Is a focus on short term education outcomes stifling curiosity?

‘Will I need to know this for the test?’ This is probably the most frequent question asked by students as they try to understand the relevance of the current curriculum to their future. Year 12 student and School Co-Captain, Emma Casey, explores this controversial topic.

This familiar question has a profoundly negative impact on society. The purpose of education is to acquire knowledge and prepare for life’s challenges. However, it’s easy to settle into routines at school that leave no room for curiosity. Many students focus on passing assessments and so lose sight of the ‘big picture’. This narrow-minded approach has dangerous implications, such as being unprepared after we graduate to face problems we haven’t studied.  When curiosity is suppressed, it becomes difficult to solve these problems and make measured decisions. Consequently, issues of national importance are often neglected.

Think about how you learn to drive a car. Hopefully you practise driving in a variety of conditions; during the day, at night, in rain and in heavy traffic. If you only learn enough to pass your driving test, then you will obviously be an unsafe driver. It’s the same in education. If you only learn the bare minimum, then you will not necessarily be prepared to face life’s challenges. Furthermore, your ignorance will have a detrimental effect on society. There is more to education than learning specifics for tests which will soon be forgotten.

A lack of curiosity has resulted in political ignorance and an insufficient understanding of what Australian parties stand for. Except those who study politics, students are often disengaged from politics after high school. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), says about 1.22 million eligible Australians were not enrolled to vote for the federal election of September 2013. How can a society claim to be truly democratic when so many are not represented? When people don’t learn about politics, the result is underrepresentation. Today’s students will determine the future of Australia. If they are disinterested, the political situation will deteriorate. A lack of curiosity means that students not only deprive themselves of an enriched learning experience, they also deprive themselves of a political voice.

Some say students should not attempt to cram more activity into their busy lives. Of course it’s important to study for assessments, but students must not sacrifice their curiosity. There is no reason why they can’t occasionally dedicate a few minutes to learning for enjoyment. Study should be driven primarily by a love of learning. Albert Einstein stated, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” Education is a gift, not a burden.

For the sake of personal gain and for the benefit of Australia, students need to remember the purpose of education. They should be asking themselves, ‘Will I need to know this for life?’

by Emma Casey, Year 12 and School Co-Captain