In an ever-changing world, education systems prove to fall behind the demands of lite in the 21st century. Changing what’s mandatory in school and the content of government-approved textbooks can take more years than it takes for whole new areas of knowledge to develop. A recent round table Chivas 12 Chairs united Bulgarian industry leaders around a call for more adequate and modern education, as a means to combat the high youth unemployment rate in the country.
This is where after-school programs come to the rescue.
While formal education provides students with the necessary basics for all possible career paths, extracurricular classes are what illuminates each unique path in life.
With average class sizes well above 20 students and a lot to teach in a short 40-45 minute lesson, school teachers have no choice but to “lecture” students, hoping the information will settle in everyone. Extracurricular programs have the flexibility to offer the complete opposite. Class sizes tend to be half that of formal education and lessons can run longer. This allows teachers to truly get the students engaged in the learning process. Practical exercises, open discussions and hands-on projects – there is no better way to soak in new information.
Too often, particularly in hard-to-adapt public schools, students lose motivation in the majority of subjects and find themselves under the pressure to be best at everything. Parents know this will be important to universities and, by extension, their children’s entire career path. In the meantime, students regularly complain that each teacher sees the world as revolving around their subject. Combine that with the hormone rush of puberty and you get a very tense picture of adolescent life.
Who can be consistently interested in a dozen and a half subjects from all walks of life!? Society would not expect everyone to excel at everything, yet our educational system does. Adding more lessons on top of the students’ load may not seem like a solution, but it turns out it is one for most students. While sleep and relaxation are fundamental to alleviating stress, actively having fun is the fastest way to release built-up tension. In the words of Krasimir Valchev, minister of Education and Science, “There is no doubt that extracurricular programs reduce aggression and violence.” (24 Chasa, 15.02.2019)
This is the second key element to the crucial significance of after-school programs – freedom of choice. The students themselves choose what they want to explore more, whether it is robotics, karate, nutrition, piano, international relations or anything else. When you make a conscious choice to pursue a passion, your brain is tuned to soak in new knowledge. And if you are having fun interacting with your teacher, classmates and task at hand, you soak in that much more.
In summary, in after-school programs not only can students experience an interactive project-based learning environment, but most of all – they choose a personal passion to follow through life.