Hi, guys. Welcome back to another episode of the BigAppleSchool podcast, where the goal of this show is to help you improve your English through listening skills. My name is Benjamin, and today we have three guests. Our first guest is...
Ken from the Philippines.
Yes. Welcome, guys. So today, we're going to be sharing our thoughts about traditional education, conventional education. And yeah, we'll be discussing this as teachers and, yeah. So, let's get started, guys. So what do you guys think about when you hear the word 'conventional education'? What comes to mind?
Well, the first thing that I think about is the classroom. You know, you have the teacher. And then if we're going to go really traditional, you have the blackboard. But of course, nowadays it's the whiteboard on the seats, that I mean the seating arrangement for the students, yeah.
So basically what we would call 'teacher centered classroom', the teacher is the main figure. Everyone else is just, you know, obeying.
Mm hmm. So, yeah, all schools in the West in Russia considered traditional schools still.
Yeah. Well, I think of Russian schools. I think of those upright desks where everyone sits a very straight posture and the desks are really small and the teachers are very strict. Is that a correct stereotype or is that?
I think it's a stereotype. I mean, teachers are usually strict, but I mean, when you work, you know, with kids and you have 35 kids, you know, you don't have a choice. You you have to be strict.
But all in all, I wouldn't say that, you know, everyone is sitting upright.
Upright. Do you know what desks I'm talking about? So Russian schools typically have these. They have the same desks in each classroom.
Yeah. There's a really small desk where everyone is smooshed together.
No, they aren't small, actually. I remember when I was, when it was my first time to enter an American classroom, and I saw this, you know, single desks for one person. I thought, oh, my God, that's so great, you know, personal space.
But then it turned out to be so inconvenient because you don't have enough space. You can put on, you know, your textbook, but that's it. A place for, I do not know, your pens and pencils or whatever, whatever. No, but in Russia our desks are for two people and that gives enough space to have whatever you want on your desk.
And they typically have a bench underneath. It's the bench or is it like a chair? So I thought they were like benches.
No-no, so it's just the desk for two people and then two chairs. That's it.
Oh, okay. Well, in America, I know the classic school desk has a oh, it's attached to the chair.
Right. But you're talking about older kids. But if we're talking about grade school, they would be big enough and the top of the desk would be a top where you can open it and you put all your textbooks in there, you have plenty of space. And they were lined up and we would have about 30 or 32 in class. And it was teacher centered as it should be.
So wait, so every student is assigned a seat so you don't go to different classrooms. You're always in one class, right?
In grade school, you have one teacher all the. And when I say 'grade school', I'm saying first grade through sixth. I don't know how it is now, but that's how I grew up.
So I would imagine that a non-conventional school would have bean bags and people lie around the classroom and, yeah.
Do you think that there is merit? There's something good about having the order of a classroom, like not traditional order.
You know, it's better to be systematic, at least because, you know, in my case, I'm a little bit, you know, traditional. I want everything to be well organized, although there should be room also for some creativity and, you know, allowing the students to, you know, express themselves, not just the typical teacher centered kind of, you know, lecture, um, type of lesson.
Yeah, I agree with that. What you said with that, because the activity we used to have when I was growing up recess, so every I guess 50 minutes we'd have 10 minutes where we could, you know, scream outside. And then we did have music class and art class and we learned Spanish. So we had it was a great education and that's how I think it should still be, but it's not like that anymore.
What did you, when you say it's not like that anymore, what is it like right now?
All I know is the next step was in California in the sixties, 1960s. And then the only next thing that I'm familiar with is my daughter when she went to school in Georgia in 1990s.
Grade school, yeah. So I'm talking about grade school. I'm not talking about high school or junior high, grade school. And it was it was very different with that. It was much more casual. And I don't like that. I don't like I don't like casual teaching. And you said something about the bean bags. Her first grade teacher had a lamp rather than the fluorescent lights, which are very harsh, but a light with beanbags. And I thought, what is this? Are you at home?
Well, you know, I'm more disciplined at home than she was at school.
Yeah, well, why have educators or not all educators, but why have some educators moved away from the traditional model? Why do some educators feel the need to experiment?
It's the concept of children and their place in society. When I grew up, children should be seen and not heard. We understood that it was an adult society and children should, must, you know, behave in the adult society. And I still think that. And then there's psychology books that were, you know, oh, they're a part of society and they have opinions. No, you don't. You learn.
Yeah, well, yeah, I guess when you get to a certain age, then you become an adult, and then you have to learn to become an adult in the first place. Yeah. Well, so what do we think about school uniforms, do you think school uniforms would be?
Oh, I love school uniforms. I used to have a uniform at school and I saw certain, you know, advantages of that. First of all, it kind of helped to get rid of this. Well, I was from a poor family and there were a lot of kids from richer families. And thanks to uniform, we didn't notice this difference.
Whereas, you know, when you don't have a uniform, you kind of see, you know, who's wearing this posh clothes and everything, the brands and who doesn't. So this is the first thing. The second one, it kind of I think it leads to discipline. So when you have a uniform, you know that you need to look presentable.
So I felt like I was more disciplined because of that. And we didn't have a uniform, which was the same for everybody. But we had the rules like you need to wear some sort of a suit, let's say a skirt or trousers and a jacket of dark blue or black color. No gray, no patterns. So if it's a blouse or shed, it can't be bright, it can't be patterned.
So some sort of, you know, pastel colors or white. So but if you, you know how when you are teen, you want to have some sort of freedom, you want to rebel? Well, we were allowed to wear, let's say, different shoes, bright shoes or let's say some jewelry, which was not too you know, not too bright. Nothing too bright.
Not too gaudy, by the way. Gaudy. It's like tacky. It's not, you know, not tasteful.
So I loved it. I loved having a uniform. Really.
Yeah. Yeah, my school, we had uniforms, we had tie, jacket. Yeah, everything.
Was it the same for everyone?
Same for everyone? Yeah. Same for everyone.
Yeah. For later on at school, there were different clubs at school, different societies or different people who were on the sports team, got to wear a special tie and people who were not on the sports team had to wear the normal tie. Yeah, we had a school uniform. We always had to do up the top button of our shirts, which means to fasten the top button. And we always had to tuck in our shirts, which means to put your shirt in below your below your waist, also below the belt.
