Freedom in high school is an important topic throughout our younger years when exams, homework and deadlines dominate our everyday life.
During this time, many of us ask themselves the simple question: Why is education so important?
Why are we forced to go to school? Why is there an endless pile of exams, deadlines and homework? And why can’t we just choose ourselves what to do with our lives?
By the time we are graduated, these questions often fade to the back of our minds. Our school diploma allows us to take control over our lives again. From now on, we decide if we want to study, what we want to study and how we want to study.
But what if we could turn high school from a stepping stone to overcome into a rich contribution to our lives? What if we could compose our individual study program, fitting our personal interests and needs?
In this blog we are going to investigate how much freedom you have in high school. We will then take a look at how its efficiency could be improved to serve your personal interests and needs and thereby your freedom.
Before reading further, I highly recommend you to read the book ‘Make me rich’ by Dean Allen. In this book you find endless tips about how to work towards a (financially) free future from your high school period onwards when you are still debt-free.
Freedom in high school
During high school, we find ourselves in a unique phase of life. We develop very quickly, both physically and mentally, and we start to develop interests and a need for more personal freedom (Deci & Ryan, 1985). But while the need for autonomy grows, we -as children- do not enjoy the same freedom as adults.
Parents, family, friends, teachers, school staff and school attendance officers are only a few examples of people having a saying over our lives.
Both in our private lives, as in life at school, other people have a certain authority over us. All their demands and criteria have to met in order to avoid conflicts.
But freedom in high school is not only limited by the social structures we are part of. Other important factors are the financial boundaries and legal limitations we encounter as minors. We are for example not aloud to vote and education is compulsory, limiting our available time to work.
While facing a substantial amount of Invisible Limitations in our high school period, we are trained to serve the needs and interests of others.
But after graduation and turning 18, you all of a sudden are expected to make independent choices. For the first time in our lives, we are not only able to shape our own destiny, it is expected from us. From one day to another.
An ‘existential crisis’ can be the result where we don’t know how to handle this freedom since we simply never had it. We were not taught to take control over our own lives, but only to serve the needs of others.
Increasing the freedom in high school, could prevent such an event from happening. By giving students a stronger saying in their curriculum, they are trained to take control over their lives.
These reforms demand a flexible and accessible educational system, offering freedom to fit the intrinsic motivation of students.
Increasing the freedom in high school
In order to increase the freedom in high school, two components are of essential importance: flexibility and accessibility.
- Flexibility allows the curriculum to fit the motivation and thereby freedom of students. Moreover, it allows a perfect study/life balance, which might reduce the risk of burn-outs.
- Accessibility on the other hand, promotes a meritocratic society. A high accessibility gives all students an equal chance to study, regardless of their socio-economic background.
Flexibility in the educational system, can be found in many ways. My personal favorite among them, is the what I call ‘Course-Based Educational System’ (CBES). Within this system, high school, higher education and continuing education as we know it today, would be merged into one educational system.
Not only would this increase the freedom in high school or the freedom in university, it would offer a whole alternative system to fit the motivation of students.
The CBES offers students maximum flexibility in the composition of their curriculum. It provides a diverse variety of courses, which can be attended in many ways.
We can thereby distinguish three different types of education:
- Classic education
- Distance education
- Hybrid education
1. Classic education
Classic education, requires physical presence of students and sometimes a teacher or coach.
Courses based on classic education are the most in line with traditional education as we know it today. A teacher is giving a lecture or coaches the students and the students are physically present to learn or perform group work.
Classic education is a good fit for students who wish to change their physical location to focus on their studies.
Sometimes discipline can not be found at home or there is no suitable environment for them to study, a physical place to go to can then be very helpful to stimulate productiveness.
On the other hand, teachers might also prefer to teach or coach at school. Just like students, teachers can face the same problems regarding productiveness although the cause of this might differ.
Having a family is one of them but many other factors may play a role as well.
Additionally, both students as teachers will most likely have a need for social interaction. Classic education fulfills this need, turning the educational institute into both a knowledge center and social hub.
2. Distance education
Distance education provides ‘education on demand’. It allows students to access study materials and follow lectures anywhere at anytime.
At the same time, it gives teachers the possibility to upload their lectures and offer coaching on distance.
