Influencing, on a national level

Our students are being forced to learn things that Google can spit out faster than you can say "search". Yet, they're left in the dark about crucial life skills and how to navigate the digital world responsibly.

Right, let’s have a little discussion about the struggle of getting teens to hit the books nowadays. This is a particularly sore subject for those whose kids are about to begin their mock exams, ahead of their O-Levels.

Spoiler alert: it’s a tough gig, but sometimes it feels like the education system is stuck in some kind of time warp.

First off, have you seen the internet lately? It’s a treasure trove of captivating content. Adverts are spot on, cutting-edge, and made to get you hooked. But when it comes to local educational content, especially Maltese history and literature, it’s like we’re stuck in a snooze-fest.

Although we’re investing in bricks and mortar, there’s a parallel universe online that needs to be seriously upgraded in terms of local educational content, because our kids practically lead double lives. An average child probably spends half his or her time online. If we want our youth to be interested in what they need to learn, it’s time to upgrade our virtual playground on a unified, national level.

If you’re trying to pull your kids away from the internet, good luck. Homework and schoolwork are practically living on platforms like Teams. Asking them to step away from something that is designed to be addictive but then assigning tasks on that same addictive device is just confusing.

Now let’s talk about the stuff our kids are learning. Who needs to memorise quotes from Macbeth or Animal Farm? It’s not like our future adults are going to drop a Shakespearean sonnet in their next job interview. I’m not saying that literature is not important here: far from it. What I find bizarre is that a ‘Grade 1’ student is one who is able to quote by heart, and not one who draws perfect parallels between what the literary text is teaching and the socio-political contexts of today. Additionally, rather than spending precious time on learning text by heart, wouldn’t it be far better to focus on things that actually matter, like taxes, pension plans, fixing a flat tyre, and cooking nutritious meals? 

Here’s the real contradiction – our students are being forced to learn things that Google can spit out faster than you can say “search”. Yet, they’re left in the dark about crucial life skills and how to navigate the digital world responsibly. Morning assemblies shouldn’t be a verbal notice board, but they should be a place where students dissect the news, talk politics, and learn to think critically. How else can we ever hope to have responsible future leaders?

The goal here should be to churn out responsible, independent young adults, not just exam-passing robots. Whilst society constantly advocates for understanding and considering others, our education system slaps our children with a one-size-fits-all curriculum and exams. The irony is too real.

Now, truth be told, balancing standards and meeting students’ needs is not a walk in the park, and this rant will not conclude with tangible solutions. But it’s an important rant, if I do say so myself, because addressing issues must begin with acknowledging the issues in the first place. Also, as parents, we need to at least have faith that there are experts who are feeling the real pain and struggle that we go through when we see our children’s potential getting lost, somewhere between comprehensions and physics lab reports.

It takes a great deal of effort, change and resources for the education system to keep up with the real world. Making these changes won’t be easy for educators. But most teachers genuinely care and want their students to succeed and progress.

What I would like to see, as a parent, is a child who is genuinely excited about learning content that is on the official syllabus, the way that same child is excited about checking out new content dropped by their favourite influencer. After all, teaching is nothing other than influencing in a structured, nation-wide way.

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