Into the pants or into the trousers and yeah, that's right. That's right. That's okay. That's good. It's good to make this clear because 'pants' in America are trousers. Exactly. 'Pants' in American and 'pants' in England are two different things.
So don't you dare to tell, you know, in an American way to a person on the show 'I like your pants'. Excuse me?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, if you say that in England, then maybe people might think you're too intimate.
Yeah, I agree with the uniform. The class gap has closed with that and the discipline. And I, but we didn't, I didn't grow up with a uniform. My sisters did because they were in Catholic schools. And so they had that. And then when I did substitute teaching, I chose specifically a Catholic school because of the uniform and because of the discipline. Like you said, it's just easier.
Yeah. And I think it also prepares the students for the dress code in the corporate world or whatever jobs they may get in the future. So you have to look a certain way.
Yeah, I learned how to tie a tie at school, which is quite it sounds like a basic skill, but a lot of people can't do a tie. They can't tie it. Yeah, well, definitely. I agree that school uniforms do provide discipline and provide structure. At school, I hated wearing school uniform, but now looking back, I think it's actually a really good idea.
I've just remembered that, you know, we actually had a system where five days a week from Monday to Friday, we were wearing a school uniform, but on Saturday we were free to air whatever we wanted. So it's like a free day.
That's the other different thing is that Russian schools are open on Saturday, right?
Yeah, very crazy, crazy for us.
Yeah. We don't have Saturday schools.
Oh, really? So you only study from Monday to Friday?
But all day long. We don't have half days like Russians have. I understand.
Yeah. We had the same in the Philippines.
Yeah. We had 8:45 to, to, I think it was 4:00 every day.
Yeah. That's the first shift for us. I mean from I was studying for example the first shift was from 8:30 or from 8:45 till 3-4 p.m.. Yeah. Well how many classes you got. And then the second shift would be from around 12 or 1 p.m. till at 8 p.m..
So you said this is when you were in America?
Oh, in Russia. Oh, excuse me. Yeah. So, yeah. So uniforms and times, they. They are discipline. Or Saturday school. Do you feel that Saturday school is necessary? I feel perhaps maybe it's a little too much for a kid. What do you guys think?
Yeah, I think it's too much.
You know, now, looking back, I cannot understand how we managed to do that. Wake up at 6 a.m. every day, have this seven or eight classes, you know, then come home, do homework, have extracurriculars, do sport, have time to meet with friends. How did we do that? Now I wake up at 6 a.m., two days in a row. I'm dead.
I'm all for having discipline, but I think it's just not viable making kids wake up so early, especially teenagers. They need to sleep longer than adults because they're growing. And when you're growing, of course, you need to recover.
Well, my students in the US told me that at school they had classes starting at 8 a.m..
So and I cannot imagine how they did that. Because then, you know, if it's 8 a.m., the school bus comes way earlier than that. So, you know, because you have to pick up all the kids. So they had to wake up at like 6, 5:30.
I went to school at 7:00. During me time.
That's crazy early. Yeah.
So I guess we're all in kind of consensus here that. What do you feel? You feel early mornings teenagers, just need to?..
Like you said. Yeah. There's some kind of study that says that teenagers are wired to stay up late. Yeah. And get up late. And so school should start late. And there were some experimentations with that.
Yeah. Yes, maybe that should change. I mean, I guess school could still be considered conventional, just even if it starts later, I don't see why it can't still be considered conventional or disciplined. Um. What else can we talk about in terms of discipline, homework? What do we think about how much do you feel that kids should be forced to do homework?
I think homework. It's okay, but you don't have to do it every day just for the sake of doing it just because it's required in the curriculum, I think, you know, and if ever you're going to give homework, as, you know, a teacher, it has to be meaningful, not just some burden that they have to do at home, some kind of a punishment.
Yeah, exactly right. So, yeah, I'm all for that. But it doesn't have to be like all the time. Only when it's necessary and it has to be meaningful. Isn't that it doesn't have to be like, you know, like a punishing kind of homework.
Yeah. That reminds me of when I grew up, we didn't really have homework and we didn't ever take our textbooks home. And I see kids now. And when my daughter was going to school burdened with these heavy backpacks, and I never had to do that.
Mm hmm. Well, we all work in sphere of teaching languages. Do you feel that kids should be forced to do language homework, or what should language homework look like for a grade school?
Well, you see, as a teacher, you know, I think that, hey, we should have, you know, we should give some homework. But at the same time, I understand that kids have, what, ten subjects at school, if not more, and then they have homework on each and every one of them. So and it kind of builds up. So I feel sorry for the kids. So whenever I, when I was working at a school, I try not to kind of, you know, give them too much homework, not to make them, you know, snowed under with work because it's too much.
I think the thing with languages is that it takes such a long time to learn any language to a high standard, whereas other subjects. I mean, I'm not saying you can learn history overnight. Of course, you can't. But for the purposes of studying history at school, you just need to learn dates and a couple of facts about some kings and queens, whereas with languages, it's like a constant process and you can't just come into a classroom twice a week and expect to get really good at a language.
You have to be surrounded by the language at home. I mean, what would you suggest to grade schoolers or high school students learning languages? How could we? Force them to force them to. Yeah. Kind of do homework or how can we force them to learn English better?
I think in this case it's just better to find a hobby in English. I had situations when I had kids in a classroom who had horrible grades, you know, but they were into, what is it like, 'World of Warcraft' or something? The game. And that was an online game.
And a lot of players were from other countries speaking English and they would come to the classroom, you know, and actually try to speak and they could understand some things because of the game. So they got interested in English because of their hobby. So I think in this case, if you don't want to be too overwhelmed by the hobby, watch T.V. shows or cartoons or something.
Mhm. Well, do you feel education is fit for purpose when it comes to languages? So normal schools, I mean in America, how many kids speak fluent Spanish after going to high school? I'm not talking about people with native. And Hispanic parents.
Probably not many unless they're really going to concentrate on it. Um, but a lot of I'm thinking about when I was in school, we would have a native speaker, a native Spanish speaker come to our classroom like once a week or twice a week and we would learn Spanish. It was a good exposure and that was good enough.
The reason why I'm asking is because in Russia, in England, in so many countries, not all, but in many countries, students go to school and they learn a language for ten years and then they leave school, not being able to order a table at restaurants or being able to do basic things in a language.
That's because of the lack of native speakers, I think.
