested in social media, blogging and the use of ICT in education.