May 28, 2013

Teen Education Reformer


Maggie: Summer vacation is so close! But most likely, are you are still stuck inside studying for finals. And you are not alone. American students take more than 100 million standardized tests every year. I met up with one former student who says there has got to be a better way.

Do you hate taking tests? Seventeen-year-old Nikhil Goyal sure does. In fact, he wants schools to stop using tests entirely.

How would you describe the current situation in high school?

Nikhil Goyal: High school right now is a hot mess.

Maggie: And he thinks forty-minute math lectures aren’t helping students learn.

Nikhil: …And I tuned out. And I just lost so much interest in the subject as a whole.

Maggie: The U.S. is one of the world’s top economies, but the United States education system is just average, ranking 17th on a study by Pearson, an education company. That is why Nikhil wrote, One Size Doesn’t Fit All, a book about changing the way schools in the U.S. work.

So, why did you want to take on something as big as education reform?

Nikhil: I think I really wanted to make a change in some system. And I think education, considering my school experiences, how really unfortunate they were, and how really depressing I felt in school, that I didn’t want other children to really go through the same way.

Maggie: Nikhil graduated early from Syosset High School in Woodbury, New York. And he has been going around the country speaking out about how young people can help fix our nation’s education.

Nikhil: I became so disillusioned. I felt that my voice didn’t matter, that people didn’t want to listen to young people and that there really needed to be a conversation that erupts nationwide that young people should have a seat at the table.

Maggie: Nikhil says teens need to be the driving force toward change because problems within the school system hurt young people the most.

Nikhil: It’s not about tenure. It’s not about the unions. This is just about our education.

Maggie: So, how should schools change for the better? Well, Nikhil wants to get rid of grades and standardized tests and he supports project-based learning. That is, learning by doing, like at the Ace Leadership High School in New Mexico.

Bryan: Basically what that is, is learning through experience and actually hands-on rather than just reading about it in a textbook. So, instead of looking on Wikipedia or going online and typing up earthquakes and buildings, we actually get to build scale models of them and test them out ourselves.

Maggie: He wants teachers to act as facilitators and mentors, while students take charge of their education.

Nikhil: I mean, everybody is born with this intrinsic motivation. You just have to nurture it and tend to it. But if you kill it, it goes away for a very long time.

Maggie: Nikhil has quite a busy summer lined up. He will be talking to educators all across the country.


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