Or maybe. Well, I don't know about the system, but I remember when I was learning English at school before, it was mostly about the grammar thing, grammar exercises to complete. And what we learned about, you know, language for research, very technical kind of, you know, language obviously in English. But we were not taught how to order something, let's say, at a restaurant or book a table, anything like that. But it was more like, okay, this is the object. This is the subject. You know what I mean?
Yeah, I have I have a story. So right after I graduated from university, I went to work at a school and I'm in a secondary school, so. And I was so inspired. Yeah, I'm going to teach this kids English. I, you know, I'm going to make it fun and everything. You know, you very quickly learn that nobody's interested in that. And I'm not meaning the kids, I mean, the school and the system.
So because you have a program so and I created, you know, different games, I found extracts from TV shows, from movies to illustrate the topic. I had some sort of creative tasks. And then I had a talk with the headmaster who said like, 'Hey, why are you so behind the schedule?' I said, 'Well, I try to pay attention, so the kids actually understand and start to use these things.' She's she said,sorry.
She just said it doesn't matter that. What do you mean it doesn't matter? What is more important to you? The program and the documents or the knowledge? She said 'the program'. I don't care what these kids know. I said, wait a second. So you and the textbooks are horrible.
They suggest that you go through 12 different tenses within the 45 minute lesson. It's impossible. And I said, 'Wait, but what if the kids don't understand?' She said, 'I don't care'. One person understands, you move on. It doesn't matter. That was the moment when I was disappointed in our system of education.
Yeah, it's and that's a yeah. Great explanation the situation. In England we a lot of people are in French because France is our neighbor and nobody can really speak good French after ten years of school. And I think it's a real shame. And I definitely as much as I am a fan of traditional education, I definitely feel that languages needs, something needs to change drastically when it comes to languages, which countries speak excellent English? Well, as the Netherlands, Nordic countries, the Philippines. Most people speak good English, don't they?
Yeah, but I wouldn't say like in the same level as those countries that you have mentioned.
Well, there's a good background knowledge. Most people can still speak English. The reason why is because people watch TV in English every single day, whereas in Russia, for instance, people don't really watch much English TV. Well, they do, but it will have the voiceovers. And we talked about this in a previous podcast, but something needs to drastically change. You can't go on the way is. How do you feel that languages should be evaluated at schools?
Well, it has to be in a communicative form, not just the pen and paper. It has to be in terms of the production of the language. So there has to be some kind of a speaking activity. And then the teacher, him or herself, should have rubrics to follow, evaluate, you know, the level of the student.
I mean, certain criteria that you have to look into. In the same way that I mean, it's not just for speaking, but the same thing for writing. I mean, you do have rubrics so that you can evaluate if the student can really use certain words, structures.
Do you think too much importance is given to writing at schools? And when it comes to languages, do you think?
I don't think they're writing. I if you're talking about doing exercises, that's different from actually writing essays.
I mean yeah, writing essays, I'm talking about writing essays.
Getting essays is something dead.
For example, well, nobody I and you know, even if we talk about higher education, I spent five years learning the language, you know, 12 hours a day. We were never taught how to write an essay. I had to learned it a hard way.
A lot of times it is because the professor or the teacher or whatever level does not have enough time to correct all of that.
Yeah. It's, it's a monstrous task. Yeah. I mean if you have 35 students in a class like how are you going to get through that?
Now, a lot of these language classes only have maybe 6 to 12, right? Not really 30 if you're talking about a higher level.
When I was at school, my class was 25 people all together learning French. Yeah, that's.
At the university, right?
At school. Yes, when we were learning French.
You know, when it comes to evaluation, I like the difference between, for example, Russia and the U.S. because in Russia, most of the exams is just, you know, multiple choice tests, which actually shows nothing. And it's mostly grade tests. What does it show? Nothing. Maybe a person knows the grammar so well, but they can't speak. Whereas in the U.S., most common exam, at least at the higher education, you know, is OPI, which is oral proficiency interview. So basically they evaluate how you speak and what sort of communicative tasks you can solve.
I did not even realize that I, I think speaking is so much more important than being able to complete.
In Russia you ask people, 'Hey, what do you think is the way?' They say, 'Oh, you know, we have the Cambridge exams'. Cambridge exams is 95% of writing and grammar and vocabulary. And if you don't know, you know an exact phrase, you lose the points. What? Whereas, you know, in the U.S., for example, in higher education, it's OPI. So you have this interview and during the interview they check what sort of tasks you can solve.
Let's say, it starts with the simpler ones, like order something in a cafe and everything, and then depending on the level, the questions get more and more difficult. So at the proficiency level or, you know, higher advanced level, so the questions that you will be asked would be about, let's say, philosophy or the world or some sort of, you know, major problems in the world and so on, to see how well you can analyze and express your opinion.
So but yeah, but not grammar.
And what do you feel about the structure of many listening tasks in exams and in schools? I personally, even in my native language, I make mistakes in these listening exercises. They're more like short term memory exercises. Do you feel that that needs to change?
Do you feel that I mean, how would you evaluate listening? I think personally, I feel it should be in conjunction with speaking, should be rather than listen to an extract for 3 minutes or 5 minutes and then try to remember all the figures, all the numbers and write down all the numbers. What do you feel? Do you feel that that's a good exercise?
Are you talking about a foreign language?
Yeah, in a foreign language, yeah. So listening exercises where you listen extracts.
I don't, I don't have much experience.
No, for instance, many textbooks you, you listen to extract.
Yeah, I understand your point and I can appreciate that because, you know, they normally go hand in hand listening and speaking. However, you also have to understand that in life, you don't just do a lot. I mean, you don't just talk. I mean, sometimes you watch television. So conversation there or when you listen to the radio, you simply, you know, passively listen to it.
And that's why, as much as I do understand, because sometimes some of the listening exercises, it's like a bit of a test of your memory because you have to remember certain details. But then, well, that's how it kind of works also in real life, when you listen to the radio and if you watched, you know, TV or whatever, and then you share the story with another person. So you have to remember some details. Yeah, I mean, I understand your point, but yeah, I don't see anything wrong with the listening exercises unless you find something questionable.
I mean, if we talk about testing, I think it's totally fine because let's say if we have a look at different exams, so we have the IELTS, we have the TOEFL, they have listening tasks, but they are so different. So in IELTS you listen to a task, you fill in the gaps and everything. So it checks your understanding of the text.