The possibilities of distance education are endless. It saves both time and money that are used for commuting. This will result in a smaller amount of traffic jams and thereby a smaller ecological footprint.
Additionally, time that was used before to commute can now be spent on the actual studies and courses can be followed all over the world.
More knowledge would thereby become available for more people and it would be possible to live at one place and study at the other side of the globe.
Physically disabled people would have the possibility to study from home, a hospital, or any other place. In that way, their physical complications would not limit them to achieve their career goals.
Furthermore, people in sparsely populated areas would no longer be forced to move to a university city to get a degree.
3. Hybrid education
Hybrid education is as the name already implies, a form of education where classic- and distance education are combined.
It is a form of education in which the social interaction of classic education and the flexibility of distance education can be combined.
This type of education offers a high amount of freedom to the student without compromising on the social aspects of the school.
While flexibility is vital for experiencing freedom in high school, the accessibility of it should not be forgotten. It is in the interest of both students and the state to have a highly educated population.
By studying, students will increase their chances on a higher income leading to more tax revenues for the state and a stronger economic position of the country they work in.
But a highly educated population does not come out of nowhere. It should be interesting for students to invest their time in studying since they could also spend it on payed labor instead.
In the United States for example, many students are so deeply in debt after their studies that they cannot go into professions like teaching or nursery since they will not earn enough money to repay their student loan in a reasonable amount of time (LeCompte & Dworkin, 1991).
The abolishment of tuition fees could be a solution to keep education attractive for students. By doing so, students can choose for a study and profession fitting their interests and talents.
Not only is this beneficial for them, it is for the state as well since a broad variety of jobs have to be carried out to keep the society running, not only the ones with the highest salaries.
The educational system can be funded in many ways. Roughly we can divide these into three groups: Private education, State-funded education and Partially state-funded education.
- Private education is education with a tuition fee that is fully payed for by a private person.
- State-funded education covers the costs of education with tax revenues.
- Partially state-funded education covers the costs of education partially with tax revenues and partially by private citizens.
To experience complete freedom in high school and further education, financial barriers like tuition fees should be taken away. Only then, every student will have the possibility to study out of nothing but pure intrinsic motivation.
Private Education and Partially State-funded Education, will require a tuition fee which a student will not always be able to afford. A student loan has to be taken then or family should pay for the studies.
Money can be a strong incentive for extrinsic motivation which will most likely influence the study choice of the student. This might lead to a ‘commercialization of education’. Not the study that fits the intrinsic motivation will then be the choice but the study with the highest revenue.
To avoid commercialization of education and allow students to choose a study they have the highest motivation for, a solution can be found in fully state-funded education. The reasoning behind that is quite simple.
Three systems, one fundament
What the three funding systems have in common, is that all money to cover the costs of the educational system comes from the citizens.
Whether they pay it through tax or in the form of a tuition fee does not really matter, the money comes from the same pockets.
By choosing for State-funded education, the cost-efficiency of education will always be taken into consideration since the educational system is not the only expense of the state.
It prevents education from becoming unaffordable, where only high student loans or savings could compensate the costs.
Additionally, wealthier people contribute more to the educational system since they pay more tax. This reduces inequality in a society and allows all people to study and become successful.
Moreover, all tax-paying citizens contribute to the educational system instead of only those who are using it. The costs of the educational system are thereby carried by ‘more shoulders’ and the costs are spread out.
Not only is this beneficial for funding the educational system, it also encourages people to use it since they pay for it anyway. This positive impulse encourages people to keep studying and professionalize themselves.
The benefits of more freedom in high school
We can come to the conclusion, that freedom in high school goes much further than the subjects we follow in the classroom.
By getting a stronger saying in our personal curriculum, we learn to take control over our lives. It is important for students to get the feeling they are in charge over their own lives, because in the end, they will have to find a way to make a living.
Therefore, a system should be introduced that allows them that freedom. That provides an optimal flexibility and accessibility to shape the personal curriculum in line with the intrinsic motivation.
But is does not stop there. The educational freedom should be free of charge to keep it open and accessible, to anyone at anytime in their life.
Deci, E., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. p.127. New York, USA: Springer US
LeCompte, M. D., & Dworkin, A. G. (1991). Giving Up on School: Student Dropouts and Teacher Burnouts. Newbury Park, USA: Corwin Press.