As the gulf of relevance and increasing disconnection of students from school becomes an increasingly debated issue in education, one of the areas that has been suggested for the last 15 years or so that can enable students to feel more ‘connected’ to their experience of attending school (and the learning process) is giving students more ‘voice’.
When we talk about ‘voice’ here we are essentially talking about students having a greater say in their own experience in school, collectively and/ or individually. Various ways have been experimented with in schools throughout the world. Of course, we know that by and large such a debate in India has only really taken place in colleges.
Personally, while seeing it as a challenging area, I believe it’s absolutely right that educators explore and experiment in this area. It is challenging and clearly entails, at times, educators getting outside their comfort zones. It also requires a great deal of thought to be given to the desired outcomes, risk mitigation and the building of trust as a prerequisite.
Here’s an interesting BBC article which captures some of the opposing viewpoints in the debate going on in UK. Plainly, it is a topic that has the scope to bring out strong emotions.
BBC – Giving Students Voice
To me, the strongest points coming out of the piece are;
a) the need to have really clear understanding about what the goals are,
b) adequate attention to safeguards, checks and balances,
c) Good training for all the educators and pupils involved.
At a college level, one of the first approaches to this we have seen in India is student feedback forms to be completed about their faculty. In my experience, the schemes that i have seen in place had given little thought to points a) and b) and none to c).
The result is best summed up in a comment to me by a prominent professor – “We don’t have to be good at what we do any more, just popular.”
He went on to elaborate how it was becoming near impossible for professors to hold students accountable for anything. Some professors were even threatened that if they didn’t give good marks, allow extensions, set easy assignments etc. their tenure could be threatened.I even know of cases where faculty who were willing to challenge students were forced out of institutes. An Institute headtold me he had lost two of his most sincere and promising young faculty because of this, but his hands were tied.
So, we have to be cautious. However, i still believe it is vitally important that we explore the scope to give more voice to students – not just in colleges, but also in schools. Bad implementation would actually set back the cause of increasing student voice,so it is vital that things are done well.
So, I would welcome people’s suggestions about the ways that we might do this that would satisfy points a) to c) above. What specific areas would people like to see us approach? Could we, one day, go as far as involving students in recruitment processes, openly and transparently, performance management of teachers, student discipline issues, school rules?
Filed under: Educators of tomorrow, Life, Our Environment, School | Tagged: schools and colleges, student voice | 1 Comment »