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Why Many Students Hate School and how to Motivate them

Published by at January 30th, 2023 , Revised On October 17, 2023

“I HATE SCHOOL” – The Student Mantra

Did you know that one of the leading causes of students hating school life in the UK is attributed to hate crimes? According to recent figures, hate crimes average up above 62% in colleges and schools annually.

It’s one of those phrases that you might hear from, majority, if not all, student’s mouths these days, no matter whether you meet them on the street, a cafe, or converse with a friend of a friend over the telephone. “I hate school” is perhaps the mantra every college or school student wakes up to every day.

And for those who hate it the most, it’s like a blender, grinding and sucking their life fast.

Think of your own school life. How do you remember it? Do you have fond memories of it? Did it pass by so quickly, you didn’t even get the time to sit back and evaluate what was happening? Is it all just a blur? Or was it the same day every day for years on end, with dull, aching mornings that began with the thought, God, I hate school…?

(If you relate to the last part of the above question, the following content might just help you a little bit more!)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise these days—not to mention post-COVID stress, for everyone involved in the education system—that early morning classes and strict uniform dress codes are no longer the sole reasons students hate school. Now, more factors come into play. And the targets of this ‘hate’ are not just high school or college students, but even younger generations are observed to exhibit a certain amount of disdain when someone even so much as talks about school life.

Let’s look at some other commonly reported reasons why students hate school and what can be done to motivate them.

Why do so Many Students Hate School?

The Obvious Reasons

There are many reasons students hate school. However, some of those reasons we’ve all heard, read about and perhaps even experienced personally. They are reasons like:

  1. A lot of school work, which ends up putting a lot of mental and physical pressure on students. They are unable to perform well and ultimately, it leads to one big mess: students’ immense hatred for the institution that keeps bombarding them with work and leaving them no time to have a life.
  2. The notion that teachers don’t cater to different learner styles properly; use the kind of teaching materials and course designs that might not best serve the students; display strictness in class; give a short window of time to complete assigned work, so on and so forth.
  3. School hours are gruelling.
  4. There is a lot of exam stress with ongoing assignments, projects, etc.
  5. The school environment isn’t ‘learner-friendly.’

Interesting read: According to a UK study, shifting a student from an ‘average’ learning environment to a better one, one that perhaps facilitates learning further, directly improves yearly student performance.

  1. The student doesn’t have any friends or is bullied.
  2. The school is located so far that the bus ride takes forever; the student reaches school tired and the rest of the day is spent waiting to get home and rest (one of many such scenarios, of course).

This list can go on and go…and it still won’t be an exhaustive one. There will always be more and more reasons coming to everyone’s attention about why students hate school. Such obvious reasons are already on the table. Such reasons, as psychologists would call them, are ‘observable.’

But in fact, it’s the unobservable behaviour, facts and situations that are troublesome. Since they can’t be observed directly, they cannot be measured as easily, either.

Interesting read: UK undergraduate students, when asked about their education during these stressful COVID times, claimed they’d have hated it if they were fresher. That just goes to show how even older students realize it’s hard for the younger ones, especially during these times.

The not-so-obvious Reasons

These rather ‘unobservable’ reasons of why students hate school can be because of things like:

  1. Problems at home; ones the student isn’t at liberty to discuss with those at school.
  2. A student’s health problems, problems that sometimes, even the student themselves isn’t yet aware of. They can be physical, mental, or emotional.
  3. Student exclusion at school. Student exclusion rates in the UK for the year 2017-2018 were recorded at 7,894 students.

Did you know?

Sometimes, a headteacher, departmental head, or someone higher up in the chain of command might decide that a certain student is not fit to continue studying in their school. So, they exclude students. Apart from disciplinary cases, other reasons for coming to such conclusions include racism, prejudice, students’ financial matters and the like.

High student exclusion rates in a given area suggest schools’ preference to release students from their system altogether. A low exclusion rate suggests a school’s choice to let a student continue studying there after some mishap, but after putting certain measures in place.

Schools can exclude students either for a temporary period or permanently, depending on the reasons for exclusion.

  1. Student’s financial matters, that again, might not be up for discussion at school.
  2. A disability.
  3. Exposure to racism, prejudice, bullying, or some other stress factor present in the school environment.
  4. A student’s interpersonal problems, such as lack of motivation, depression, anxiety and stress, as well as interpersonal problems, like inability to communicate learning problems clearly to teachers, etc.

This list, too, is not exhaustive. There is always more than meets the eye. Even if a student appears calm on the inside, it doesn’t necessarily mean nothing is wrong. Factors like those listed above, the ‘unobservable,’ need to be assessed carefully in students, so a practical solution can be achieved. One that not only eliminates the problem the student might be facing but motivates him/her to learn better, perform better and indulge further in school life.

So, what can a parent, a teacher, an entire school board, or perhaps just the student themselves do to make them hate school less?

