You walk into class to see the board filled with unfamiliar terms. The bell rings and your teacher starts explaining all this new information, and you can’t help but think, when am I ever going to use this in my life? When am I ever going to need to know this in the future except for the next test?
This has happened to all of us, you, me, and students all over Montgomery County. With all the required courses and standardized testing, the same question pops into students’ minds: why am I learning this? How is this going to help me? What is the purpose?
Across the country, many students and parents agree that the purpose of education in high school is to prepare one for college or the work force. Poolesville junior Sanna Madan says that a high school diploma will lead to a college degree, which will lead to a nice job and a successful life. According to the MCPS High School Survey of Student Engagement, 73 percent of high school students agree with Madan. But even if there is a consensus on the purpose of high school education, there is definitely not agreement on the methods that should be implemented to achieve this purpose. Increased standardized testing and required courses, limited funding for special programs, and other such programs are serving as hindrances in actually preparing students for the real world.
While standardized testing and new Common Core standards may be helping to bring some students up to a certain level, in many ways, they are holding many students back. Standardized tests generally consist of multiple choice questions pertaining to a certain subject. Teachers are encouraged to “teach to the test” and students are taught that memorizing facts and knowing how to fill in a Scantron will help them to develop their thinking skills to solve problems in the future. The irony is clear, yet these tests still have the power to determine a student’s fate as tests such as the Maryland HSAs are graduation requirements.
Required courses are another means school systems use to fulfil the purpose of education. Right here in Montgomery County, students must earn a total of 22 credits before graduating from high school. While these required classes span a variety of subjects and help to make students more rounded in all fields, it does take away from student choice. Students have less time to take the courses that interest them, and this prevents them from being able to learn more about the subjects they hope to pursue in college. A Poolesville student exclaims how he “wish[es] there were less required classes so students could specialize in what they like without having to learn about things they may never have to know again in their lives.”
Each and every day, I see students memorizing facts and terms only to forget everything after the test on the material. Students are increasingly “learning” for grades and tests, not to improve their thinking skills. While the purpose of education in high school may be clear, the implementation to achieve that purpose needs improvement, because “education is about inspiring one’s mind, not filling their head.”
Article by Deepti Agnihotri, MoCo Student staff writer.
Image by Valencia Fu, MoCo Student staff artist.