So how well you can understand the spoken text, let's say in TOEFL, it's a little bit of different story because in there you have the listenings, you don't see the tasks, so you have to take notes. So it also checks your ability to take notes and to memorize information. But what I like about these test is that they not only, they do not only have, you know, the academic test, they have a conversation dialog about university, a lecture and something else.
So it's a different set of situations. So when it comes to testing, it's totally fine. This is teaching that we should change a little bit. Because mostly when we have the listening exercises, we test. We should teach how to listen. And it also requires, you know, certain skills and everything.
Yeah, right. Well, I've worked with a few students on OGE exams and EGE exams and IELTS exams as well. And sometimes I will do the listening tests and most of the time I get 100%. But there will be times when I'm just a little tired and I've missed out a little fact. And I think if a native speaker is not getting 100%, then..
Oh yeah, those listening audios are difficult.
Actually have an example of my TOEFL exam. So when I was taken TOEFL back in 2017, there were 9 listening tasks. So it would go, you know, while listening you take notes because you don't see the tasks. It ends, you have 2 minutes to fill in, you know, to do the tasks and everything.
It goes on. So no pause. So and the last one of the last tasks was a lecture about like 3 or 4 minutes long. At some point, you know, I understood that I just dozed off like a minute, and then I was like, 'Oh my God, I missed the whole minute of information'. What was that? I had no idea. Of course, I lost points.
But then again, it had nothing to do with the level of language but more about the attention. But I'm actually glad that they reduced the number of listenings from 9 to 6. Within the recent years, so, but. Yeah. You think about a lecture, you go to university, you have a 90 minute lecture. Still have to be able, you know, to understand most of it, so.
And to keep your attention, make sure that you are awake.
Exactly. So maybe learning languages at school should be attention and language skills? Yeah.
Skills. Yeah. Um, well, let's. Let's come back to grade school and high school. Different types of high school. What do we feel about home schooling? I believe. Do you have experience of home schooling?
Well, there was a moment with my daughter. I guess she was in 6th grade. We moved, and so she was upset about that. She didn't want to go to the new school. And so I said, okay, I'll have to homeschool you. And of course, I was working. I was you know, I didn't have time.
I didn't really want to do it. So what can I teach her? This was before I was college educated anyway, and I was not in, you know, I didn't know anything. So I said, okay, well, I'll teach you how to type. And so I made up exercises for her to learn how to type because.
I think that's a great skill, actually.
Yeah, I think it is useful. And then I thought, well, I guess I can teach you the Russian alphabet. So I made her right off the Russian alphabet, and that was pretty much the extent of what I could teach. I mean, I really didn't know what to do. And so I did find it as some kind of distant learning, thing that accredited. And so she had to do that for a few months. And then we moved, which was a better situation. And I said, You're going to school. No matter what. Go.
So what's the law in the States regarding home schooling? So you have to receive a packets of?..
Yeah, it has to be some kind of accreditation and you have to go to your local school and submit some documents or something, I don't know.
All right. So was it like a very onerous task? Was it really difficult task?
I don't know. I didn't monitor. I said, 'You're on your own with this'. And she did it herself and I just mailed it.
Yeah. So do they have to do SATs when you're at home?
Oh, well, this was only in 6th grade.
I was already sixth grade. Well, let's say, can you do home schooling until high school?
Oh, you can do it. All sorts of, a lot of religions do that. You know, they.
You know, I believe that not many people have it in themselves to be able to teach well and to know what to teach. I mean, have a look at some of the textbooks of like third graders. You would be shocked. Like, you know, sometimes I have friends who have kids now and they say, you know, my kid brings me the textbook. I look at it, like, what the hell is that?
You can't understand it, right?
Right. My daughter did that, too. She was so frustrated with something, I said, 'Let me read it'. And I was in college at the time. I go, 'Oh, my God, I don't even understand what'. It didn't even make sense.
Exactly. So in this case, you know, if you want to homeschool your kid, you have to make sure that you know what you are going to teach them and how. And not many people, you know, have that in them.
And there's a lot of motivation involved because, you know, having to do it yourself and then of course, you know, to do it with your child, you have to make sure that it will be interesting for the child. Otherwise, I don't know how much learning will take place.
Oh, yeah. Well, that reminds me, they would do some kind of field trip. So there are organizations that homeschoolers from all over the area or local homeschoolers would attend some kind of our program or some field trip, and they would meet other homeschoolers.
That's amazing, because otherwise, you know, they don't have great social skills sometimes. I mean, if the kid is always at home, you know, and everything. But being able to meet all the homeschoolers.
And plus going to a dance class or music school and other things, that's.
Yeah, you know. Have you seen a movie, 'Captain Fantastic'?
So it's a movie where, so a family has five, five or six kids, but then the woman dies. So the man has to take care of the kids, and he homeschools them and he teaches them, you know, how to survive in the wild world, teaches them history, teaches them how to sing and so on.
Now, I remember there was a moment when one of the girls is reading a book and he says, What are you reading? He said, 'Lolita'. He asks, 'What do you think?' She said, 'It's interesting'. And everyone just shouts, 'Interesting is a banned word!'. You know, you can't say 'interesting'. You say because that's not what you think. So tell me what you think. How do you feel? And in this case, you know, you watch this movie like damn.
Yeah, that is because we that's that word is something we just kind of fall back on. Right. Interesting. And it doesn't mean anything. Yeah, definitely.
So if you ever want to know more about home schooling, watch this movie. It's really great. Kind of shows the both sides, you know?
Well, I feel home schooling provides people an opportunity to learn the most essential life skills. Whereas school, to be honest, you learn a lot of nonsense.
I don't know, when I was growing up in the sixties and the early seventies, I went to high school. It was before the women's movement or was during it, the second wave, and the girls had to take home economics. We had to learn how to cook.
So that's a great subject. Yeah, I'm hungry, but I'm talking about I mean, I'm not dissing history or geography. I'm posting really interested in both of those subjects, but I don't really see the value of teaching bored children, physical geography.
There's you got to know the world. Yeah.
So the maps, the maps I'm talking about physical geography, like, like structures of mountains and different features.
Oh, I think that's very important. Yeah. Even if you don't understand it or you're not going to retain it, at least you got to be exposed to it.