How to Motivate Students who Hate School?

It’s not that practical to ‘make’ someone hate or love anything. However, a certain boost can be given to students to help them cope with the difficult, stressful school life. The responsibility falls not just on teachers, but on other school personnel like the departments, school heads, deans, board of administrators, etc. Then come the outside parties, mainly parents, friends, and classmates.

The process to motivate students—to help them cope with school life better, to prepare them for what’s to come—is a complicated process. There are many hows and whats involved. But if they are approached step by step, this overwhelming process might just become simpler.

What Teachers can do?

For instance, they can:

  1. Try to modify school syllabi such that it caters to the majority, if not all, learner styles. That way, the visual learners will learn better, but so will kinaesthetic, linguistic and other forms of learners.
  2. Supplement course content with materials and/or activities that are fun and exciting for the students to do.
  3. Bring in different teaching methodologies, such as outdoor class sessions, lectures through practice, hand-craft activity, so and so forth. This is, of course, subject to resources available and the environment of the school.

Such direct steps, although they probably won’t directly motivate students per se, will help students stay focused and engaged in school. And that, in time, can become a catalyst for making students hate school less.

What School Personnel can do

School heads, as well as the school board, administration and other concerned parties, can introduce and/or modify how certain things are run. For instance, they can:

  1. Implement a healthy, protein-rich diet in the school cafeteria, one that doesn’t contain foods that are known to promote negative moods and emotions. But instead, introduce foods that keep children’s energy revitalized, but also offer other nutritional benefits.
  2. Make sure students are getting ample breaks in between classes.
  3. Make the environment, as a whole, more colourful and eye-catching. An environment that when set foot into, will make the learners comfortable and ready to learn.
  4. Have on-campus school counsellors and perhaps even a therapist, if the resources allow it, for students who might need one.
  5. Ensure hygiene in school premises, including a good transportation system.

What Parents can do

There are multiple pathways parents can take to ensure their children stay motivated to learn. After all, their school grades will reflect on their transcripts. However, despite the importance of school and extra-curricular school activities needed to succeed later in life, parents should remember what’s most important. Their child’s mental, physical and emotional well-being.

There are multiple financial support opportunities for students whose families might need it. Counsellors involve parents alongside teachers and students alike, in group discussions on how to help their students stay motivated, perform better.

If parents realize their child is having a hard time coping with the hectic work schedule, they can reach out to teachers; see if there’s a timetable they can help their child follow for timely work submission.

Like this, there are multiple options parents can explore. However, they all involve some degree of involvement with the concerned school personnel. Also, clear communication with students is necessary to find out what’s distressing them.

Further Considerations for Students to Self-motivate

As a student, there are a couple of self-help tips and tricks you can try, such as:

  1. Staying organised helps meet deadlines and complete multiple projects at once.
  2. Communicating to teachers—and others, when needed, including parents—the things you have a hard time grasping at school, ways you think you can learn better, what can be improved, etc.
  3. Looking at the bigger picture, that same as everything else in life, this too shall pass.
  4. Self-motivating by reminding yourself of everything you can enjoy later in life if you perform well in school right now. Good grades are overrated, but it doesn’t just end there. Think about the life you can have for yourself, the independence and all other perks that come with having a good job. And all that begins at school. A good grade record in school, college, up till university is an important factor to land a handsomely paying job.

There are, of course, many other things you can do, as a student, to stay on track. However, it’s important to first ask yourself things like:

  • Do I hate school? Or just the workload, stress, etc that comes with it? If not, what exactly do I hate about school? How can I remedy that?
  • Can I even help myself stay motivated about school? If not, whom should I reach out to for help?
  • Can others make me stop hating school altogether? Or help me figure out ways to ‘cope’ with school life better?

As stated above in the beginning, it’s more practical, less idealistic, to help students cope with school life than it is to ‘make’ them love school.

Recommended: Are you experiencing problems at school? There are platforms you can easily reach out to for help. School life is tough, and everyone deserves a helping hand in coping with it.

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There are multiple reasons why students today hate school. Some are very basic, common and easily observable reasons, such as exam stress. However, more serious reasons include comparatively unobservable reasons, like a negative social culture at school that promotes racism; a high school exclusion rate; an environment that isn’t many learners friendly, etc.

Some direct steps can be taken to help students stay motivated, such as modifying teaching methods and materials used in school. But not all help tactics are that direct and may need reaching out to higher authorities, such as school counsellors, school board heads, etc.

Not just students, but parents, teachers, school administration and heads, etc can all take part in helping students stay clear-focused and motivated to keep performing better at school.

Frequently Asked Questions

Create a positive and engaging learning environment, personalize instruction to their interests, incorporate interactive activities, provide meaningful feedback, set achievable goals, and foster a sense of belonging and relevance in their education.

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