What’s so bad about school?
Posted on 22nd October 2019
What's so bad about school? Picking my dyslexic sister’s brain
No matter who you are or where you live, there is one thing universally acknowledged and vehemently denied by those who created it; the educational system for young people is deeply flawed. I have found it impossible to encounter friends and family without the unavoidable and dreaded question - so how’s school? It is a tireless cycle of feedback; a chase between government, adults, children, with each participant blind to their opponent.
As one sibling of three, I’ve seen distinct varieties of skills and opinions generated by our education. Most particularly in the case of my younger sister by 14 months, who struggles with visual stress and dyslexia. She has provided me with a brain-tickling perspective of her educational experience, which contrasts dramatically with my own enjoyment of school. I decided to interview her about her high school experience.
“What do you think about when you hear the word ‘school’?”
D: “I think: ‘Oh my God, not another day, I’ve got to stay there for millions of years, and I don’t want to go back there ever, and I hate it, and it’s too hard. Because they always say that they’ll give me help and that I’ll get through it with hard work and everything, but I work hard - very hard, harder than a lot of people - and the hard work doesn’t reward me with the results I want. Unless…I find someone who can give me the help I need. Schools always think they have the best systems to help, but unless it comes from the student and fits exactly to their needs then they don’t have a good support system at all. I get that it’s difficult for teachers to understand every person but if they don’t, then we’ll never achieve our best results.”
“What is one thing you would improve about school, if you had that power?”
D: “I would change…the way that academic studies, like Maths, English and Science are valued so much more than being good at more creative or practical subjects. If you’re good at art or sport, [teachers] think you’re just stupid. But you’re not stupid. You’re just good at art or sport. If I wasn’t in year 11 now then I would have tried a lot harder earlier on to advocate for it earlier with [my head teacher].”
“In your opinion, what has your favourite year group been so far and why?”
D: “Year 9. Because there was no big pressure, but there wasn’t nothing: there was enough work but nothing overwhelmed me. And I had fun! Like, you could choose to like French and then never do it again - you had the freedom to do what you want when you learn.”
“Do you think the education system [in Britain] could be worse than it is now?”
D: “Yes. Because it could be, um, [pause] … I mean, it is good now! Just not for certain individuals. It’s good in general. Not like the olden days, when they used to hit you and stuff. And you had to learn all the languages. I just think some people need better quality attention.”
“Tell me about the parts of school you enjoy the most.”
D: “Home time. And PE, which I like. And lunchtime. And my chats with Mr [G].”
“What, for you, is the ideal quality in a teacher?”
D: “Firm but fun. I find that’s easier for me to get along with. And when I get along with a teacher I can learn better.”
“Why do you think school is so difficult for you, but enjoyable for me? Do you think it’s a difference in opinion or a difference in experience?”
D: “I have no idea. I don’t really see how anyone could enjoy it. But I guess it just depends on your personality. If you have that thing when you kind of get it and you can answer [questions] then you can enjoy [school]. It’s a difference in both experience and opinion. Because you could’ve had a really good experience with teachers and not want to answer the questions, but you could also have a bad experience with teachers and still feel like school is bad. Personally, I haven’t had a bad experience in school but, because I find it difficult, I haven’t enjoyed it.”
D’s responses demonstrate a passionate distaste for school. It’s not an uncommon feeling: I can’t remember a person I’ve met who hasn’t had something to say about difficulties in school. But what surprised me about D’s answers was her focus on the lack of support. She links this directly to the word “school” - and even at a young age she has identified a relationship between helplessness and her education: and as her family, we all know her intelligence is almost unparalleled. It’s the absence of a safety net that prevents her from performing at her best.
Often, institutions like schools have been subject to scrutiny by those whose focus is to assist those with learning difficulties. However, one thing I have learned through discussing the differences between my own experiences, and with D, is that school is not for everyone, but more importantly, it has the capability to become more adaptable to different learning styles. There have always been options other than traditional school, especially for those with sufficient funds. However, with the development of more internet driven processes, it is becoming easier and easier to find alternative options. I encourage anyone reading this who struggles with school to have a serious conversation with your parent or carer about finding a form of education that might suit your learning style best.
This stage of life – the teenage years – is supposed to provide a solid foundation upon which we can build the rest of our lives. It is often considered to be the most important. It would be a shame to let these precious years go to waste because of a fear of speaking out.
Stella Paliobei-Keki (Studying A Level English Literature, A Level French and A Level Law)