How 17-Year-Old Nikhil Goyal Is Disrupting Education

nikhilAt 17 years old, Nikhil Goyal is shaking up America’s education system. Goyal is a senior at Syosset High School, a public school in New York. While most high school students focus on athletics, academics, and socializing, Goyal aims to transform the American education system.

Goyal’s book, One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School,describes the flaws within America’s education system and provides solutions to fix the present challenges. He explains the importance of finding progressive leaders to transform our nation’s education system.

“Everybody is born with innate curiosities,” Goyal said. “It’s a school’s job to cultivate them and not to kill them. There is a high level of dissatisfaction within our education system since schools never allow students to cultivate what they are good at.”

Goyal encourages students to get involved in the education movement by writing about their personal experiences within the classroom through creating a blog. He describes the importance of blog writing and chronicling anecdotes online. He triumphs his success to continuous research, reading, and sharing opinions through writing.

“When I was documenting some of the work schools were doing, it was very pragmatic,” Goyal said. “Learning is messy. It is not cut-and-dried. It’s about the learning and fostering the collaboration between teachers and students.”

To get involved in education reform, Goyal advises students to visit other schools in their community and observe the classroom environment during their breaks.

“When we allow students to have a voice, we can revolutionize the education system,” Goyal said. “My parents are not in education. They taught me to love learning. When I was younger, my mother took me to the library every single week and I learned how to read at a very young age.”

As Goyal critiques the American education system and calls for action and change, his teachers and school administrators remain silent.

“Most of my teachers haven’t commented on what I do,” Goyal said. “I’ve spoken with the Superintendent and never received congratulatory remarks for writing a book about improving education.”

Although Goyal is applying to colleges, he will defer his admission and work for Purpose, a company based in New York City. Purpose works on solving some of the world’s largest problems. They collaborate with organizations and companies to launch social and consumer movements using creative models. Goyal hopes to work on improving education.

“For 16 years of people lives they are being boxed up in a system where they are never asked what they like to do and what their passions are,” Goyal said. “This needs to change.”


  1. Dave Webb

    December 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I commend Mr. Goyal for having the heart to do something.

    I’m not convinced, however, that the education system needs to accommodate multiple learning styles to the extent that has been proposed in popular media lately. I think what we’re seeing here, and perhaps Mr. Goyal is guilty of this too, is that the nature of digital media is reinforcing a generation of non-specialists who feel *entitled* to affect process. That is to say that we’re seeing a domcratization of authority. In the right situations this can be very good, but in the wrong situations it can be equally bad. Imagine, for instance, the monetary cost of individually tailored education? At the same time, imagine the outcomes – individuals who can only cope with a limited number of learning environments or styles.

    The very real danger here is that the type of reform being proposed in popular media sounds logical to the lay person; it and has a level of fairness, and surficial good intention, that has great appeal. While I agree that education needs reform, in my opinion, the reform proposed here and in other popular media, is grossly misinformed and will ultimately prove disastrous. We have entered an age where people readily recognize that the diversity of competences we are expecting from our education system is increasing rapidly. As idealistic as it might seem, we cannot pander to each and every student, nor can we address every individual competency. Instead, we need to regroup and focus on basic learning competences themselves, so that students have the skills they need to be adaptive.

    To paraphrase an old adage about teaching a person to fish rather than providing that person with a fish dinner, let’s teach good, foundational basics *about* fishing in general, rather than teaching every individual fisherman how to best catch each and every type of fish.

  2. Carmen

    December 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    In order to comment on this book I would have to buy it! Great idea and perspective shared by a 17 year-old. Change does not come from just writing a book. A page can hold so many words but the sum of them does not make them true. Nor it alone brings solutions to a system that needs more than words to be fixed.

  3. Joe Beckmann

    December 28, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Dear Mr. Webb,
    Patronizing is not a worthy mode of discourse. And, when you do it, you ought to know how to spell “surficial.”

    The reform you disdain is individualization – in other terms, “differentiated instruction,” or what we once termed “student-centered learning.” It is hardly opposed to “pandering” to each and every student,” but it is most surely building on the students’ own skills, knowledge, and interest to find common experiences and weld a classroom of engaged young people.

    Many years ago I studied the history of American Education with Larry Cremin, later President of Teachers College. One of his favored stories was of the first graded school in America, the Quincy School, which opened in 1847 with eight grades because…the contractor had built eight rooms. Far too much American “pedagese” has so little foundation that your focus on “basic learning competencies” is virtually meaningless. One of the newest colleges in America, Olin College of Engineering, has no pre-requisites for any course, but, with just-in-time learning, makes skills critical to accomplishing goals available as they are needed. Stop relying on what you think is “basic,” particularly in an age when tech changes almost daily. And celebrate the assessment of students BY STUDENTS, as well as their assessment of education – after all, they’ve gone through it a lot more recently than you have.

