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EDUCATIONEDUCATION 2021BY FRED ZHANGEducation 2021: Three areas for parents with teenagers to consider in the New Year As we enter into a new year, many of us will remember the disruptions and challenges of 2020. Restrictions on global movement, the unbelievable strain on worldwide healthcare systems, unemployment figures and citywide lockdowns have contributed to an unstable work environment and an anxious community. In the face of these considerable challenges, the education sector continues to evolve and operate relatively well. This is an opportunity to make the best out of a bad situation, to learn how to ‘make lemonade out of lemons’. In 2020, we already witnessed some of the finest evidence of human endeavour with medical scientists working ‘round the clock’ to produce a vaccine, governments looking after their citizens with the largest stimulus packages in history and a workforce of billions around the world managing work and schooling from home. Still, the psychological impact of the pandemic is considerable. To support parents during this trying time, especially those with teenagers, I am sharing a couple of areas of consideration based on my years of experience working with teenagers as a classroom teacher, academic life coach, mentor, friend and education consultant.
Develop effective relationships The interconnected parent-teacher-student triangle is a useful framework for co-designed student-centred education. In this framework, all parties support each other through regular discussion and planned action. An action plan is then formulated around the student's pastoral and academic needs, which include goal-setting, analysis of work, intervention needs, and engagement in authentic feedback. Pedagogy has changed considerably over the past decades from traditional direct instruction and memorization to collaborative learning, 21st Century critical skills, higher-order thinking processes, multimodal instruction, and confident use of technology. It is important that parents get involved in developing a critical orientation and understand these new approaches to education. Parents can help nurture these skills at home. They can encourage their child to make the most of opportunities at school, such as being actively involved in class discussions, volunteering for peer-to-peer support, sending advocacy emails to teachers expressing interest in a particular topic, or joining an after-school club.
Building a positive relationship with the teacher quite often contributes to an effective family-school relationship. Constructive communication from parents provides school administrators and teachers with authentic real-time feedback to guide the planning and delivery of teaching and learning at school, such as the efficacy and provision of study guides. Studies have shown that the quality of instruction accounts for up to 75 percent of student attainment. Positive reinforcement and support from both school and at home provides students with a safe environment to ask for guidance and know that they will be cared for. Whilst there are both limitations and advantages to government and private schooling, parents and students can receive better value by leveraging the expertise and talent at their school.
Coach student agency When you step into the transformational and often challenging profession of education, you quickly realise that no gains in attainment are made without motivation and student agency. A student gains agency in their education when they start taking responsibilities. Students are complex mammals who are always developing physically and reacting to their environment. The rate of development in each student varies considerably but can be positively shaped through carefully planned involvement from parents. The planned involvement needs to be carefully selected. These could include age-appropriate activities that are high in discussion, negotiation, higher-order thinking, responsibility, and creativity. Regular reflection and goal-setting with your child will help in developing trust and ensure that the exposures in the arts, sports, literacy, STEAM (science, technology, arts, engineering, mathematics), social, academic and non-academic activities are relevant and meaningful. In addition, tracking the improvement of habits such as responsible gadget use, procrastination and use of planner will have positive long-term impacts on agency. This cycle of negotiation and critical orientation provides parents with the basis for developing executive function, particularly in self-agency, organization and emotional control. This deep learning cycle can be enhanced with the input of an educational expert such as a teacher, tutor or academic coach who can provide scaffolding of evidence-based study strategies, executive function support and identification of learning opportunities through work sample analysis. Stay on top of higher education trends There has been considerable disruption amongst major examination boards due to the pandemic, which culminated in changes to exam format, cancellation of exams, use of teacher evaluations and changes in university admission policies and requirements. The most recent of these changes comes from Collegeboard, which is dropping its optional essay section from the SAT and administration of its subject matter tests in the United States. Combined with the cancellation of most sporting, musical, extra-curricular activities, competitions and work experience, these changes create new gaps in the process of applying for higher education. Therefore, it is essential that parents pursue the latest developments and consider how they can affect their child’s higher education plans. The unpredictability of the pandemic highlights the need for families to engage in early strategic planning to identify and nurture their child’s interests in addition to the preparation of the requirements needed for strong applications to chosen higher education institutions.