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The Present of Now

The Faults in Our Schools

Aida Aly breaks down the myth of education in Egypt, and the specific faults within each education system provided in private schools, which are gearing our children to become unthinking drones rather than the pioneers of tomorrow.

The importance of education is something that need not be stressed. We all know how vital schooling and learning is for our children. However, there is a common misconception people have about the role that the educational system is supposed to fulfill. Schools are not there to teach your child the gravitational constant or Shakespeare’s sonnets. Sure, all that is important knowledge to have, but it is something your mothers could teach you from the comforts of your home. The true reason we make our kids wake up at 7 every morning and send them off to school is not teach them 1+1=2, but rather to teach them how to learn.  

Once a child has passed the stage of basic learning, the sole purpose of his schooling is to breed his creative, rational, and logical thinking. Schools are there to help guide and nourish the youth so that they are ready for the real world once they permanently exit its doors at the age of 18. College is where we go to make use of everything we supposedly learned at school, and where the true process of learning actually begins. Once out the doors of high school and into the university halls, you will be taught all the information you need for your future career in the field of your choosing.

With that said, it’s safe to say that almost every educational system has forgotten what it’s there to do. I won’t even mention the Egyptian system, because I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin. But let’s take all those private schools in Egypt as an example. With the atrocious amounts of money parents spend every year on private schools, you’d think their kids were being awarded the best education. This is false.

I’ve chosen the three most common systems in Egypt – the IGCSE, the American, and the German, i.e. Abitur (which might not be that common, but it’s the system I am most familiar with) – to help clarify how today’s schools are giving birth to a generation of mindless zombies. 

If you were a student of the IGCSE school system, it’s safe to assume that you have had an abundance of private tutoring. The IGSCEs breed a population of dependent youths. Instead of making sure students get their fair share of their promised education, which their parents have paid a lot for, teachers rely on private tutors to do their jobs for them. Students are no longer able to sit down on a desk and study, living with the mentality of “why study myself when I can pay someone to feed me the information I need?”

The IGSCE system in Egypt does not have a mandatory attendance policy. It does not matter if you show up to class, or school for that matter, as long as you’re there for the exam at the end of the semester. Without the feeling of obligation we all face when waking up in the morning – whether it’s to go to work or to school – students mature (or fail to mature rather) without a sense of responsibility. It’s no secret that procrastination is the motto of generation Y. Systems like the IGSCE plant procrastination and lack of responsibility into the minds of the youth. The fact that you can spend an entire semester slacking off, only to attend a plethora of private lessons a week before the final exam and still pass with above average grades is astounding.

The faults in the American school system are enough to fill a book. The SATs are the biggest of these faults. They do not test intelligence, creativity or skills, but merely the ability to memorize and perform under pressure. Students are given sample tests to practice from, which are an exact replica of the actual exam. This does not help promote any kind of useful thinking, nor does it teach any helpful skills. Teachers simply feed their students an excess of information, a fraction of which they will be asked to spit back out during the exam, and all of which they will forget the minute they walk out. 

As for the German system, students are expected to excel in every field. We do not choose which subjects we study, because we study them all. From sports, music and art to biology, physics and chemistry, it does not matter where your talents lie, because you will be tested in everything. Abitur puts an immense amount of pressure and stress on students, which could be destructive to the mind as well as the body.

In the final year of Abitur students are required to enter three written exams and an oral exam, excluding the surplus of exams they have each semester. I remember how starting from the 9th grade, if not before then, all my teachers talked about was how difficult and vital these exams were for my future, and how failing them meant the end of my academic life. For years I lived in utter fear of those dreaded exams. Looking back, I feel almost stupid for having let myself walk around with that much stress weighing me down. But that is what stress does to a person. It leaves you feeling constantly uncomfortable to the extent that it is almost physically painful. In what world is applying that much pressure on a growing mind considered acceptable?

The importance of education should not need to be stressed. While many of these systems and the schools that follow them offer a wide variety of knowledge, the majority does not give actual learning enough significance. What good will teaching your child the mass of the sun do, if he doesn’t know how to find out for himself?