Why Expose Students to Current Affairs?
As we enter into an increasingly compartmentalised approach to education, introducing children to current affairs has never been more vital. Perhaps driven by an ambition to prepare students for top universities, schools are often forced to streamline a student’s studies such that they become young experts in the disciplines they excel in. A child aiming to study science at university, for example, is often blinkered from humanities subjects and instead channeled through maths, science and computing qualifications. Conversely, those hoping to study history or politics are often directed away from science subjects towards a humanities based program of learning. This is, of course, in many ways essential to preparing children for rigorous university applications.
However, this desire to ‘streamline’ can come at the expense of a well-rounded approach to education. Whilst universities ostensibly desire dedicated students committed to their chosen field, they also require those students to have a sophisticated and broad attitude to learning. This means that students hoping to achieve highly must be able to make connections, both within their discipline and between others. Engaging with current affairs develops these skills and helps students expand their perspectives beyond their curriculum.
Where to start?
It is not surprising that when we think of news and politics we immediately think of global and local political crises, national security and international relations. However, contrary to our everyday exposure to news bulletins and headlines, current affairs doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. By guiding students towards long reads rather than snappy news digests, young people can engage with current events within a thoughtful and in depth framework that fosters critical and sophisticated thinking.
Online news sources and apps are becoming the most popular way for people to access the news. For effective engagement in current affairs, it is vital that students go further than reading the top five articles in a ‘most read’ list article. As with any extra-curricular reading, students must be encouraged to pursue areas of interest in depth. For example, a student who finds an article about Artificial Intelligence interesting should be encouraged to read a selection of other articles on the pieces, providing them with a wide lens approach to the topic that can be seen from many angles. Indeed, by reading in depth about a range of topics, students enhance their debating skills, useful for both essay writing and hobbies such as debating competitions.
The New York Times published daily in print in the US, ten articles per month accessible free of charge or unlimited for a subscription at https://www.nytimes.com. Also offers an app on the Apple Store and Google Play.
The New York Times Opinion section is particularly useful for students to gain exposure to intellectual and well-informed debate that enhances the quality of news and information.
The Brilliant Benefits of Current Affairs
In this vein, broadening a student’s perspective is a key benefit of introducing them to current affairs; by reading widely, they can both supplement their studies and refine their interests.
By pursuing one’s interests in light of current affairs, a student will be exposed to banks of knowledge and pathways that their curricular reading necessarily ignores. A student excelling in maths might like to read The Economist, for example, which prides itself in offering ‘authoritative insight and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science, technology and the connections between them.’ [source] This interdisciplinary and in-depth approach to knowledge broadens perspectives and, crucially, encourages students to make connections between a breadth of topics. This kind of critical thinking encourages the brain to develop complex neural pathways, producing cognitive benefits. [source]
In reality, schools can only be expected to offer so much when it comes to introducing students to the plethora of academic disciplines and career options out there. Returning to the example of The Economist, students are exposed to numerous career options through this platform. By gaining awareness of dynamics and responsibilities in the financial, political, technological and journalistic sectors a student reader can expand their horizons beyond the subjects offered at school. Keeping up to date with cutting edge developments in specific fields of interests can also be a fantastic way of nurturing a student’s interest in a particular industry or profession, for example reading the British Medical Journal or the New Scientist. As such, by reading about current affairs and politics, students are encouraged to think critically about the world and consider what place they will have in it.
The Economist published weekly in print, five articles per month accessible free of charge or unlimited for a subscription at https://www.economist.com/. Also offers an app on the Apple Store and Google Play.
New Scientist published weekly in print, accessible behind a pay wall for a student subscription at https://subscription.newscientist.com/packages/studenttwo.php?promCode=11717&packageCodes=PT&offerCode=Q. Also offers an app on the Apple Store and Google Play.
Challenge Yourself Linguistically
For students looking for a challenge, reading current affairs in a foreign language can be a great way of developing a number of skills at once. Not only will this increase the student’s awareness of global issues, looking at current affairs through the lens of another country, reading in another language fosters language skills and develops fluency. Furthermore, habitually reading current affairs in a foreign language can facilitate daily reading to the benefit of their overall study skills. News outlets such as Le Monde offer a free app that includes both written articles, videos and podcasts, allowing for a student’s language skills to develop in a range of ways. Listening to a news update in French helps to prepare students for their exams while at the same time enabling the numerous other benefits of engaging with current affairs as described above. Directing students towards current affairs in a foreign language is therefore a great way to challenge them and improve their academic achievement across the board.
In our current global climate, the need for in-depth familiarity with the news has never been more necessary. To engage with current affairs in our modern era allows a student to become well-informed and broadens their perspectives, developing their critical and analytical thinking skills as well as teaching them the value of free expression of opinion and the importance of debate.
u2 are launching current affairs masterclasses and debate programmes in September 2019, hosted both at our Head Office in Michelin House (South Kensington) and online. These will give students exposure to a range of current issues including our environmental crisis, national and global inequalities and the transformation of politics, economy and culture.