  4. Bill

    December 28, 2012 at 11:02 am

    you have to get special interests out of the school system, there is too much focus power and money, and not on teaching and development.

  5. Dave Webb

    December 28, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    To Mr. Joe Beckmann,
    There is nothing in my message meant to be patronizing, nor can I see how you could possibly have interpreted it so; you’re welcome to your opinion though. As for the spelling of “surficial”, I merely relied on my device’s built-in “American English” spell check system, as it seems you’ve done as well, since there seems to be no difference between our spelling.

    I expect that your discussion of your background and reference to the latest and greatest (Olin College) is meant to establish your authority (sorry, it’s waisted on me since I’m not American and have little interest in your education system apart from how everything American eventually gets thrust on the rest of the world). You throw about the terms commonly seen in recent media; terms like “student centered learning”, and “engaged” students. These are great terms. Terms that have appeal not just to the masses, but undoubtedly to the students who will teach and evaluate themselves under the improved no-student’s-individualized-needs-left-behind pedagogy. I really like how you non-chalantly mention that the term “student centered learning” is passé.

    I am also impressed when the discussion turns to how changes in “tech” necessitate a change in education – I’ve seen the blogs that tell us that today’s students don’t learn like they did a generation ago; that they live in a digital culture, and learn best through gaming and “socially-mediated interaction” (which seems to be translated by some as Facebook and Twitter), and that there has to be an iPad in every student’s hand.

    Bill is right, the public is being bombarded on all sides by special interest groups focusing on power and money. There is a developing culture of pedagogical innovation that is smugly confident that they’ve got it right this time. You’ve got my support; I’d like to see the American educational system fully invested in all the latest killer apps!

    P.S. the patronization is intentional this time. Most people accept that these comment sections are for expression of thoughts and opinions; nobody says *you* have to agree with them all – lighten up.

  6. richard

    December 29, 2012 at 4:02 am

    Well done for writing the book! I transformed a school and its community by involving the staff AND the students. I agree that ” one size does not fit all” and the whole system needs a rethink for the 21st century; it’s too important to leave to chance.

  7. Beth

    December 29, 2012 at 11:38 am

    From the article Mr. Goyal seems to be a well-intentioned and idealistic young man. I hope his book, however, offers more thoughtful observations and solutions than the platitudes excerpted in this article. Missing from nearly all of the conversation about education reform is the responsibility of the student (and parents) to be committed to learning. It appears from the article that Mr. Goyal’s book also neglects this critical aspect. He seems to cater to the current belief that all students should be expected to contribute to their education is to show up (if they’re “inspired” enough to do so). Unless or until our society starts holding parents and students accountable for at least a portion of their learning, all efforts at improvement are doomed to be unsuccessful.

  8. Margaret

    December 31, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I’m you added the Forbes link, Nikhi, because that web page gave a much better description of your book. I am an elementary art teacher with experience in editing books. I was not impressed by your book when I read the article on this site, because it left out some of the most important aspects of you book and there were two glaring errors in writing (or editing).

    You start off by saying, “Everybody is born with inanimate curiosities.” I thought this was a very odd sentence. Inanimate means “not living.” I think you may have meant “innate,” meaning inborn, but that would have made the sentence redundant. The sentence simply does not make sense. That was not a good way to start out the article if your goal was to impress me enough to buy and read your book.

    The second one: “cut-and-dried” is preferred over “cut and dry,” which is easily discovered though a Google search. Not a huge error, but still one that indicates you needed a better editor.

    I wish you the very best luck selling your book and pursuing your quest for improving education. I hope that you will spend some time teaching so you can try out and refine your ideas, because we need creative, innovative educators in the classroom. Make sure your writing accurately reflects your magnificent mind and your ideas.

    • Nikhil Goyal

      January 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      I didn’t write this article. Those mistakes are of the author of this piece, not me.

      • Mrs. Murphy

        January 8, 2013 at 9:00 pm

        “I didn’t write this article. Those mistakes are of the author of this piece, not me.”

        This may be true, but YOU are the one being quoted. Any mistakes within the quotes will be attributed to you. I would contact the author ASAP and get the errors fixed. YOUR credibility is on the line, not the author’s.

        Good luck!