Fostering Passive Students

“A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers.”

Helen Keller

Education is an important aspect of how a person’s characteristics and knowledge develop. Of course, it is not the only aspect since there are other key players such as mass media, yet education is quite crucial. We often hear students complain that our education system has failed us, yet these same students rarely act.

Why do students tend to refrain from trying to change the system? In a democratic society, why should they be concerned that, if they do try to change the system, the decision-makers might ignore them?

The answer to these concerns is the concern itself – the education system.

While in secondary school, student activism is not very popular among students. Even in individual schools, one rarely finds members of the student body who are ready to solely stand up to the establishment of that particular school and persist with their cause, even when their requests are denied repeatedly.

It seems as if students at higher levels of education are more likely to work harder to get their ideas across. This can be seen through the various student organisations that are set up at the University of Malta, for example. It seems as if this “independence” given to students after the end of their compulsory education provides them with the passion to keep on fighting for the causes they believe in.

So why don’t students do this at lower educational levels as well, such as in secondary school?

Perhaps it’s because, at this stage, the system does not encourage students to take too much interest in learning content that is not part of the syllabus and their amount of independence is quite restricted when compared to that of students at higher education levels. The education system fosters students to be silent, obedient and to follow instructions. This, of course, is needed to keep things under control while also maintaining discipline and order. Yet putting a young person in that state of mind may cause him/her to keep back from sounding his/her opinions when they are needed most.

Activism is a crucial part of a democracy and should, therefore, be practised in places like schools as well. The problem is that schools rarely teach this to their students.

This is clearly shown by the fact that students are rarely if ever, asked to be part of discussions regarding decisions that will affect them and their education. Students should be decision-makers too, yet they are taught to take what they can get and be happy with what they have.

Students are often told that they are not mature enough to understand. But isn’t it the system’s job to help them become more mature individuals? Aren’t we taught mathematics, English, Maltese, etc. to learn how to reason things out and communicate them?

This only comes to show that the system fosters robots, not intellectuals.

By not allowing students to at least be consulted when it comes to decision-making in the education sector proves the failure of the same system. Students have first-hand experience of the system and no one can describe its flaws or strengths as they can.

Rules are made to be broken. We just need our educators to teach students that breaking them is sometimes necessary because if everyone stays within the boundaries, no horizons will ever be expanded.

We should not be supporting passivity. On the contrary, we should be eradicating it once and for all.

Written by: Bradley Cachia

(This article was originally posted on


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