Youth ‘locked away’ at school in the name of education

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Children watching a play at the Mongolian Puppet Theater

Education is one of Mongolia’s weakest developed fields in terms of results and quality. Higher education is not necessary for everyone, but secondary education is a must since it is focused on giving youth fundamental knowledge necessary to lead a productive life. Obtaining basic cultural education, especially humanities, artistic, scientific and technological education, is important to the young people in this day and age. Ultimately, secondary education aims to develop and strengthen young people’s study and work habits.

There are way too many higher education institutions in Mongolia, so they are focusing on educational quality as competition spurs growth. Higher education can’t singlehandedly define the quality of a graduate’s life, so we can assume that it’s up to each individual, and state policy shouldn’t fully focus on setting a rigid path for all. On the other hand, the part that lacks good and accurate policy is secondary education system.

Mongolian secondary education school programs are heavily focused on giving students theoretical knowledge in every subject. Theory is regarded as the first thing that should be taught before anything, but forcing students to memorize them like robots is an indication of a defective system. Even science, particularly chemistry and physics, should have practical lessons. Chemistry labs are being established in schools, but it is still considered as somewhat of a delusional wish to have it in provincial schools. Some labs are rarely used and end up becoming an exhibition, according to high school students. On the contrary, physical education should be named physical training as the subject should be all about practicing athletics and playing sports. However, theoretical final exam of physical educations is a thing in Mongolia. Knowing the diameter or weight of a basketball won’t help me in life or even play the sport, but knowing how to develop and maintain one’s fitness is crucial for a long and healthy life.


There is a thing called school trip in other countries. The educational trips take students out on field trips to museums, theaters, historical places, Parliament building, private sectors and various commercial facilities. These trips provide a great opportunity for practical learning, which can be defined as “learning by doing”. Mongolian schools barely give this opportunity to students as school trips are not included in the secondary education program. Only time the program “allows” students to go outside of the school is Fall Spartakiad sports event, held around autumn every year. The event is often held in rural areas and many kinds of sports competitions are held. Excluding the spartakiad, students are stuck inside four walls within a school building all year long.

In Japan, the term that represents school trip “shakai kengaku”, which literally means “a visit to society” is used frequently as the students go outside the school every 21 days. Schools which are fully funded by government pays the expenses and the trips can vary greatly in the experiences it offers. Zoos, aquariums, industries, theaters, temples and historical ruins welcome youth warmly at highly discounted prices in Japan, and all parents have to prepare is lunch for their children.

In France, school trips are considered more important than theoretical education for primary school students. Also, students who are graduating high schools are directed to visit factories, companies and higher education institutions to plan their future phase of life and make the correct career choice.

Back in socialism era, students were almost “forced” to watch theaters, according to a cultural expert. It makes sense if you see the statistics of theater audience. Some 65 percent of total theater audience is filled by people aged 45 to 55. Those people were born and raised during the socialism era and were educated by socialist policy. At the time, the National Academic Drama Theater was in its golden age and was actively producing new plays. According to theater lovers, they were almost brainwashed that the theater, the higher culture element, defines urban culture and the people who
attend theater are considered as the elite part of society. Ultimately, that thought path may have been true. The theaters at that time was very strict about dress code and punctuality. Also, spectators weren’t able to bring food into the hall and make loud noises.

Youth nowadays barely read classical literature, choosing to only glance at the synopsis since that’s what’s required to pass the test. Reading the whole play and watching it live in theaters will provide an experience of art and culture, rather than bite size text version that will not leave any lasting impact on their life. If “consumed” correctly, art and cultural experience can be life changing.

In the early the 2000s, the compelled attendance of students in theater productions only served to fill the seats of theater. Students and state workers were essentially forced to buy tickets to watch plays and concerts at the time so that the art industry can limp along in the struggling economy. The importance of art and cultural education cannot be understated in modern times. Through plays people can learn many things about life, humanity and history, while it develops youth’s emotional capacity.


Actually, among Mongolians, life education is considered more important than theoretical education as it is referred to as khar ukhaan, or “black wit” (street-smarts). As some people say, it’s not essential to have academic knowledge when they have khar ukhaan to be successful. It’s kind of biased thought but importance of life education remains crucial.Even though Mongolians know very well about the importance of life education and practical knowledge, the state policy still lacks focus on it. Some high school teachers are looking to change the education policy, claiming that other teachers will support the idea. However, reducing hours of education and spending it on school trips sounds illogical. English teacher N.Munkhdavaa at School No. 93 claims, “The policy is indeed needed. Life education and visiting society must be a crucial part of secondary education. When I was young, schools made us attend a lot of excursions to rural areas and factories. Also, we used to visit theaters frequently. We believed that attending theater is part of a civilized society. Many teachers noticed the importance of school trips and some of them voluntarily conduct them. We can be arranging trips in weekends at least once a month. But teachers are humans too. We have a life. If policy focuses on giving teachers bonuses for working on weekends, field trips can become a reality for the sake of quality of education.”

If a child’s parents don’t pay attention to their life education and social awareness, youth will step into adulthood unprepared and without crucial reference experience. You can hear a lot of stories from people about how they learned some life lessons in the hard way in their early adult life and some of them make big mistakes, such as choosing the wrong career.

Visiting workplaces is a great opportunity for future workers to observe the procedure of their interested jobs and what they will be really doing in most of the cases for the rest of their life. Statistics from 2019 indicate that 75 percent of graduates of universities and colleges don’t work in their chosen field. It’s a very high number and it’s relevant in some ways to the bad choice they made due to lack of awareness about the actual job and opportunities available in the market today. Some people even decide not to attend university or college and immediately take on a job upon graduation. Though conventionally this is not regarded as the right path forward, many succeed in this way, and venture onto other professions or
opt to further their academic education down the line.

Support from parents is needed even with a state policy to encourage field trips. Parents should realize that in some cases obtaining only theoretical knowledge is not enough to succeed
in life. As mentioned before, cultural, historical, geographical and artistic
knowledge should be enhanced by real life experiences. The newly established Ministry of Education, Culture and Science should immediately work on laying the pathway to increase the hours of life education classes without sacrificing essential learning hours from the main subjects.

Khantushig B