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Thursday, June 30, 2022

I’m a student… get me out of here!

Flora Dyson explores why we love (and hate) the education system.

It is a thought that fills me with me with apprehension. A feeling so confusing that even my stomach does not understand whether to activate a gruelling, sickening feeling or to launch forth a flock of intestinal butterflies. No – it is not the thought of giving a presentation for my tutor (which I should be writing now) that instils this sense of interminable dread. Rather, it is the thought of leaving the educational establishment which I have been a member of for so long.  Many students have been part of structural education systems so long that we have become part of its foundations. Without a gap year, my peers and I were similarly forklifted from school to university where we transformed from forming part of faceless school buildings to Oxford’s hard, stone walls.

From infancy, we have been whisked into institutionalised education and channelled through curriculums often so dull I surprise myself that I made it to key-stage one million. With our creativity quashed, unless expressed in regimented (yet chaotic) primary school art lessons, and independence extinguished, we are the product of the establishment after up to 14 years of gradual moulding. E.M. Forster said “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon”, an apt comment on educational rigmarole which advocates for standardised testing which evaluates students based on their academic ability in ignorance of their other assets. Whilst this system may work for some, for others such academic structure is fundamentally flawed.

So, with such an unhappy account of the structures which form us, why am I still trapped in the four walls of my university bedroom, rather than training as a yoga instructor in Northern India? There can only be one reason: the structures I detest so much are in fact my lifeblood. Though these four walls bring academic rigour and a strong sense to conform they give us security, unity, a place of community. This is the crux of it – however much I complain, I rarely acknowledge the extreme privilege I have been granted even accessing such educational structures. It may be a case of Stockholm syndrome, having been passed between institutions throughout our childhoods, but I believe it is the inner workings of establishments which make me love them dearly. My friends are in the room downstairs, rather than spread across vast swathes of cities. We can eat pre-made food whenever we please at a small fee, rather than trek to Tesco in a desperate attempt to renourish ourselves. We can seek support from ready advisors whether that peers or the  institution itself, rather than struggle in vain against the unknown alone. 

Educational institutions have their flaws. They do not support everyone who seeks their help – demonstrated by student suicides and overwhelmed welfare services at British universities. It is imperative that institutions (looking at you, Oxford University) increase their capacity to support their students through high pressure environments. It seems structures are not marmite – I feel neither love nor hatred towards these institutions. Sentimental though it is, I do feel a peculiar sense of attachment to the routine and security they bring.

Image credit: DariuszSankowski//Pixabay

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