Students, parents/guardians, teachers, and administrators are all inconvenienced by the nuisance that is paperwork.
In addition, the inefficiencies caused by manual form-filling often have been tolerated, as if there is no other way to get things done faster.
Excessive organizational bureaucracy, a lack of incentive and commitment to change, and perhaps a lack of competition are all contributing factors to these continuing inefficient practices.
Whatever the reasons may be for inefficiency, paperwork and manual processes have to go.
4 Ways How Paperwork Ruins the School Experience
Many parents/guardians work full-time jobs, including overtime. Others are working two or even three jobs to make ends meet.
They’re doing everything they can take to provide for their kid(s), and now they’re asked to fill out those back-to-school forms every single year.
Much of the information requested is repetitive; parents/guardians are filling out the same details over and over again. (Why?)
And in other cases, they have to scramble locating records and physical copies of documents for which to fill out the forms.
Here are just some of the forms parents/guardians are required to fill out an annual basis.
- Enrollment forms
- Emergency information forms
- Medical forms
- Parent/student acknowledgement forms
- Student photo and information release forms
- Free-reduced cost meal applications
- Financial aid forms
- Proof of local residency
- Permission forms for off-campus activities
If parents/guardians are lucky, it might only take several hours to successfully deal with paperwork. (Yes, “only take several hours” is a joke!)
Manual Forms Can Be a Bottleneck
We are all human. Sometimes we forget to fill out a field on a form, or maybe our handwriting is not legible. In other situations, we provide insufficient or incorrect information.
The problem with such small mistakes is that these mistakes can slow things down big time.
The student may not be fully registered for classes yet, or the financial aid application is at risk of being rejected if not submitted before the deadline, which is quickly approaching.
Parents/guardians may be required to re-submit the application all over again, or they have to physically show up to the school to complete the missing fields and submit the missing documents.
Assuming everything was done in good faith, why should anyone have to be “punished’ like this for such small errors?
School administrators are human, too. They’re often tasked with manually entering the data from all the submitted forms into the school’s database.
Have you ever made mistakes typing? Have you ever had employees make those mistakes?
- They enter the letter “O” instead of the number “0”.
- They enter “4” instead of “9”.
- They forget to enter important contact details for one of the fields.
Administrators can and do make mistakes, especially considering the lengthy, monotonous nature of the task.
It’s not about “blaming” administrators. Rather, it’s about highlighting the human error component of a task that ought to be eliminated.
In a worst-case scenario, a parent or guardian can’t be reached during an emergency because the phone number was not inputted correctly.
Paperwork Is Less Environmentally Friendly
According to The Paperless Project, 2014:
- The U.S. uses roughly 68 million trees per year to produce paper and paper products.
- Worldwide consumption of paper has increased by 400% in the last 40 years with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture.
- In the last 20 years, paper products usage has increased from 92 million tons to 208 million, a growth of 126%.
The destruction and reduction of forests and the effects such activities have on our environment need no introduction. A world with more trees should is preferred, right?
Collectively, we as humans should consider less use of paper.
Striving for reduced paper usage is not about guilt tripping others or claiming a moral high ground; it’s about individuals and institutions recognizing they can play a positive role in environmental conservation, no matter how small or large that role is.
How many boxes, pounds/kilos, or tons of paper could be reduced if schools opted for an online/digital “paperwork?”
Schools Should Improve the Experience, Reduce Paperwork
Not only would it make parents’/guardians’ lives more convenient, but if schools made it easier to have forms and people’s data auto-filled and subsequently auto-populated into a database, the time, money, and trees saved would not be insignificant.
Schools should also consider the positive impact the promotion of conservation and substantive actions to reduce paper would have on the impressionable children.
And even if schools are taking actions to reduce paperwork, they should takes steps to automate the work for everyone involved, thus improving the experience for all.
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