How students can be empowered to take ownership of their learning

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Shreya Basu
Shreya Basu
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How students can be empowered to take ownership of their learning

By Shreya Basu

“Trust children. Nothing could be more simple – or more difficult. Difficult, because to trust children we must trust ourselves – and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted. And so, we go on treating children as we ourselves were treated, calling this “reality,” or saying bitterly, “If I could put up with it, they can too”

These words by John C Holt, the famous educator who pioneered student-centric learning, echo as we remind ourselves of the Sustainable Development Goal of inclusive education, on the occasion of the International Day of Education.

A lot of us may have experienced a kind of schooling where we did not have had much to say in the content or even the manner of education that we received. Even today, only on specific events like Teachers’ Day or Sports Day do students have some autonomy in deciding the content of the day or the decorations to be put up. As we know, the majority of school time is consumed by a set routine with a list of instructions, the pressures of classwork, multiple weekly and monthly tests, and the overall feeling of being in a race against time to memorize the earmarked syllabus. However, there is an increasing emphasis on students being included as equal partners in the education system. With this understanding, some students of various grades, across several schools were asked to share their responses about education and what it means to them.

There were some inspiring and heartful ideas, with some students in the higher grades having nuanced responses where they connected the importance of education with mitigating social inequalities and emphasized the need for schools as safe spaces. Some of them spoke about mental health and how it needs to be prioritized, especially after the damage inflicted by the pandemic, while some spoke about how schools should encourage holistic education so that all students can pursue a career of their choice. From these responses, we can gather two things, one, students are cognizant of the negative effects of academic and social pressures in their lives, and two, students want to rely on the school structure to provide them with a safe and accepting atmosphere.

A lot that can be done to address these realistic dreams, but it would all start with us taking the first step in hearing our students out. We need to listen with the mindset to understand and not to react to co-create and not criticize, to provide comfort and not ignore. Then, and only then, would we give our students the confidence to share their ideas, concerns, and feedback more frequently?

As teachers, we can help create a safe and vibrant classroom environment that encourages children to take ownership of their learning, and we can nurture their curiosity constantly by urging students to question rather than just accept what is being taught. As school leaders, we may encourage student voices by establishing structures such as student-led bodies or student circles that help students feel connected to their school and increase a sense of accountability. As parents and caregivers, we can foster a safe home atmosphere in which students can openly and safely express their worries and hopes. openly express their fears and aspirations.

There are countless ways of contributing to the improvement of a student’s school experience, depending on the capacity in which we can contribute, but the binding factor would be our ability to acknowledge that students have great ideas, and we need to start trusting them and giving them opportunities to share these ideas freely so that we can ensure that they have an education filled with joy and love.

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