Finland is supposed to have one of the world's best public school systems. Well, if that's true, then things are really goddamn awful
What I learned there was how to be lazy. I pulled top-of-class scores by twiddling my thumbs most of the time and most of the subjects. Sitting there was largely pointless, and not just for myself but many others. Some subjects I intensely hated, because they were forced on us and teached in a way devoid of interest. Some of them I have returned to as an adult for curiosity (reading uni textbooks/laymen's books) and thus confirmed the problem was never the subject matter, but the teaching.
All the while, for many people in the class, some subjects were so horrendously difficult they should have never been forced to take them. A second foreign language, for instance. (Everyone has to take two.) What are a student's chances with the second if he is already struggling to pass the first foreign language?
If you trim away the excess fat like obsessing about historical dates, names, recognizing specific plants and animals, there's not that much a kid needs to know to grow up to be a functioning citizen. Reading, writing, a little number twiddling. Basics of laws and government. A tiny bit of geography, an even smaller bit of history, and biology with a strong focus on the human and health (nutrition/exercise/hygiene, a little bit of evolutionary psychology findings sprinkled on top... of course not labeled like that). You could sum this stuff up as "what you need to read and comprehend the newspaper and your fellow human beings".Everything over that, you should not force-feed to a kid.
They'll hate it, forget it quickly, and quite possibly never return to it. Even if otherwise in time they would have been interested in the subject. To teach specialized knowledge, the kid has to be interested, has to desire the knowledge. Until he does, off to work I say. If it's too early for that, then the best "general learning" would be a balance of physical hobbies, creative hobbies and group/teamwork activity and competition, like football, scouting, guitar, sewing etc. Few of these become a profession, but are very valuable nonetheless, much more than useless trivia that unfortunately seems the norm in schooling.
While working with the advanced, voluntary school material, at times the teacher naturally has to give commands and orders "You need to do this." or "You need to do more." but for that to work he needs to already command the student's like and respect, not unlike a parent. There has to be an underlying will of the student to learn, even if a strong word or two is sometimes used to get him going again.
It's very valuable to have one-on-one time between the teacher and the student. Even short periods make a huge difference. It's also fine for students to learn most stuff "alone". "Teamwork" slapped on top of an otherwise standard assignment is a surefire way to hinder the learning of most of the students.
There's no way to do this and have the necessary teacher-student attachment at a one-size fits all public school. If there is public school, it should be short and contain the very basics only. If there is still mandatory schooling after that (whether it is public, private or between) parents should get to pick the school.
In subjects that are not well suited to it, there should be little to no grading. If a student's focus is to enroll in next level education that has entrance exams, then the content of those entrance exams should be one focus of study in themselves, and mock-up exams should be conducted. Tests mid-school should be more of a tool for the teacher to fine-tune his teaching and for the student to tune his learning, not a yardstick of progress or worth at all. Both the tests and the teaching should be kept challenging at all times - therefore it would not be expected to get full marks on any test. To help the student reach this best personal performance, they should be taught learning techniques
. These have been almost entirely absent from both my school and university experience. I have heard that there are forward-thinking universities and even high schools that do
teach things like scheduling, note-taking, planning, reviewing and memory.
Phew. I this a huge ass post or what.