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Combating the Flaw of Mugging Up

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

By Ms. Fatima Agarkar, Co-Founder, KA EduAssociates

The 21st century learner in school today finds herself/himself growing up in an era where knowledge, while an important component, isn't going to be the only element that determines a smooth transition into university education and thereafter a work place. Problem solving, trouble shooting, applying skills etc become far more impactful because young leaders taking their place in industry will be challenged with rapidly changing paradigm shifts (everything old is being repositioned) and therefore as educators we need to question our approach to this 'learning teaching' process carefully. We cannot afford to focus on facts alone, those can be sourced and researched, we need to focus on the process, the cause effect, the alternative techniques .... in short, create 'thinkers'.  

Questions to be asked, 'Are we 'moulding' the children to become effective exam takers or should we instead be equipping them with knowledge, skills and attitudes that enables them to adapt, 'think out of the box' which leads to creation because today, industry is seeking people who can reinvent.

My 11 year old son cannot fathom that when i was in school, the 'world wide web' was sparingly introduced and that we did all our research using hard bound books! Today, many schools are connected via a virtual classroom lessons with peers in Japan and Australia!! Imagine what the advances have been made in the field of education and related industries in the last twenty five years and this pace is only ever evolving!

We are in a era, where genetic changes can be affected thanks to the technological breakthroughs and 3 D printing is a commonly used word, then how can we as educators focus on knowledge alone.

Memorising and defining your answers as per models suggested to gain optimum marks in examinations leads to very little benefits and as entrance examinations are based on logic and critical thinking more than content. They if a child is taken on a journey to only memorise, imagine the challenges when faced with the unknown?

Back to my proposition of skills, attitudes and profiles as key elements of a schooling foundation brings into perspective the innovative approaches devised for the modern educator such as a flipped classroom, where a research conducted at home is brought into a classroom and the learners with their teachers attempt to put into action and relevance by solving questions in class. What a novel way of addressing the problems of understanding, comprehension because the teacher is able to guide, correct and address the problems as the child solves the questions! 'Flipping' it around is such a useful way of coping with every child's needs because the teacher is there to resolve the problems face to face.

My favourite is the differentiation approach to learning, where a teacher using all her knowledge of learning styles and MI is able to cope with EVERY learner in a classroom and allow them to progress by matching their pace, their skill sets and enabling them to reach realistic targets of achievement - and this works for great motivation, where learners are not treated generically but as individuals who have differing needs. I remember my friend in school was able to crack a Math paper in seconds, while for me, it took hours to process and yet, it was different when in an English class, i could read in seconds and answer what took her hours. If a differentiation model was adopted back them, she would have enjoyed reading more and I perhaps would not hate Math the way i do today!

Group work, project work, assigning children to tasks that they enjoy while achieving the bigger picture will go a long way in getting the children to stay motivated on the task, thinking out of the box and attempting to innovate. Why cant we customise when everything around us is working in the same way?

I welcome CBSE's decision to include more modern titles to spice up the interest for language by allowing for Harry Potter to be considered as part of the literature text. Why not? You will have the children's attention not to mention the excitement it brings and it is very easy to teach all the skills of the language when a topic is interesting! As a child whose been through Village by the Sea, Panorama - a collection of poetry and Julius Caesar as texts for the ICSE boards, i am tempted to say, language is how you teach and not what you teach! But interest is critical and wins more battles!

Ask any top CEO today to remember facts of what he learnt as a child, and chances are acing the exam will not feature. The abilities that emerge and present him or her as a success story are possibly clarity of thought, ability to take effective decisions, calculated risks, patience etc. And these therefore have to become part of the learning process in schools and not simply testing them for content facts.

How many people remember telephone numbers today? It takes less than a sec to go to your contacts or favourites and dial a number. So does it make you smarter if you remember all numbers and not have to access your contact list?

You definitely have an advantage if you can, but it isn't a disadvantage for those who cannot.

For children growing up in this era therefore, there are distinct benefits in focusing on the process and what to do with the information that simply memorising it.

Educators must enjoy this opportunity to redefine the teaching and learning process - more freedom, more creativity and definitely more impactful!

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