What Are We Really Learning at School?

Andrea Ochoa and Emilio Mora

Andrea Ochoa and Emilio Mora

As high school students, sitting in a classroom, looking at the whiteboard, listening to a long lecture, we tend to ask ourselves, why do I need to know this? What’s the purpose? From an outside perspective, most students tend to think that they are only learning Math, English, Science, Social Studies, etc. But they don’t realize there is something else. School is not just a space where students learn core materials, they also develop values and socialization.

Empathy, self-worth, and respect, are values that humans are not magically born with and have to be developed through experiences and influenced by role models. Debbie Preston, a geography specialist and educational consultant, Howick Prep School, South Africa, argues that her most valuable experiences in school weren’t academic. “On the sports field, I learned about winning and losing graciously. In the classroom, I learned that doing your best counted far more than academic ability,” Preston said. When we make a project or assignment, what matters is not the material itself. Besides learning new information, the amount of effort, teamwork, respect, and responsibility we did it with is also present.

School is also where you learn how to socialize and interact with others. The first contact of a kid is with family. This forms his initial ideas and personality, but when their world opens, they have different experiences. “When they put you into the nursery or school, you are opened to the challenges of learning to live with other people,” Anna Isabel García, TCS High School Psychologist, said.

Furthermore, in order to survive in school, we must have values and understand differences to coexist with others. Through the school process, the students develop a warm heart, and a mentality in preventing problems and respecting everyone’s qualities, and differences. Changes are reflected on students who in kinder fought foolishly and in high school act mature. This develops skills to meet new people and create new connections. “The school is a microworld, a community where the person and relationships with others are enriched by values,” García said.

However, some people still think that school destroys the student’s ability to work for the community and as a team. Most think that what is learned is insignificant and a very low percentage is applied in the future. In an article from the New York Times on how schools should prioritize life skills as well as academics, writer Holly Epstein Ojalvo wrote, “We’re trying to put in place the ingredients so the child is going to be a successful 35-year-old. It’s not really about getting an A in algebra.” Although what Ojalvo states is true, it is also true that school is providing these ingredients. Even the simplest exam develops responsibility (we have to study), and self-control with the fact that they will have to stay a certain amount of time concentrated in one single thing, which is not as simple as it looks. The reality is that the school’s goal is to prepare children morally to live a healthy life.

Clearly, school is not just a place to learn subjects with an empty heart and soul, it is also the place to develop character and unity. School opens new doors for students for more contacts and friends, interacting with different values, which will help them in their future. Students must know this, and take advantage of it. This will help them manage every situation in their future, and even avoid conflicts they might get in. “Let us remember, one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher, can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai, an activist for the right of education, said.



Ascd. “Tell Me About … / The Most Important Thing You Learned in School.” The Most Important

     Thing You Learned in School – Educational Leadership,  www.ascd.org/publications/educational-                  leadership/apr12/vol69/num07/The-Most-Important-Thing-You-Learned-in-School. aspx.

Garcia, A. (2019, April 26). Personal interview.

Hough, Lory. “What’s Worth Learning in School?” Harvard Graduate School of Education,



Ojalvo, Holly Epstein. “What Are You Really Learning at School?” The New York Times, The

     New York Times, 7 Sept. 2011, learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/07/what-are-you-really-learning-at-school/.