Silence is golden

Students acknowledged the difficulties that are starting to be seen in schools and their approach was that we should all place respect for one another abpove anything else. A couple of those students could teach a thing or two to adults.

Many times, as adults, we are too quick to dismiss a young person’s opinion. Adults have taken the notion that the opinion of children and youths are not that important and we can decide for their future without even listening to them. I was never of this opinion and I was not surprised at the quality of discussion this week when we had a Q&A with pupils from all state colleges in Malta and Gozo.

Often we think students are unreasonable and expect everything given to them but when we asked them what changes they’d like to see in schools, their feedback was positive, reasonable and above all else, very sensible. They didn’t expect anything fancy in asking for cleaner schools, a fun approach to learning and more awareness against bullying. One thing was crystal clear – each and every student spoke about their teachers and educators in glowing terms. They mentioned how the school staff is attentive and respects them. My colleagues and I listened to what they had to say and I think this discussion has highlighted the huge responsibilities that education leaders have and how important it is to speak to the children first and foremost.

They had a sensible argument for a lot of their feedback and criticism and we even had a good dialogue on complex issues such as diversity and immigration. Students acknowledged the difficulties that are starting to be seen in schools and their approach was that we should all place respect for one another above anything else. A couple of those students could teach a thing or two to adults.

I think this dialogue should continue and I hope that, we as educators, continue to listen to students because as they have shown last Monday they can come up with constructive solutions.

One proposal that has come out was the school uniform. Repeatedly, they mentioned how the blazer and tie is no longer suitable for today’s world and how this is stopping them from practising sports every day and exercising.

I think this is a fair point. Back in 2013, we had sent around a survey to all parents asking them whether we should ditch the uniform and the response was a resounding no. It seems the middle (and common sense) road could be to have a uniform, but consisting of a tracksuit. In an informal request for feedback on social media we received over 500 comments and parents seem to like the idea. We will work on this in the coming weeks and widen the discussion to involve all stakeholders.

Suits and ties may have made sense in the industrial age of long ago but I’m not sure this still applies. Some have mentioned the blazer and tie is about discipline but does that mean that those students, such as in the US, that have no uniforms have no discipline? I think school should be more about learning, having fun and building moral fibre and less about superficial discipline and military-like uniforms. The best discipline we should work for is developed from within not simply imposed from above and outside. 

At least that is the sense I got from the students. In the end, it was one of the most fruitful meetings I have had in the past couple of years. I enjoyed seeing students caring about their education and helping to propose a new model, a better one, which can see them enjoy school a bit more. We nonchalantly dismiss a child’s opinion way too often, when what we ought to do more as adults is stay silent, and let them speak up. After all, it is their future.

More in Blogs