17 October 2022

School is a miniature society

Author: Karolina Czopek

Research

South Korean participants in the HTT research project see school as a community that reflects the society in general. By functioning in it, students develop the same skills they will use in other contexts. At the same time, their educational experience should be geared towards functioning in society in the future.

Smaller scale, the same processes

Children interact with society at large from a young age. They use public places and shop at local businesses on a daily basis, but a great share of their social interactions happens in school. School can thus be seen as a mirror image of the society in general, as it is governed by similar rules, requiring certain interactions and behaviors. As one of the Korean teachers put it, “students experience the nation at a downscaled level in school”. Therefore, the crucial values, ideas and social rules should be taught in the school community, within both in- and out-of-classroom contexts.

Communication is the key

Teachers stressed the importance of respect, empathy and self-worth. They believe these qualities help people strive on both the individual and collective level. In school, children develop them through interactions in communicative group activities and while resolving conflicts. The latter aspect seems particularly important. As one of our respondents put it: “as my students grow, I witness the internal strength to overcome crises they gained from experiences of problem solving and being loved”. Thanks to solving problems in a non-threatening atmosphere filled with cooperation and respect, students develop internal resilience and confidence which will help them face challenges in the future.

Developing independence

In HTT, we believe that in order to become critically-thinking and independent adults, children should have an opportunity to exercise their agency in the school environment. In line with this idea, our South Korean student respondents pointed out that students should be allowed to choose the topics they want to explore. They would also like to be able to engage in teaching their classmates: “For the last period of the day after all the other classes, there shouldl be a class where we can teach ourselves. Each of us brings the research of what we’d like to teach from home, presents it to the classmates and gives quizzes too. We all teach and learn amongst friends.” Being restricted by the traditional, teacher-centered approach kills creativity and independence. School should be the place where children thrive through developing their interests and creating bonds with their peers.

The society of tomorrow

The focus should be on developing the core competencies of future society” – one of the South Korean teachers commented on the important link between present education and future society. What students experience at school should not only be relevant now, but it should also take into account the ongoing social, technological and cultural changes that will shape life in the years to come. Open-mindedness, learning how to learn, critical thinking, and communication are only a few examples of competencies crucial in a fast-changing reality. 

Our South Korean respondents see that school is not an isolated entity. It operates in specific social and cultural circumstances, and therefore it should prepare learners for functioning in these contexts, bearing in mind also future changes. The mission of HTT is to transform school reality into one that prepares students for the life that awaits them outside the classroom, where happiness and fulfillment on an individual level translate into harmonious and respectful coexistence.