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What do young people really want from their education?

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

In business, as the old adage says: ‘the customer is always right’.

In education, this is most certainly not the case. In fact, children, pupils – the customers – get far less say than any of the other stakeholders in education.

The government, teachers, and parents (to a certain extent) hold sway over the education that children receive. Pupils are rarely asked, in any meaningful way, what they really want from their education. Of course, some of the reasons why pupils are not consulted are fair enough to a certain extent.

They’re children, after all.

Without being patronising, young people don’t often see the ‘bigger picture’.

Kids shouldn’t be expected to write or dictate education policy.

But surely it has to be worthwhile consulting with them every once in a while? What are pupils’ biggest priorities? For once, the views of young people have been listened to.

In a series of education events at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a panel of seven youngsters.

– all members of the Scottish Youth Parliament – were asked to outline their priorities.

Their responses were very interesting indeed.

Teachers need better training in LGBT issues Few teachers would disagree with this suggestion.

Society’s views and perceptions on many issues, including LGBT, have moved forward considerably in recent years.

In many ways, the world is now far different from the world that the teachers of today’s children grew up in themselves. It’s probably fair to say that there a long list of very important issues that can affect young people: radicalisation, grooming, the dangers of social media, that many teachers actually feel ill-equipped to deal with confidently.

The overall standard of today’s personal and social education can definitely be questioned. School subjects need to be more relevant to students’ lives This is a perennial complaint from young people, but it goes far beyond the typical moans of ‘When will I need this when I grow up?’ Subjects themselves should be more focused on things that are or will be relevant to their lives.

For example, content about taxation or interest rates could be incorporated into the Maths curriculum. What’s more, are the actual subjects that are taught still relevant? With the focus on EBacc subjects, many students study virtually the same GCSEs that teenagers in the 1980s (forty years ago) will have studied – and many of the subjects that children of the ‘80s’ parents will have studied before them The world of work is vastly different now compared to then.

Are we doing young people a disservice with the curriculum that is delivered in 2019? Give students a stronger voice in schools There is much disagreement between educationalists about the merits of student voice.

A glance at titles of recent articles on the topic really say it all: They range from: ‘Listen to pupil voice – your school will be better for it’ to ‘Don’t let the monster of student voice run rampage in your school’. However, despite the differences in opinion, one thing that people would agree on is that if you are going to ‘do’ student voice, it needs to be done well – or not at all. Many young people feel that schools give little more than lip-service to student voice and rarely act on what pupils say. Nobody needs reminding about the strength of feeling that giving people a voice but then not listening to them or acting on what they have said can cause. Just think about a certain referendum and all those ‘will of the people’ arguments!


1- How important is to tap into the interest and pop culture or pupils?

2- What do pupils want from teachers?

3- How to increase pupil engagement

4- Can pupils objectively judge the quality of teaching?

5- Make sure the pupil work harder than you!