I mean, I've read about this stuff at my age, so I'm really interested in it, but I don't know if it's worth showing it 12 years old.
Oh, it's definitely worth it, yeah. Just an introduction.
I believe that, you know, we have to have an opportunity to learn all those things. So let's say when I was at school we had astronomy, which now kids do not have at school. But I was really happy that we had it. But at the same time, it really makes me sad. The school, neither school nor university actually prepare us for the real life sometimes. I mean, this class that you mentioned, Varya, amazing, we had that. We learned how to cook how to sew, you know, how to knit.
I think it's great, yeah.
The guys learn how to use the different tools, you know, in instruments. But at the same time I just wish we also had some classes on basic psychology, you know, that people are different, you know, have some sort of emotional intelligence classes or, for example, taxes.
Yeah, right. I know what you mean.
You know, just to explain us how the world works, how taxes work.
Oh, yeah, definitely. But that's the other things. Now, we live in the age of the Internet and we have access to so much information that we previously did not have. When I was at school, Internet was still kind of very basic. And I wish we had YouTube to learn all these history facts and stuff.
When you're like 13, 14 year old, you don't even know the term 'Emotional intelligence'. You don't know about empathy or different, let's say, mental states and everything. So and nobody would even have an idea to search for that, because they don't know it exists.
Okay. Well, in America, those kinds of things did exist in the 1950-1960s are called 'Public announcements'. And they're if you can google it, you'll see these black and white videos of the proper way of having dinner and the proper way. Yes, etiquette, the proper way of, you know, entering a party, leaving, emotional intelligence, google it. You'll be so fascinated.
Oh, you had that? Oh, my gosh.
I had seen some of them on YouTube.
I wish we had anything like that, to be honest. Never, never we had anything like that in Russia.
I mean, my personal opinion, I think schools should be vocational. I mean, I think all schools should be vocational. Even at like a younger age.
So 'vocational' meaning that it prepares you for a job after school. Thus, I mean, we do have vocational schools everywhere, but I feel that's what school should be.
What about humanities where you're learning philosophy?
I'm fascinated by that, but I feel that my personal opinion is that this is not necessary for a kid. Oh, I feel that.
I feel that. It's just overload of information.
Yeah, yeah. You've got to be exposed to it, so that you can learn appreciation or at least be exposed where you just know what philosophy, you know, would might entail certain.
You know, in this case, I kind of like the system of Finnish education. Do you know about Finland?
Yeah. Yeah, it's more relaxed.
So it's considered to be one of the best, you know, educational systems in the world. They have the obligatory subjects like Math, the language, Art, actually, I think is one of the obligatory subjects and some, I think, Science as well. But then at the same time they have a lot of subjects that a kid can choose, like 'electives', I think, they called.
So and then if you feel like you're more into Art, you can take other art classes. And then again, Art can be different. So it can be deep Literature or, let's say, Creative Arts or Music. If you feel like you're more into Sciences, you just, you know, choose more of scientific subjects like Physics, Chemistry, you name it. So, you know, I like it when kids have a choice of some sort.
Yeah, we had the same thing. The ones that we are obligated to and then the other electives.
Yeah. The same case. I think it's still important to learn the basics. And just like what you've said and a certain amount of exposure, you're not necessarily getting into the nitty gritty, you know, details of things like very technical because you reserve that for higher education once you decide what specialization to take. But I think it's good to be exposed to many different.
We call that being 'well-rounded', right, 'well-rounded'.
Right. And then you decide for yourself later on. Okay, which one you would like to specialize in, depending on your interests?
I have a question, if I may. So, how does it work in the U.S., in the Philippines and in Britain? So when you at school, so do you have the same sort of subjects? I mean, you don't get to choose things when you are in high school, like how does that work?
So in the UK we have GCSEs and then you have A-levels GCSEs are kind of like OGE of England and A-levels are like the EGE of England or the UK and GCSEs. You have to do Maths, English language, English literature, basic Sciences. You also have to do, you get to choose three subjects. So I could choose.
Yeah. Oh, we had 11 this way too much.
It was way too much. I had, I chose Geography, Arts and something else not important. But yeah, we had 11 subjects and I. My personal opinion is that at school, kids should just do Maths and English. That's English, Home Economics, that's it. No history. No geography. Just basic.
Oh, I'm so glad, I'm glad no one else agrees with you.
I feel it should just be so. And then the teacher says, go home, watch YouTube, take your pictures of home.
So sad, oh my kidneys, the death of humanities.
I think Benjamin means more like the exams. Not just the study, but take the exam in like Math, in that way.
And we have the Internet now for humanities. And that's what it's there for.
You need a teacher. You need a teacher.
At school. I mean, I'm so interested in humanities now, at an older age and I watch YouTube documentaries about history..
You made it in humanities.
Or languages. I guess, I guess it is. Yeah. Yes, it.
What do you mean 'I guess'?
Like yeah, that's part of humanities and foreign languages.
But I wish... Coming back to education. I feel that university, I mean not dissing my university cause it is a great university, but I wish I just learned language. There was so much History and of the cultural stuff that I learned that I just felt it's kind of a waste of time. I come here to learn a language.
What do you guys feel? Do you feel that?
Well, okay, to be fair, I also felt that way, too. When I was at school. I was you know, I thought, why do what do I need this for? Especially with a little bit of the IT sphere, like, yeah. I mean and I was thinking to myself, I'm not going to be a programmer someday, like I don't need this. But, you know, okay, I may not have liked it, but then at least it exposed me a little bit on the, I mean, computer terms so that, you know, now as an adult, I'm not really totally ignorant about such terms. So yeah, it wasn't really good, but I feel like it's kind of necessary.
But you know, the reason why I ask is that in a lot of schools in Russia after the 9th grade, you got to choose, you know, what to do later. And then in a lot of schools, including mine, where I studied, we had to choose whether we go to a class that is focusing on humanities, the one that focuses on Math. Or just, you know, the general one.
So and for example, I was in the class that was focusing on humanities, so which means that in the 10th grade it was all the usual subjects. But in the 11th grade we had no Chemistry, no Geography, no Biology, because within one year in the 10th grade, we had to cover the program of two years. But we did have ten lessons of literature, six lessons of Russian, six lessons of English, four lessons of German, six of Literature and six of Social Studies. And that was a lot... Ten lessons of literature.
