Student Rights & Voices Take Center Stage

Daniel Kao

In thinking about the future of education, I’m reminded of a line from educational thinker Sir Ken Robinson: “People are trying to work out, how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century, given that we can’t anticipate what the economy will look like at the end of next week?”

This concept of preparing for the future is what drives millions of people to education, thinking of education as an “investment in your future” and a way to get the proper training for a future career. It’s this fundamental concept that leads millions of students every year to pull thousands of dollars out of their pockets to attend institutions of higher education. But it is exactly this reason that students should take ownership of their own education. As a millennial asking questions about my future career and life goals, I find myself constantly wondering whether what I am doing is going to be most effective in helping me achieve the goals that I have set before myself.

The world we live in today is changing faster than it ever has before, and as Robinson suggests in his quote, if we train students for the world that exists today, they will be obsolete by the time they are ready to enter the workforce upon graduation. Because of this relatively modern rapid rate of change, students need to not only learn how to survive in the present, but how to adapt and assimilate themselves into anything that the future might hold.

Thus, students need to learn how to learn in order to pick up the skills they need when they need it. It is this exact progression toward the future that makes self-directed learning and ultimately student rights so important.

Student rights is not just a list of things that a student should be able to do. Student rights is a mindset that empowers students to take control of their own learning, education, and lives. With such a large diversity of backgrounds, ideas, and ambitions in students all across America, student rights allows students to bring their diverse perspectives to the conversation.

This past week marked a historical point in the history of student rights. SXSWedu, one of the premier education conferences in the world, was historically comprised mostly of educators and administrators, with hardly any student presence. However, this year was the first time that there were a significant amount of students taking part in the conversations happening at SXSWedu.

In the Student Voice summit on The State and Future of Student Rights, students got together to talk about issues in education such as technology, fair assessment, and reaching students who often go unreached.

Student Voice was able to organize a momental summit with leading educators and administrators from across the United States engaging in a large range of issues, but the most significant accomplishment of SXSWedu was the fact that we were able to bring students into the conversation, helping each other to begin thinking about how we can transform and shape the education we wish to see and experience.

And while there’s still a lot of work to be done before students are able to make decisions in every classroom, SXSWedu marked the point where a significant number of educators, administrators, and most importantly students have begun thinking about the rights students should have in our world.

For more on SXSWedu, check out:


Daniel Kao is a computer science student at UCSD. Follow Daniel on Twitter at @Diplateevo.


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