Why Pupils Hate High School

Hate is a strong word – one that I normally avoid in day to day life because of its ‘all-consuming’ nature. Therefore, it really struck a chord with me when i read this short piece from ASCD a couple of months ago in which American high school students didn’t find it too strong a word to use to describe how they felt about school.

This is the classic ‘lack of relevance’ that has been highlighted by many including Daniel Pink. Students feel disengaged and cannot see the connect between what they are asked to do in school and their lives outside. Further, they rebel against the command and control culture still so prevalent in so many schools.

ASCD Blog Article

We are faced with a challenge that must be addressed. many educators have been willing to move to more progressive methods, more learner-centric classrooms with far more humanistic approaches – BUT, in elementary and junior/ primary school only. When children cross the Rubicon from class 5 to 6 they are shocked to discover a different world, one that looks, sounds and feels far more like traditional school. The teacher dominates the classroom, assessment drives learning (instead of the other way around), differentiation takes a back seat and learning is well and truly done TO the students.

Worse, as their focus shifts to board results, parents, consciously or unconsciously collude in this slipping back in time to teacher centric mugging and exam driven factual learning. Too often, the parents and the teachers are not prepared to trust in students’ internal motivation and so resort to the combination of carrot and stick extraneous motivation to drive outcomes.

In such circumstances, should we really wonder if students are ready to use words as strong as ‘hate’ to describe their experience of school. Maybe we should be applauding the ones with enough spirit and inner drive who refuse to be subsumed and bent down by such a system.

As educators, we have to ask ourselves some serious questions. If we believe in the ideas of Dr Howard Gardner, Piaget, Vygotsky et al., then why do we go against our beliefs after the children pass 11 years of age? We have K-12 schools and should do far better in creating a seamless journey through the whole learning experience for the children – one they will love and thrive on, not hate.


One Response

  1. […] Summers are times where school leaders reflect and often congregate to discuss trends, ideas and innovations.  Unfortunately for me, this year I was unable to attend my favorite collegial retreat but as I read my emails, or speak on the phone with colleagues from all over the world, I am struck by how often the conversations tend to be similar, regardless of the geographical location.  For example, this recent  blog note from Mark Parkinson who recently moved from Asia to the Middle East: Why Pupils Hate High School. […]

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