Well, there's a huge generational gap here because, of course, I. I went to school a lot earlier than any of you. And I we didn't have all these tests that you're talking about. I'm not familiar with them. I don't care about them. We didn't. We just weren't burdened by things.
I just want to make something clear. Like, I don't. I'm not dissing humanities as well. And I know you guys love. I love humanities, too, but I just don't I just feel that teenage kids get bored by this stuff, quite frankly, like a lot of my classmates were falling asleep at school.
It's just the exposure, I'm repeating myself. Yeah, but just looking at and going, 'Oh, I don't like it. And it bores me'. At least they know.
Yeah, well, I believe that kids should know where to access information if they're truly interested in it. So I mean, now.
Yeah, it's much easier. And that's my point is, is that school, in my opinion, school should just be there to learn the life skills. Basic life skills, prepare you for life. All the other interesting, amazing stuff about Literature and humanities that should be done at home. Like, as for fun, I feel exams is so burdensome for kids. And like, I just remember.
Yeah. Just go to school, learn basic Maths, learn basic language skills. Maybe a bit of IT, too.
Oh, okay, you're talking about, let's say, Literature. Isn't it wonderful, Katya, to read something and then want to discuss it with someone?
Well, for languages, I do agree, absolutely.
I wish we had had this opportunity when we had literature classes. But in my case, it was more of, a lot of reading. And then if your opinion did not, you know, coincide with the teacher's opinion, then you were wrong. So there were two opinions, our teacher's and the wrong one.
But at least that you could hear one person's opinion, the teacher, and then you could have yours. At least that was that something. But you're saying you're sitting at home and we have to read by ourselves and talk?
No, you don't have to. You can if you want to. But that's the that's the.
Do you and do many people want to.
A very disciplined young man, Benjamin.
But if you think about it.
You really think that people are going to go home and open up some kind of book with.
No, they won't, they won't.
That's why they need to sit in class and be made to do it.
My opinion is that teenagers are only going to remember. We won't, don't we all agree, we want teenagers to retain information.
Who cares about the memory? I'm talking about exposure, the very base level of exposure and choice.
I just feel that if you're going to teach something, you might as well make the people remember it.
What's the point of teaching if, yeah, if people don't remember things.
The idea when you teach, you know, the idea is not to make the kids remember. So, you not stuffing them like a turkey, you know, with the stuffing, like with the facts.
But the ideas to through literature, for example, you make them think and analyze. And this is a skill, you know, that is well, I believe should be one of the most important ones in school. To teach people how to think.
So this is called critical thinking, right? And we learned that through Philosophy. We learn it through Mathematics, we learn through Literature, we learn by talking like, what do you think? What do I think? I don't understand this teacher. Explain it to me. And the teacher who's more experienced can explain it, give a broader perspective.
Yeah. I mean, at school, I remember I had this classmate who was so bad at everything, he failed every single subject he got. Do you know, 'U' grades? 'U' in England or used to be like the worst grade. It was like a 'dvoika', like a number 2. You got Us and Ds for everything. But I remember one thing. He remembered every single football score for the last. I think he was like 40 years. Like if you said to him, 'What was the score between Chelsea and Arsenal in 1980, whatever'?
The case, that is that History. That's sport history.
But he remembered that information because he played stupid video games at home.
Okay, so what did he grow up to be?
I have no idea. Probably, prison. I don't know. I don't know. But the point is that he remembered this information because he enjoyed it. And my most, all I want to say is that if we're going to teach History and Geography, which I still have to say again, great subjects, you have to make it in a way that's enjoyable for kids.
But that's History, though. Everything has history, everything. This table has history. Everything has history.
And to be honest, teenagers, most teenage boys don't care. I don't know about teenage girls. I can't speak for teenage girls, but they don't care in fact.
And what's the point in the. Well, we have this expression English. As we all know, 'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink'. And that's why I feel like these teenagers are not going to drink the water.
I didn't know you're a nihilist.
I'm not a nihilist, actually, no. No, I'm actually opposite, yeah.
But I think. Okay, it all boils down to how the subject is taught, because let's be fair, there are also people who don't like Mathematics but are forced to learn them because you need to learn that, in life you need to calculate. Right? So it's not just for humanities. Yeah. I mean, of course.
I always think Maths should be essential.
Yeah, I understand that. I mean, it is essential, but Mathematics is not for everyone. I mean, it's not for me.
I mean, basic Maths, not trigonometry.
Yeah, I understand it. But in the same way that humanities on a basic level should still be taught because we need to be multifaceted, like well-rounded. You know what I mean?
But then again, it's, I think the work of the teacher to make sure that no matter how boring the subject may be, that it will still be enjoyable, at least to, you know, most students.
Well, if you read my creative nonfiction. A 40-48, called 'Mathematics: A Passion for Numbers'. You'll know the story of me being in remedial high school Math with a bunch of really cool guys who reeked of cigaret smoke and weed and they rode motorcycles. And I was stuck in this class. And we were learning Algebra and I shouted out, 'Is the true story? What is life?'
And the student teacher just kept on writing. She just completely ignored me. But that's what I really wanted to know is, 'What is life?' And then decades later, I went to college. And.. College equals 'university'. I went to university. And I had to take Algebra and you know, it was so logical and I was so grateful to be made to be in Mathematics class and but of course, I appreciated it many decades later.
I mean, I love Maths, too, actually I was never particularly good at Maths, but later in life I came to it.
And you know that the British say 'Maths' and we Americans say 'Math'. Do you know that?
That's, of course, Mathematics. But the short version is just 'Math'.
So, in British it's 'Maths'?
Yeah, it's good. Yeah, me too. And that's fun. Thank you. Thank you. That's actually a really good point, actually, yeah.
I had to learn a foreign language when I got here with all this British English.
You see, I have a hard time pronouncing 'Maths' as I just sayed 'Math' because that's how we do it in the Philippines. Like, the American way.
To be honest, when learning English, I always suggest to students, 'Unless you going to go live in England, learn American English, it's it's more widespread'. People understand even in the UK.
Oh, I'm gonna quote you then on that. As my British colleague said...
No, I definitely even though, of course, I love my country and everything, I definitely suggest, yeah, learn American English because if we say some English words in America, it sounds really funny or a lot of people don't even understand.
I fancy that, do you fancy?
Or if I said, 'Oh, I'm going to pop to the shops'.
