A Few Thoughts on Education – 2

4. Education and Learning
In the last post I mentioned that education was failing in helping the children acquire different skills. Why does education fail in making children learn? Probably because education is designed without considering at all what we know about how human beings and children generally learn things.

Modern cognitive studies suggest that lectures are the least effective ways of teaching, and that no one actually learns anything unless she’s involved herself in the activity. Further, we know that we learn languages by actually picking up bits and pieces from our environment. Perhaps that’s how all learning takes place, and that’s why a suitable learning environment is important for proper learning to take place.

I’ve been lucky to get to know a person who has worked with tribal artisan communities. He says that there learning takes place naturally and without any coercion. He says that true learning is need based, and in these tribal communities they keep using their creativity all the time to meet the challenges they face. Their learning is fun, because they are not made to sit down and memorize dry facts or figures.

5. Alternatives
How can we overcome the problems of education? It would be unrealistic to expect wholesale changes in the structure of schools and colleges in the next few decades, because people still don’t have half a clue as to what is wrong with it. Can we do something while standing within this framework?

Schools can start by putting fewer children in each class, so that every child would have more space for their individuality to grow into. Also smaller classes mean better interaction with the teacher and could give the teacher more freedom to experiment better methods of teaching/learning.

Colleges are supposed to be places where you enter as a boy and leave as a man. Apart from being centres of excellence, they should provide an atmosphere of freedom which encourage the students to question conventional ideals, ponder the effect of personal choices on the society, reflect on the state of the world etc. Critical thought is something that’s seriously missing in most of us. We’re too worried about grades or whether we’d get a good job. College life should instil in the student the confidence to rely on her skills rather than her degrees to make a living.

Other than this I don’t know what can be done within this framework. I’d like to know what the readers think of this.

6. Knowledge and Wisdom
We are accustomed to thinking of knowledge as good in and of itself. But knowledge without wisdom can be a dangerous thing, as we are finding out today, with our actions proving destructive to the very biosphere that sustains us. As E.F.Schumacher said, “Man is too clever to survive without wisdom.”

What is wisdom? It is a form of knowledge, about what works and what doesn’t regarding our activities, our way of life and the world we live in. It is passed on from generation to generation in the form of culture. And it’s not just humans that do it- many animals do, most of the more “intelligent” mammals do it almost just like us.

But the world has been changing so fast in the last couple of centuries that wisdom of one generation became seemingly irrelevant to the next and we have lost a lot of valuable wisdom in the process. And without wisdom, the pursuit of knowledge is of little use, because we don’t know where a piece of knowledge fits in the scheme of things.

We have lost valuable wisdom, but I think through critical thought and action we can still find out what works for us and create new wisdom. We need a balance between wisdom and knowledge- because wisdom which doesn’t renew itself through knowledge can lead to superstitions. With this wisdom we can find out how we can live without needing to destroy our home, and we can pursue new and relevant knowledge with the beacon that is wisdom.

One thought on “A Few Thoughts on Education – 2

  1. I think one of the biggest sins we are perpetuating via education (at home and school) is what Gandhiji had termed as one of the seven social sins – knowledge without character. What I mean to say is that all of us have been brought up at home and in school with the mantra instilled in our heads that “be selfish and always do whats good for you, do good to others if it doesnt absolutely hurt you”. At least when we were brought up, the rider do good to others “if it doesnt hurt you” was present – but nowadays with the “advancing” world, I think that rider is gone, its just “dont care a damn about the others”.

    How that clearly translates into a major national problem is so evident – a society full of people who care about themselves only leads to filthy roads where people spit/urinate wherever they want, traffic on the road thats the biggest national killer just because everyone cares only about their destination, etc.. etc..

    So this goes back to philosophy where the “wise men” had found out ages before that the way to lead the happiest life is to care less about oneself and more about others – unfortunately that sounds like the most oxymoron-ic impractical thing ever said and hence we will never ever end up practicing that to the fullest extent. But the more I think about it, the more logical and practical that statement is.

    So I think as a nation, for the world, we want a generation of people who recognise that happiness of self lies in happiness of others ! I think the presence of grandparents at home who used to present stories from epics which conveys this concept, the presence of religious organisations/leaders who cared less about religion and more about social good all were helping factors in the olden days. But now with the disappearance of all that, I think that a share of the onus of providing this “education” falls on the schools !

    Love,
    Gopu.

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