No more school! The perspective of a Y13 student

Learning the lessons of remote learning during a global pandemic to reform the way young people are educated

Aisha Isroliwala

Y13 Student

Covid-19 has created what was once an unimaginable situation for every teacher and student; cancelled exams, remote learning and of course, the long term closure of schools themselves. Personally, the effects have been largely a negative; from being unable to complete my school experience as a year 13 student, to living in a state of uncertainty when it comes to basically my entire future.

However, time has allowed me to look at this situation with a breath of optimism and I have started to see it as an opportunity to improve the way that we educate the millions of students across the UK. We have been given an abnormal situation which should be taken advantage of as a launchpad for change. I have taken my personal experience of these changes and have come up with suggested alternatives in the way that young people are  educated.

Having a chat!

What the pandemic has personally taught me is that people are social. We enjoy having conversations, seeing others and simply just having human contact. Therefore the biggest issue with home learning is the lack of this social interaction.

This includes break time chat, lunchtime chat but also classroom chat. Now for some teachers this may be a statement of horror! I mean chat in the classroom is the last thing that can be considered a ‘productive use of time’. However, I feel that direct conversation can be a vital tool in the classroom. As a Humanities student, I spent a lot of my time thinking critically, debating and discussing issues and topics with my teachers and classmates. This initial conversational element of my learning really improved my analytical skills as I was given a point of view that I perhaps had not considered. Small group and class discussions were a huge part of my A-level experience across all my subjects and I found this made my lessons much more engaging and stimulating.  This is because it forced me to follow the lesson and not lose concentration as I could be asked to share my option on the discussion at any point. 

In addition, it can also lead to more practical skills for students. For example in University a large proportion of teaching is done in a discussion format through seminars and having this gradually implemented at A-level can put students in a good position for undergraduate study. 

Overall, I feel that the classroom should be a place for expression and discussion. As young people we need to learn to challenge and defend a viewpoint. Not having this discussion led, can leave a gap in a pupil’s skill-set as well as depriving them of the knowledge of twenty other pupils.

Technology for all

One of the main conclusions that I feel has come out of this whole pandemic situation is the value of technology. In the workplace technology is unarguably a huge part of life and I feel this should therefore be taken and applied to a school setting. 

Coming from a school where technology is embedded into our ethos, a global pandemic didn’t really cause any barriers when it came to teaching from home or contacting teachers. This is because we already had facilities in place which meant every pupil has some kind of device at home to access the internet. We also had the e-mail addresses of all teachers easily accessible as well as Google Classroom to be able to access lesson resources. I personally feel that schools and colleges should fully take advantage of software like this. 

The government should start programmes which ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities have access to a computer or device that allows them to do school work at home. This will aid academic achievement even after a global pandemic.

There is really more to life than school

As a year 13 student my time at school has now come to a close. To be honest it was a shock to the system, I went from full exam mode stress to literally having nothing to do. I really enjoyed school, I enjoyed learning, and having something to really put my mind towards. A-levels were basically my life. However, after a single speech by Boris Johnson I literally had no idea what to do with myself. 

I was out of school, in the real world in the middle of a global pandemic. 

Now, I am not saying that school should teach us how to deal with pandemics (I mean the government doesn’t even know how to do that!) but I think there should be some support arranged for dealing with the real world. Many students complain that schools should teach us about credit scores, how to buy a house and so forth but I personally am a much more short-term thinker and therefore think that skills that we need as soon as we leave college should be the primary focus. 

Some examples include: 

  • Applying for our first job – this is something I am in the process of doing and  is something which I have found slightly overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start, where to look and what to look for and some support with this while we were still at school would have been very valuable 
  • CV writing – as a first time CV writer, knowing exactly what to include and how to make my CV stand out from the rest is something which I am still working on. Google has been of great aid in this endeavour, however there is no substitute for having the input of a teacher.
  • Driving – As young adults driving is something which is on our radar from our 17th birthday. Perhaps creating a club where students could come together and revise for their theory test and go through the whole experience as a year groupm, would give us a lifelong skill that doesn’t involve maintaining grades.

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