Yeah, 'pop'. So, right, yeah.
Pop up, pop down, pop in.
What did you say about my dad? So yeah, but.
As a, as a foreigner, you know, in the U.S. I also had situations when, because I was taught British English at university and then I went to the U.S. and people corrected me all the time. They're like, Oh, that's a mistake. And I was like, 'That's not a mistake'.
Why in Russia is British English, the standard English taught here?
I mean, Alaska is like right next door.
But it is actually a standard yet teach British English.
It's the same in Kazakhstan. All the English textbooks are, you know, are published in the UK and it's mostly British English that they're learning there.
It is strange, I definitely feel that. It'd be more useful for people to learn American English because in Britain we all watch American TV, everyone understands what a truck is. But if we go to America and say 'a lorry'.
Oh, what is it? I had to look up the dictionary when I got here. Like, what were they talking about? I also had to correct one of my students, we were talking about the word 'cozy'. And I said, spell it. And so I was right. No, I guess I must have written 'cozy' because we use 'z'.
And then she said, no, it's with an 's', I said, no it's not. And then I had to, when I saw her the next like two years later, I said, 'I have to apologize to you. I had no idea that was a British spelling. I apologize'. It is correct for the Brits.
The very fact that you say 'zi'. Because it's 'z'.
Yes, right, right, right, right, exactly. Yeah.
Yeah, so. All right, so I think we're all in agreement with American English. I guess we could say that. Yeah, American English is better to concentrate on. And also, if you do IELTS, you can only choose American English or British English. You can't mix and match them.
Which makes me so mad, because right now I do not even differentiate anymore in my head. Like, what is this phrase? Is it American, is it Brit, I don't know!
Some days you feel American, some days you feel British, yeah.
That's hard, yeah. I try to make it a point. Okay, just like, well, read something in Cambridge book. Yeah, I'll say just for fun. I just want you to know what we see in America. Just for fun. Yeah, but if you're going to take a British test, you better use it this one.
I mean, sometimes you don't even know. Let's say, I know the phrase 'cut in line'. I have no idea, it's like only in American thing, because in Britain you say different thing, like..
No idea. So I just learned this phrase without understanding whether it's British or American.
Yeah, or 'cut it out'. We don't really say that in English.
Oh, like stop it. 'Cut it out'.
Yeah, yeah. That's American. Yeah. In English, we just say 'Oi'. Oi, stop it.
Yeah. So, yeah. Well, let's come on to university. We talked a lot about school and learning languages in general. Um, let's talk more about university. So obviously we have a little bit of a division between just studying of humanities, whatever. There's going to be disagreements. No one can 100% agree with things.
But do you feel that? What advice would you give to a 20 something or to a late teen? Would you tell teenagers to, let's say, an American teenager now where tuition fees are really expensive? Would you suggest go study Art? And I love Arts. I paint myself. But would you tell a teenager to go to college and spend thousands and thousands of dollars?
I mean, look what I love about, you know, the about higher education system in the U.S. is that usually you get university, you spend your first year when you're a freshman just studying the basic thing and seeing what you're interested in. And then by the end of the second year, you have to claim your major. In Russia, it's not like that. You enter a specific university knowing your major.
And then you can imagine, for example, I just turned 16 when I had to apply for university. I had no idea what I wanted to be at that moment. Nobody did, so, which is why very often, you know, kids into university and then in their third year they understand that's not.
Yeah, that's a shame. That's horrible.
And then you have a choice either to finish, you know, to complete your degree and then to study again or try to get a job which is not, you know, your major or drop out and start it all, you know, altogether like from the very beginning. And it's difficult.
But I would definitely recommend anybody to go to college. There is something so valuable about those core courses. I don't care how old you are, a teenager or older, you've got to get that college education because it just opens up your mind. It just broadens. I'm a completely different person pre- and post- college educated.
This is one thing that surprises me because a lot of the students that I have here in Russia, like they have a different specialization at university. And then when they start working, it's a totally different job. I wonder that, though, don't you have like career orientation?
Because I remember before graduating at our school, we had this, you know, like psychological testing and then orientation. So, it's kinda helped us or guided us and it worked because a lot of us before graduating, we kind of knew already, okay, this one, this is what I intend to do in the future, so.
They are just. Okay, I'm not allowed to swear. So just nonsense, because, you know, they're very limited in the amount of professions that they actually, you know, offer. So I remember we had such classes, you know, and everything, and I was told that I would make a good accountant. I can't even count very well, what are you talking about? Never wanted to be one. Hated Math.
So, and, you know, nowadays we live in a such fast-paced world, it's impossible to, you know, predict what sort of area you would like to work in, because the world is changing too fast. Let's say IT, you start studying, five years later there isn't such a profession anymore. The world is different. So I think that those orientation test is something, just, you know, not really helpful. Unless you.
But you do have that, right?
But we do have that, yeah.
Well, let's pretend we are all employers, let's say. I don't know. We work for a, I don't know, IT company. What's more important, someone's education or what experience they have?
Okay, that depends on the, you know, on the job, because, let's say, IT sphere. Experience and skills is more important just because, let's say in Russia, you can't get education in a lot of spheres. As a my fiancee is in the game development industry. There is no degree in game development. There is nothing like that.
Yeah, well, at least they're very rare. Yeah.
So it's only just, you know, appearing in Russia. So that's why, you know, for them, education doesn't matter, you know, if you have it, but it's a different major. Oh, well, okay. If you don't have it – fine.
But the reason why I'm saying is because the UK and the US of like our generation, there's so many people who do liberal arts degrees and I'm one of them and a lot of people just end up like not knowing what to do after university. And, and those who do engineering and medicine, they, they get a job.
I think, it's common situation with humanities.
Yeah. And yeah. And I think, I don't know, I think humanities is like a hobby. And it shouldn't be school thing.
I wish it was a well-paid hobby.
Yeah. So, I mean, my opinion is that I mean a lot of jobs require university education. If you wanna be a teacher, you got to go to university or college. Yeah, you got to do it. I mean.
One thing that shows is that you did commit yourself, you got up, you were in class, you took the test, you wrote those research papers, and that you are reliable, that's what that degree.
Reliable. Yeah, exactly. It's just reliability. It's not really a skill, what is it?
I don't know. It just changes the whole person. If you go.
