Overview of the MARCH Conference – a student’s perspective
At the MARCH conference, we students collected ideas for a better learning system from different European countries and put them in order according to their importance and innovation. In between the panel sessions, which we students witnessed as well as all conference participants, scientists from different cities of the world introduced their projects on out-of-school learning to us.
Amongst ourselves, we also explained our different school systems to each other and collected suggestions on how students could implement our own projects on topics like Chemistry, Physics, and Geography at our schools without our teacher’s assistance. At the end of the conference, all participants gathered in the conference hall and we students presented the results of our discussions.
The conference and the exchange with students from other countries showed me that my school is far ahead of other schools in other countries in matters of extra-curricular projects. I enjoyed the conference very much and am happy to have been given the opportunity to travel to London with my teacher.
Victor Haisch (age 18) - Lilienthal Gymnasium Berlin
Why school syllabuses and tests should be more tailored to the real world
Ever since experiencing and going through secondary school, I have always critiqued the very linear and often ridiculously unrealistic ways in which tests, revision and syllabi are presented to us and how we are forced to learn them. To me at least it seemed unfeasible that in the 21st century, students are still expected to have to memorise quotes, learn equations and recite fact sheets when all of these 'skills' are simply redundant in the specific workplaces that they all eventually lead on to.
In workplace science we do not memorise equations, we refer to journals. In workplace maths we do not recite pi to 23 significant figures, we study patterns and analyse stats. In workplace English we are not expected to memorise quotes and set ideas, we are meant to interpret and critique masterpieces of the mind and give our studied opinion on them. Children should be exploiting newfound curiosity and passion and talent, rather than wasting away over the hundreds of usually tedious assignments. In my opinion there is nothing subjective or opinionated about that. It is a fact.
Up until the MARCH conference my ideas were always confined, but since having seen hundreds of like-minded experts and teachers (all of whom I look up to), I cannot help but express my opinion. This is, for me, one of the strongest points that came out MARCH. It highlights a fundamental flaw in the education system today, and one that has been present for over 150 years and I feel incredibly privileged and very humbled to have been a part of the youth voice on this matter.
Sankha Gamage (age 16) - Loughborough Grammar School
The School Curriculum should include more open-book tests
We believe that the curriculum is often excessively geared towards examination. We understand the huge importance standardized exams play in both helping educators and offering evidence of academic progress. However, the conclusion of the youth panel was that this focus was not perhaps the greatest reflection of real life. With the advent of technology which grants anyone near infinite knowledge at one’s fingertips, the ability to rote learn and cram for exams, albeit still useful, is becoming less and less crucial. It was the general consensus among the youth panel that this problem could be combatted by the inclusion of more open-book tests. This introduction would allow for children and adolescents to learn new skills, perhaps even reduce cheating, and most importantly shift the importance from rote-learning to application and true understanding of information, skills which are extremely important, but often nonetheless passed over in an exam result driven culture. It is important to note that this was not done in contempt of exams; we all knew and agreed upon the importance of closed-book tests and examinations, but we still maintained the belief that the introduction of open-book tests would be a welcome and useful addition.
Life is an open book test. It is far more important that someone knows where they can find information then it is for them to actually know it. In the end education should be more than just learning about a certain subject, it should be about learning a life skill and thus it would be helpful to have open-book tests.
Ryan Kang (age 16) – Westminister School
Schools should integrate more project work into teaching with a focus on creativity and real world applications
I believe that we should integrate more project work into schools because it will make students interact more into the subjects. I think that by doing this, students can showcase what they have learnt and will feel proud of themselves for doing so. By linking it to the real world it shows their understanding of the subject and how they can use these skills in the real world. I think that this is a really good idea because it will encourage students to become more involved to know more about the subject. It will also build the students confidence and independence which will help them in the future.
Recently the work that they have to learn about has increased massively, which means that students don’t get as much of a chance to look further into the topic. By bringing more project work into the curriculum, pupils can develop their ideas and find out more facts. It also gives students the chance the answer the questions they had. Most students don’t realise how fascinating the topic can be but by involving project work into classrooms, they will be able to look more into depth on this and maybe become much more interested in it.
Bethany Trott (age 14) - Caroline Chisholm School
Why there should be more international co-operation between schools
The vast majority of us would agree that different nations have different styles of cooking, writing and artistic expression – and that we have indeed tried to incorporate these differences into our own cultures (curry is allegedly Britain’s favourite dish!). The same goes for teaching – education systems across the world are vastly different and all have strengths which other systems lack. In Japan, for instance, students are allowed to carry out their unsupervised lab research after school and thus develop their own interests the sciences – something unthinkable (at least) in the UK.
At the MARCH Conference, we therefore proposed a global push for international co-operation between schools and encourage the exchange of ideas in teaching. This will provide teachers with constant food for thought as to how to modify and enhance their teaching styles. And this doesn’t have to be restricted to staff-level co-operation – students should be encouraged to do research with other schools, domestically and internationally, for this will create an environment very much reminiscent of real-world research: multiple institutions working together on the same project. Students, even at secondary school level, are indeed capable of pushing science forwards – the Google Science Fair and Young Scientists’ Journal are brilliant examples of this.
Peter He (age 16) - Tiffin School