A little card I made for my mum for mother’s day…
Today, let me make the case for science and technology. Why they are awesome, why they are important. How we should change our school systems to encourage children to learn about them.
I went to a primary school that was very science and language centred, so was my secondary school. I was always interested in these subjects, I loved school. I wasn’t that excited about technology, though. My dad is an engineer, he started to learn about it at a very young age. He invested his time in building and making devices I don’t understand even now. They are always a bit like magic to me. Engineers in general seem like magicians, I admire their paths of thinking and how they solve problems. I am more of a dreamer. I never took that path. If it were not for my parents, I would have taken a similar road to many of my fellow students in school. “We hate science. We hate maths.” I liked maths! You could never say that around your friends, you were looked at as if you were crazy. What is that kind of culture?
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany. We have to go to school. I don’t blame teachers or parents, it’s really not their fault. The problem is, we make so many alterations in our school system which we can never predict the consequences of. The classical concept of a school, that all children learn about the same thing the same way – I think it is outdated in a way. I just watched a very good Ted Talk on this subject. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mummj4SwpU0) Our schools today are not participatory. They are following one straight path. Teachers don’t have the time to explain anything to their pupils anymore. However, this is such a vital part of science! You have to understand what you are doing.
I’m a private tutor for children from grade 7-10. Nearly all of them are there for maths or physics. “We don’t understand anything.” That’s what I often hear. Why? Because these children never learned how to learn. How to work on the problems themselves, ask others, pose questions. Very early on, these children are told that science is difficult. That you have to invest a lot into it. For me personally, it was much harder to learn dates in history. For tests in science, I needed to understand the concept, that was it. I hate learning by heart, still can’t do it properly.
We teach our children facts, not concepts. We narrow everything down to a point where these facts don’t make sense anymore. Yesterday I had a boy in my lesson who said that he was really confused. They had started three different topics in one lesson and jumped back and forth. The teaching today lacks structure because we don’t emphasise on science education anymore. There is simply not enough time to connect thoughts.
My dad did a really good job explaining everything about science to me. I would ask questions, he would answer them as good as he could. If I was not satisfied, he would look it up. We do that even now, which I love. He gave me that deep interest in everything science related. Science at the breakfast table. I wanted to know the underlying rules behind everything. This is also the reason I took physics as my advanced course in secondary school. Physics and Art. What a combination. It gave me a lot. It was hard, no doubts. I would often cry myself through exam prep and homework. But it was worth it. We had two really good teachers who would go into depth with certain topics. Who would explain to us where all the formulas come from. Why we did all that stuff. Who spoke with passion, with excitement and love for what they were doing.
Another problem I see in today’s schools is the lack of reason. Why do we learn that, my pupils always ask. I try to provide an answer. I often don’t have one. As the science education is so little these days, where should we even start? The building blocks of a good understanding are cut from the schedule and everything breaks down. Until many utterly confused teenagers need private tutoring to be successful in their next exams. Exams are not a sign of you being smart or not. I was very good in school and yet I wouldn’t consider myself as extremely intelligent. I just love to learn new things and to understand them. Exams are arbitrary measurements of how good you mastered to learn topics and forget them after two minutes. How good you can handle your stress levels.
Here is what I would love to have in schools:
More science education. We need engineers, we need inventors, we need people who take a step forward. We need thinkers and doers and people able to understand the scientific basis of this world. We especially scare girls away from science, which is horrible! How many of the girls in my year did actually pick up an engineering degree? One out of thirty. By stressing on this education we provide them with more knowledge and more understanding of the world. Which is particularly important facing our global climate change this century. We need solutions for that problem. Now. How will we do that if no one understands the basic physics behind it anymore? How will we tackle our energy problem without the knowledge of technology?
More time to explain. We should encourage children to ask questions. Those who never ask, they sit in my private lessons. They never dare to ask. We need to change that. It is important that children grow up in an environment where they are free to ask, free to learn. Encourage your own children to ask you questions. Try to answer them and if you can’t, look them up, just as my parents did. There is no shame in not knowing something, but in not trying.
More involvement of technology. There are amazing study programmes online. Many of the large universities provide online lecture material. There is Khan Academy, Crash Course (which saved many of my exams in uni), so many resources children can use. The only thing you need to do is inspire them. Stress the importance of science. Children are usually learning through the things they see their parents do. If you are excited about physics, your children probably will be, too. Using all these amazing contents, children don’t need to stop learning about a certain topic, like they would in school. You don’t have these short, insufficient introductions anymore. If your kid wants, it can become an expert in the chemical structures found on Neptune. It can learn all about superconductors. Make them excited for science! Learn from your own children.
Schools need to provide techniques how to learn. I never learned how to learn. I had to acquire that knowledge the hard way. Through uni. Through banging my head on the table every night and crying because I couldn’t put any more knowledge into my brain. I finally found a way. Visual Note Taking. Drawing in class, basically. Something that prohibited in every primary school. Great system.
