As I try to invite student viewpoints to our discussions about education reform, I get to learn how different student perspectives can be. Below is my interview with Priyanka, an 11 year old born in Texas, going to school in Singapore with teacher Keith Ferrell. Priyanka is a 5th grader who loves to read, draw and write stories. Keith is the Integration Specialist at Singapore American School (SAS) and is someone I have collaborated with in the past. The SAS mission statement lists "Academic Rigor" as their # 1 priority and from Priyanka's answers, you can tell it isn't just a hollow statement.
1. How old are you and where are you from?
Priyanka: I’m 11 years old, and I’m from Texas.
2. Do you use social media at all? Is Facebook popular in Asia or is something else more popular?
Priyanka: I mainly use email. But Facebook is pretty popular too – a lot of my friends have an account.
3. Do you think school is valuable? Why?
Priyanka: I think school is very valuable! Without an education, kids wouldn’t have the skills or smarts to get a good start in life. But I think having fun is important, too, and enjoying yourself.
4. If you could learn anything that you aren't learning right now, what would it be?
Priyanka: Probably how to save money – it’s useful anywhere and everywhere, for everyone!
5. Have you ever been taught something that didn't seem important in any way?
Priyanka: Definitely measuring angles and using a protractor. I don’t understand how that’s going to help me at all. Also, history. What’s the point of knowing a bunch of facts about things that have already happened?
6. What is the most valuable academic subject for students entering the second decade of the 21st century?
Priyanka: I don’t think there is any one most important. You have to know EVERYTHING, because if you just know one or two, it doesn’t really help you out a lot. You have to combine all of your skills to be productive.
7. What are your thoughts on working in groups versus doing work individually? Do you like one or the other?
Priyanka: I think that it’s important to know how to work both individually and in a group. But I prefer working individually – I just feel like I go a lot faster.
8. What are your thoughts on standardized tests?
Priyanka: I don’t like them, but I think they’re necessary, to get a general idea of how students are doing compared to others in their grade level.
9. What makes a good teacher good?
Priyanka: A good teacher has to love teaching. They have to have the knowledge and understanding of children, and the children have to like and trust them.
10. Do you feel that googling facts can replace knowing them?
Priyanka: Definitely not! You might not have a computer around someday when you want to know something. We need to rely on ourselves, not others, to have the information and knowledge we need.
11. Are you working on any cool projects outside of school?
Priyanka: I’m always working on something! Usually it’s some kind of craft for my room. Sometimes I put on plays for my sister, or do science experiments.
12. You've traveled all across Asia- what is the most amazing thing you've done or seen?
Priyanka: I’ve seen so many cool things – I can’t choose just one. But some things I especially loved were: Going kayaking, seeing & climbing on the Great Wall of China, seeing the Shanghai World Expo, and going to Angkor Wat, in Cambodia.
13. What's the best book you read in the last year?
Priyanka: I love all of Gail Carson Levine’s books, but probably the ones I liked the most were: The Princess Tales (Vol. 1 & 2), Ella Enchanted, Ever and Fairest.
Check out the previous interviews in the series:
Todd Oh 17-year-old App developer from South Korea
Lane Sutton 14-year-old entrepreneur
Anna Hoffstrom (Part One) Anna Hoffstrom (Part Two)
18-year-old Autodidact and Unschooler from Finland/Maine