Exactly. So while you study, you become a different person. You got new skills. And then, well, you see what you want to get a good job. Let's say, you want to show what kind of a person you are. And usually university degree helps you do that.
Because you're exposed to different kinds of people and you're learning the history of different people and the cultures.
Well, yeah. I mean, I, if I had more if you guys let us know what you feel, if you have a, I don't know, a 17 year old son or daughter, what would you advise them to do? Would you advise them to go to university? Would you advise them to? My personal advice would be: become a plumber. If you don't like it, change your career later. At least you have some good skills. But what would you advise, can to your 17 year old son or daughter?
Well, to be honest. Well, if I were to become a father someday.
So I would well, I would still encourage my, you know, child to, you know, go get a degree. Because, let's face it, in society, it's really very important, especially in the Philippines, although in life I understand that you may have a degree, but it doesn't really define you as a person or what your future will be. However, I'm a very realistic person and unfortunately a diploma is very necessary in my country, in a lot of places.
Yeah. I mean, if you want to get at least a high paying job, you need to have a degree. So I will still and I would still encourage my child to get a degree. But then at the end of the day, it's up to my child to decide what he or she, you know, she would like to do with it, because you could still change your mind.
And, you know, just because you studied a particular, you know, major doesn't mean that's the only job that you could do. Because, you know, we possess a lot of skills and in your lifetime, you will discover some other potentials that you may have. And so you could always change your job.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, my daughter was 17, I told her, I said, 'You are going to go to a university'. She did not want to go. And so I said, 'Okay, let's go take a tour of a university that looks like Harry Potter'. It's called Oglethorpe University, one of those Gothic architecture. I said, 'Here you go'. Well, how would you like to go here? And she loved it. So she did go.
I love the fact that, you know, in America and in Britain, I think they have the stores, you know, the potential students come in. They get a chance to talk to students, you know, to see what it's like.
I mean, my main concern is that in America at least and in the UK. Well, more America student loans are, you have to pay them back.
Well, that's another story, yeah.
In America, um, even if you declare bankruptcy you still have to pay your student loans. You can't, those loans don't get forgiven.
If you, if your salary is lower is kind of low you can actually set your payback to zero.
And you'll be in. It will be all legal.
Oh, that's the same as the UK. I didn't realize that. Cause in the UK, if you earn under, I think it's £21,000 a year. You don't have to pay back your student loans.
Well, no, you do have to pay it back, but you have to set it to zero. So you're technically paying it back.
You're offsetting this, yeah. But yeah, well, if that's the case, then, okay, you just go to college and.
And then just be poor for the rest of your life, so you can just set it to zero.
I'm. I'm speaking from experience. You know this.
Well, there are lots of new courses that are available now online as well for the many different platforms, I think, 'Udemy' or of a different.
Oh, 'Coursera', I love 'Coursera'.
I mean, how much does a typical course on those platforms cost?
They are free, but if you want to get a certificate, you know, and you want to have your homework checked by a professor, then you have to pay. And usually, you know, it varies from like $100 to like several hundred. But then again, if you just want to get the, do you know, the task and the homework, it's absolutely free.
Yeah. Well, that's interesting. I didn't even know that. So maybe. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to university. Maybe I should have just. Yeah, but four languages, guys. Maybe don't go to university, come to the BigAppleSchool, and we can teach you English pretty well.
Depends on what do you want to learn in languages.
It depends, yeah. I mean. Yeah, I think if you.
I mean, look, I have a degree in languages, so we, I had five years of learning the language, but it's not just the language. So of course we had the vocabulary classes, grammar, you know, everything like hundreds of hours.
And your English is excellent. So it's not to blow smoke.
But you said before that your classes were, what, 12? How many hours a week did you have?
So we had around 6-7 hours of classroom time. And then, of course, you had about 5-6 hours a day of doing homework.
Yeah, that's how you learn the language, right?
At the same time we had, my point was that we also had the history of language. Theoretical grammar, theoretical phonetics. How the language appeared, how it developed. And I have a couple of, you know, group mates who got into that and they became scholars. So, you know, they found themselves in science, in Linguistics as science.
How many years did you say? So it's a five years.
And I would say only five because that just doesn't sound like a long time. Compared to people who go like for 12 years.
Five years, 6 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, most, most degree's. Like when I went to university, it was about, I don't know, 7 hours a week, the week, not a day, a week. And then you have to do essays at home about not even in Russian or Italian, which was my degree Russian.
In our case, you know, most of the time we have classroom time and then we had most of the classes in English, you know.
Your degree is definitely worth it. Definitely worth it.
I'm really grateful to my university.
That's amazing. Like, I'm not dissing my university because research level produces great, um, great research.
You know, at the same time. If I may, you know, I had about 600 to maybe 700 hours of methodology, you know, how to teach and psychology. I would say I was not prepared. You know, my first year of teaching, I had no idea what to do when one of my students just stood up and started beating his head on the wall. I'm like, not prepared for this.
No, that's real experience. You know, nothing can take place of experience.
But all in all, yeah, very greatful.
Well well, if the question is, is university worth it, I'd say, well, of course, do your research. Of course, everyone would do their research before going to university or college. But if you're going to go to university to study languages, probably best to go somewhere where, for instance, Katya went to, where you get a lot of tuition.
That's kind of like you almost had like a medical student kind of hours. At my university, medical students got about the same amount of training as you had. Whereas yeah, other subjects, it was just a few hours a week and go read at home and yeah. So, depends on the university, depends on the subject.
I'd say if you are contemplating whether to go or not, you know, have a degree at university, it's a YES with capital letters really. Go, get it.
Depends on the country. Depends on the country.
I think Oxford, Cambridge go if you're lucky, if you're clever enough to go Oxbridge.
You're setting the bar way too high.
If it's not go to Harvard, if it's not, go become a plumber or electrician. It's much more useful life skill.
Is that's what you think?
That's just my opinion, guys. It's just my opinion. Or if you want to do languages, come to a language school or. Yeah, yeah, come to language school and of course watch a lot of TV at home in that language to improve your language skills. So let us know your thoughts. Maybe you really disagree with me.
Maybe you love me. I don't know. But let us know in the comments. We'd love to hear from you. And also check out our website which is www.BigAppleSchool.com where you can get more information on the courses we offer and also listen to other interesting podcasts like this one and videos and other cool stuff like that too. So we'll see you next time, guys. Bye for now.