We cannot teach other people. We can provide incentives and explanations. We can never do the actual process for them, though. That’s not possible. What I always try to do with my students, is draw pictures for them. I want to them to understand a process. If they have understood it, I want them to repeat it on their own. So that I can be sure that they really got it. That takes a lot of effort and energy. Most times it is worth it.
We had some conversations with the parents of my students last week and I was happy to hear that they liked my lessons. They liked that they understood more than in school. And they liked my passion. That is maybe the most important one here. Passion. Speak with passion about science and your children will love it, too. Inspire them to learn, to look deeper, to study more. Science is an essential compound of understanding the world around and becoming a more complexly thinking human being. A great person able to achieve great things. For the benefit of everyone.
Current Word Count: 49447
No matter what anybody tells you words and ideas can change the world.
says Mr Keating in the Dead Poet’s Society, which is one of my favourite films. If you are able to raise your voice and stand up for your rights, you can achieve wonderful things.
In the last days I have been very inspired by the many talks of Malala Yousafzai I listened to. Furthermore, I finished reading her book which I started ages ago. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Her endurance, her strength, her wise words show me that you always have to speak up and that education is the key for peace and development. Here are some awesome speeches and interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOqIotJrFVM
I have had the privilege to get a great education, primary and secondary and now even university. I will forever be grateful for that. I love studying and reading and following my curiosity. I love to go beyond what is in the curriculum, ask questions and teach myself new things. When times are difficult I step back and tell myself what a great honour it is for me to have this opportunity and then I go on and study for that exam.
Today, I went for a run with my lovely friend Izzy today and our conversations are always very deep and honest. We talked about our school system and it was the reason for this little text. In schools in Germany you are often only taught what is in the curriculum. You do not learn how to study. You do not learn how to be interested in a topic. You do not learn how to solve problems and seek answers for yourself. You do not learn to think critically.
In their studies, teachers learn a lot about their subjects but hardly anything about how to teach. As I give private lessons now to students, I know how hard it can be to explain something to a pupil who doesn’t want to learn. In those moments I think back to my school experience, search for teachers I admire and ask myself what they would do. I find my answers in only two or three of them. Three from a period of 12 years!
It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. Albert Einstein
I believe that it is as important to know about your subject, as it is to know how to talk to your students. How to motivate them. Being excited about is not required if you want to be a teacher. If you are highly motivated, you will soon see that not many people value that. You simply lose the spirit after some time. We do not value teachers who look beneath the surface or try to encourage critical thinking. We do not value teachers who want you to read and learn all by yourself. We do not value teachers who teach you about life and morality.
This is the situation in Germany. We still have a good school system, though, because every girl and boy is able to go to a school. Globally, the statistics are shocking. 60 million children in 2013 did not go to primary school which is devastating. Or as the UNESCO put it:
Among children of primary school age, 1 out of 10 girls and 1 out of 12 boys were out of school in 2013.
You can have a closer look at the figures here: http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/fs-31-out-of-school-children-en.pdf
Schools are the key to a peaceful world. Education teaches us respect, tolerance, patience, understanding. It teaches us about culture and values, about moral and our human rights.
When in September 2015, about one year ago, the world leaders decided on the new global goals I was thinking about which my number one priority would be. I decided for number 4. Here is why: If investing in education, we can end wars and therefore bring peace and better lives to people. Education for every child is the first step in the direction of gender equality. Children have to learn about our planet and how to treat it, how to act responsible and sustainable.
In sociology in the first semester we had an interesting graph: People with higher education are more likely to act environmentally responsible. Out of this group, women are more likely to do so than men. What are the consequences? We have to educate people from a very young age and provide them with primary and secondary education to show them the importance of treating our mother earth right.
Many girls are not able to go to school because of war, of cultural aspects and they will stay at home. They will raise their kids to believe in the same values as they do. There is no escape except, they receive a quality education. It empowers them, gives strength to their voices and makes them stand up for their rights and beliefs. We need more women leaders in the world and I believe that they will also bring change in the way we treat our environment. If they are not in positions for change, they will at least ask the right questions, they will speak up and their combined voices will lead to rethinking of the challenges we face today.
Which of the global goals would you choose as your priority?
What are your thoughts on education?
A fighter for children’s rights, education, for women’s rights, the youngest Nobel Prize Winner, a writer and storyteller – and she is so much more. She has an extraordinary story that moved many people including myself, a true inspiration.
I painted it with acrylics on canvas and this was really my first proper painted portrait I guess… (I’m very proud of this one!) Hope you like it 🙂
in time gone by…
When hope was high and life worth living.
I dreamed that love would never die.
I dreamed that God would be forgiving…
… Now life has killed the dream I dreamed…
One side of her is dreaming, but the other one is a little bit sad and tired of life I think…
(lyrics: ‘I dreamed a dream’ of the musical ‘Les misérables’)