Do our children have the freedom to learn?

While students are given the freedom to learn, that doesn’t mean they will do it


AT THE end of the 19th century, most countries in the world sought to revolutionise the national education system which was said to focus on rote learning, and critics mostly suggested the “Freedom to Learn” movement.

Some of the programmes developed under the movement include collaboration between schools and teachers to promote progressive learning practices, and adapt students’ experiences, rather than learning everything by just memorising.

However, both proponents and critics have doubts about how the “Freedom to Learn” mindset is amid the rise of digital learning because of Covid-19.

The main problem faced during the pandemic, for example, was that many teachers only used traditional face-to-face teaching methods online, with unsatisfactory results.

A large number of them have not been trained to give students the full responsibility of learning in a regular classroom, let alone in an online environment.

They struggle and strive to get students’ attention over time, through Zoom classes or Google Meet and sometimes just short message apps.

And of course, they find it harder to evaluate and assess whether students have learned or learned something.

As a result, many teachers choose to assign weekly assignments to students to give them space to study on their own.

But can they do that?

As the saying goes, you can bring a horse to the water, but you can’t force him to drink. Just because students are given the freedom to learn, that doesn’t mean they will do it.

The reality is, even offline, most students find it difficult to control their learning and Freedom to Study anywhere is not the first of its kind.

Norway, for example, applies a similar policy on customised learning. This experience may provide valuable lessons.

In 1994, Norway launched Reform94 to give adolescent students more control over their learning.

This policy is focused on giving students more choices and responsibilities to work with teachers in planning their learning activities.

However, their national assessment found that better students had sufficient self-motivation to learn on their own. A large number of other students do not. These basic good intentions failed to be realised.

Students too are accustomed to rely on the teacher to determine what and how to learn.

When online learning soared because of Covid-19, we noticed a similar pattern, where students became increasingly isolated and left without guidance.

Even Norway, which is often regarded as one of the best producers of education still faces the challenge of knowledge loss and lack of student engagement with the recurring wave of local and regional online schooling.

So, in a world where teachers and students are growing increasingly distant, how do we make students take over their learning?

Azizi Ahmad, Kuala Lumpur

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.