Education

Make them lifelong learners

Our education system needs to to encourage analysis and comprehension over memorising.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

A criticism often levelled against the Indian education system is the insistence on rote learning and readying students to pass examinations that are designed to test one’s memory. Unfortunately, there’s no effort to improve and gauge a student’s cognitive development through the lessons they have learnt or provide them with an opportunity to implement it in a practical context.

This ability can only occur when students are taught not ‘what’ but ‘how’ to think. For this, we have to encourage our students to ask questions about everything they learn. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, didn’t have a university degree but he had a knack for solving problems. When he was 12 years old, he made a machine that made it easier to de-husk wheat grains. His curiosity, creativity and critical thinking enabled him to invent many unique products, including the telephone.

Not pushing students to ask questions prevents them from enjoying their curriculum, learning critical thinking skills and numbs their curiosity. They don’t learn to articulate their opinions about concepts or points they don’t agree with, or critically analyse their lessons. True education happens not just when we learn electricity lights up the bulb, but knowing why it will remain warm and shouldn’t be touched after being switched off. In popular culture, we have seen this unfold in Harry Potter series when the students of Hogwarts learn actual wizardry on their own to protect themselves from the evil wizards, as their school was teaching them lessons that were not useful.

Sadly, conventional education makes students incapable of being strong communicators and critical thinkers, who can deal with real-life situations at work. Thus, a study from an industry body stating that many young Indians have poor soft skills, stopping them from contributing properly to their companies, is not surprising. For example, our students can do accounting and coding well because they are taught exactly how to code and add numbers using macros and spreadsheet tools. But this makes them accustomed to being told what to do.

What our education system needs to do is to encourage analysis and comprehension over memorising and evaluation of the material taught, among others. In today’s world, where big data rules the roost, analysis has become a most critical cognitive skill and enables one to investigate tricky situations thoroughly to develop apt solutions.

Also, the current system has given rise to the idea is that education is time-bound, a drudgery that will be over with our exams. Therefore, we are not creating life-long learners who are curious and excited about solving problems or improving their workplaces. Changing to learning by doing will ensure that the students’ curiosity stays intact. This involves incorporating more practical learning, encouraging learners to implement the theories, and ensuring they retain the information for longer. It also encourages students to opt for internships or apprenticeships, to learn about the issues their preferred industry is facing and motivating them to utilise their classroom knowledge to develop solutions.

The global economy has changed, and conventional education can no longer meet the unique challenges of this altered landscape. The ubiquity of the Internet and rapid digitisation, the persistent rise of social media, and the pandemic have changed the labour market drastically. COVID-19 has shown what few jobs are considered ‘essential’ and how dispensable the global labour force is. Therefore, our curriculum should ensure we are making our students' futures ready.

The World Economic Forum report says that the top skills and skill groups that employers will consider important in coming years include critical thinking, analysis, problem-solving, and skills in self-management like active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility. According to business thinker and author Erika Andersen, skills that enable some to stand above their competitors include “aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability.” In other words, those who want to learn new skills, understand their own strengths and weaknesses thoroughly, ask relevant questions, and most importantly, accept their mistakes and learn from them will do well in the new hyperconnected, unpredictable and competitive world.

To incorporate such a mindset among our students that turns them into lifelong learners, thinkers, and problem-solvers would need us to move away from a didactic approach and incorporate a more practical and experiential form of learning. Only then will we be able to create a generation of competent, confident working professionals and true changemakers of tomorrow.

The writer is the Founder and CEO, School of Meaningful Experiences (SoME)


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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 9:52:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/teach-students-how-to-think-rather-than-what-to-think/article37782981.ece

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