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Students Are Voicing Their Opinions, But Is The World Listening?

3.7.2018 | BY LAUREN WILSON

“Education, in the end, is about us, but students are rarely asked to speak about it”, Jordy Angel Coldwell points out. An international student and HundrED Ambassador, Jordy joined us from Mexico via Facebook live last week to discuss her experiences as an exchange student in Finland. Here, she was inspired to create ‘The Student Voice’, a powerfully emotive film which captured a snapshot of how young people feel about their education.

The video shows real students expressing their dissatisfaction with the current education system and a desire for something more – feelings that are reflected in our recent research report entitled ‘Every Child To Flourish’. Students from 19 countries responded to the Global Youth survey, expressing their desire, amongst other things, to learn career-related skills, learn in a better-designed environment, and have more opportunities to voice their opinions. When asked what they currently value about school, many had positive things to say, but one respondent replied ‘nothing’.

 

Jordy has had her own share of disillusionment when it comes to school. She shared with us how her frustration began in high school in Mexico, where she found herself caught in an impossible balancing act, working hard to get the grades to get into college to become a musician, but never having time to hone her musical skills due to excessive workload. In the end, it was too much. “I was really frustrated, I was angry at school and angry at my lack of time”, she explains, “I felt like I didn’t even have time to think for myself. Towards the end of the second year of high school my dream to become a professional French horn player just died. Now my dream is to change education.”

After watching a Michael Moore documentary that touched on the education system in Finland, Jordy began researching into education more and more. She tells us, “a huge spark happened within me and I knew I wanted to do something in education and promote that change, so that no other student had to feel the way that I did, that my dream was going down the drain, because of education which is supposed to be the path to the future.”

Would it have changed if teachers had asked her opinion? “It really depends if they would listen or not. It’s complicated because I’ve been in the same system for so many years that I can’t think about new ways of teaching. Now with HundrED, it’s a bit easier, but it’s still difficult to think ‘I don’t like lectures, but what else can I do?’. That was part of the reason why I felt this push to go to Finland."

"My biology teacher said ‘If you don’t like my class then tell me how to do it differently’ and nobody could think of another way."
"So I decided to go to Finland and see new ways to teach, new ways to drive a classroom and motivate students. Hopefully, we can get students to talk more, get this conversation going... But for now, we don’t really know what else there is out there because we’ve been doing it like this all these years."

That’s where innovation comes in, something to break up the status quo and bring new ways of approaching challenges in education. Jordy shared some of her favorite innovations on HundrED that she feels are providing a new kind of education for students like herself. “One of my closest friends and my sister are currently attending THINK Global School and I just love the idea of learning through traveling. You learn about WW2 while being in Japan and the origins of humanity by being in Africa. I think that’s beautiful. That was my favorite at first and I thought that was the future of school.”

“But then I discovered Big Picture Learning which is now an absolute favorite. It proved to me that school can be for everybody, you don’t have to be good at school to like school and you don’t necessarily need to enjoy the current education system to know whether it’s good, or wrong."

“Big Picture Learning is just taking the students as they are and then putting school into that. What’s really interesting is it’s a completely public school, so everyone can go into that school through a lottery. And they just flourish in that school. At the HundrED Summit after speaking to Dennis Littky I was just crying because I was so inspired by this project.”

With such a passion for student voice, Jordy was naturally interested in HundrED’s research and took the opportunity of the webinar to ask Jessica Spencer-Keyse, Head of Global Research, what HundrED is planning for the future.

“We really want to continue to build on this knowledge base, to challenge our implicit biases, to make sure that we have as many people from around the world saying what they think needs to change in education, as well as young people,” Jessica explains. “We had young people from Taiwan, US, and Mexico which was our biggest cohort sample, but then 30% actually came from 19 different countries so we want to keep building on that, making sure we hear from students all around the world, so we can help identify what’s missing in their local classroom and systems, so we can support tailoring, if they are particularly wanting to hear more about human rights or life skills innovations, they can check them out.”

“We’re also looking to deepen our knowledge on how and why innovation spreads and making sure we put children’s opinion at the center of that, understanding why a young person might love that innovation… our research team is really analyzing that so the innovations we select are based on young people’s opinions too."

If you’re inspired by the shared mission to get youth voice heard, there’s a couple of ways you can get involved! You can download ‘Every Child To Flourish’ for free, and give your feedback via our survey. We’re also inviting young people to share their opinion on the innovations we'll highlight in 2019 & to support a change in education worldwide. Jordy has already signed up to join our Youth Academy and will be joining other young people around the world in providing feedback on the innovations in August. If you are a student in K-12 education, you can register here.