YOUTH VOICE: Making more than memories

The Canadian education system has been ranked as one of the best in the world, in both the grade-school and post-secondary levels.

Though our students are definitely performing highly on tests and our universities are regarded prestigiously throughout the world, we have great room for improvement.

As a student, I have experienced both the positive and negative aspects of our education system.

Where does the future of education lie? In becoming more responsive to the needs of students and introducing greater experiential learning components into the classroom.

Youth representation is key if we plan on better reflecting the voices of students who experience the education system.

In Ontario, for instance, a cohort for the minister of education’s student advisory council is selected each year, and 60 students share their opinions with the government. This is certainly a path that needs to be taken in B.C.

Considering the system from a national perspective, we all need to engage in a conversation on the education system.

When discussing educational improvement, it is not enough that our conversation is limited to logistical and minor changes. It is time to reimagine how we view the whole system.

Experiential education, which encompasses a wide spectrum of learning-by-doing, co-op, research involvement and entrepreneurship, is certainly the future of education in Canada.

Though experiential education has become quite a buzz word in academic circles, it still deserves greater attention from both university and high-school administrators.

Building a representational architecture is the first step, so that education can continue to match the needs of the students.

The problem that the education system in North America often faces is a type of lead-lag relationship, in which a former student who later becomes a successful innovator is able to then comment on his experience of the education system, as is the case with successful individuals like entrepreneurs Peter Thiel and Steve Jobs.

If we can incorporate current students into the decision-making process, we would get a better sense of the flaws in the system.

To create students who aren’t just memorizers, we need to begin the experiential education pathway in the high school environment while continuing to strengthen it in the post-secondary system.

Some of the most innovative schools – like High Tech High in San Diego – are building future leaders who work on innovative projects, such as writing books and creating multimedia projects, through team-based learning. At High Tech High, 99.5 per cent of students go to university.

Programs like Junior Achievement encourage innovation in Canadian schools, but Canada is still waiting for its model of High Tech High.

The recent creation of concepts like an Academy for Integrated Mathematics and Science is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to hone the creativity of our generation.

According to some sources, a significant number of jobs that will exist by 2020 don’t even exist today. We can only prepare students for these mystery-career pathways if we provide them with the necessary skills, instead of forcing them to memorize facts and dates.

As philosopher John Dewey wrote: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

Japreet Lehal writes monthly for Peace Arch News on youth issues.


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