“He who has a why to live for can bear almost anyhow.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche.
Due to the present trend of giving new terminology, names, or jargon to educational activities, we seem to be losing focus on the real deal. That’s why I think it is high time to do innovation in pedagogy, by rediscovering the “why” of Education. Without clearly understanding the why of education, the best possible, past and future, innovations in the “How of education” will not bring the desperately required change in today’s education.
I often ask my peers, fellow academicians, colleagues, teachers, and parents a question. “Why do we teach?”
They come up with a variety of answers that range from finishing the syllabus, enabling a student to score better, getting good jobs, and getting future-ready. However, are these reasons in line with the learning outcomes developed by the NCERT or CBSE, or any other similar body?
I have always believed that every bit of learning brings in a distinct change in the behaviour, way of life, philosophy, thought process, etc of a learner. A student who can write an excellent essay, give a speech, or debate on a healthy diet may herself have unhealthy food habits. Most teachers will say that the objective was to teach them about a healthy diet, and for the student to be able to write an excellent essay. On the contrary, I feel having a healthy diet is the purpose of teaching science rather than just scoring good grades in science.
Science teaching must enable students to develop scientific temperament, scientific aptitude & aptitude, logical thinking, curiosity, and courage to question and find answers to new questions. Similarly, the learning of mathematics must make students sharp mined, good at imagination, develop the sense of space and time, observation ability, believe in multiple ways to solve any problem in daily life.
The ‘why’ behind education is barely remembered through generations, while we incessantly work on the ‘how’. The 21st century is no different in this sense. We forget why education is needed in the first place, while we work on pedagogy, new tools, techniques, methodologies, and what else not. Looks like we are busy creating a large number of proofs of doing new things, rather than making that change permanent, instead of ensuring that the student is capable of implementing that teaching in their real life. On top of it, most times we do this at the cost of burdening the students, unnecessarily, or of burdening the parents with extra expenses.
Purpose of Education
The most important question even today, in the 21st century, just like in our past, is – why educate people? What is the need for education? Is our education is preparing students for life? Or we are busy educating our children to score well in exams. While the majority of us educators, might say we educate for life, how confident are we? How often students with many documentary proofs of excellent performances in exams are equally happy, successful in life.
Consider this. If a child knows the solutions to all questions in the textbook on the topic of fractions and when her mother gives her half a chapati or she shares a bar of chocolate with her four friends, does she realize that she using the concept of fractions in her daily life? If not then probably, we have not fulfilled the very purpose of teaching mathematics.
The sole purpose of education is to prepare a child to face challenges, confidently, solve problems, efficiently, and be able to contribute positively to the family, society, country, and the world.
Education v/s Proof of Education
At times we miss out on the very well-defined purpose of most of the educational activities like the teaching-learning process in the classrooms, homework, assignments, projects, assessments, tests, examinations, co-curricular & extracurricular activities, etc. It is of utmost importance to be completely aware of the ‘Why’ of any activity one does in the name of syllabus completion or holistic development.
Classroom interaction must revolve around the daily life experiences of the students, in and out of school. The unique and diverse experiences of students in my Physics classes were the most important and most effective resource for me to develop common sense and wisdom in my students.
In place of giving several questions to solve in the notebook as homework, we must ask students to solve a few in the class under our vigil. A thick, well-maintained, duly corrected homework notebook can be solid proof for many stakeholders but may have almost nothing to do with the expected learning outcome. Similarly, at times the written reports, practical records, home assignments, etc can be proofs of education but not the education itself.
The original, creative, and self-experience-based answer must replace mugged-up or crammed answers to already known questions.
All assessments must have questions that are not solved in the class or as homework. Let students solve a few questions on their own, by using learned concepts, not the memorized content or solutions of the questions. We may thus, not have a solid repository of proof, but we certainly will have students able to meet the required learning outcome.
Almost all the topics in all the subjects up to class 10 in CBSE can be related to the daily life experiences of our students. It must not end up with students copying something from the board like answers or solutions to problems. Students need to learn how to solve problems rather than to learn solutions to a few important or tough problems.
To make learning experiential, taking students to the science lab or demonstrating some activity once a month is not enough or even the right type of experiential learning. The teacher needs to realize that every student keeps on experiencing and experimenting with life, all the time whether she is in school or outside.
If students are guided and trained properly, every experience from their daily life experience can become THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE. In other words, in place of teaching students’ subject matter, we need to teach them HOW TO LEARN.
We might talk of buzzwords like innovation, pedagogy, modern tools, and educational psychology, but we forget to read works like ‘Divaswapan’, ‘Totto Chan, and ‘Hanna’s Suitcase’. We need to understand that learning takes place all the time at all places. It is not limited to school or coaching classes. Textbooks or study materials can help someone score good grades in the present type of assessments, but the learning for life can happen only through real-life experiences.
If we look closely, learning as a process, has never stopped even when this world did not have language. It did not stop when countries were at war, when we did not have today’s technological advancement, even when the whole world was under siege in the pandemic, just because ‘life’ had not stopped. Therefore, it’s obvious that as long as life keeps happening, learning shall keep happening too.
Innovation is not in fancy jargon and costly teaching aids; it is in being able to bring school and real life together. Blended learning is not about blending online and offline, but it happens when we blend the personal experiences from the diverse daily lives of all our students in our classroom interactions on daily basis rather than just using technology.
In the context of ‘why’, as long as we keep on asking questions in our assessments, written or oral, which can be answered by memorizing, rote learning (temporary learning) will never stop and therefore permanent learning (learning for life) will not start. ’Knowledge’ does not only mean the memorization of facts, concepts, laws, formulas, or the proof of theorems and facts but it also includes the comprehension, understanding, and application of it all, in daily life.
Assessment must be designed to evaluate permanent learning rather than that of temporary learning. In place of orally asking three examples of vegetables, can we ask young ones to name three vegetables they had in the last week? The first question may have the same three names written in the notebook or textbook from almost all students of the class. Whereas the second question may have a variety of answers at times, not just the three examples written in the book or notebook.
A few may even be new to the teacher at times. These answers will then be in sync with the learning outcomes of teaching the topic vegetables. The students won’t need to do any preparation, revision, etc. Students will be able to understand that there are questions that can be answered just by observing the life around them and that learning also takes place without books or notebooks, or even without a teacher, outside of the school.
If a student can realize that their daily life experiences outside school can also help them to understand the various concept taught in the classes, they will be consciously looking for learnings from every experience, 24X7.
Hence, the solution or the right substitute for rote learning is asking the right questions, not tough or too many questions, which cannot be answered by memorization.
We need to ensure that history doesn’t teach our children that it’s important to win wars; but that it’s important to not destroy fellow humans. We need to ensure that technology doesn’t teach our children just about what problems to solve by building an app; but also, which problems are worth solving. Biology shouldn’t be just about becoming a doctor; it should also be about creating an everyday health routine and avoiding sickness and embracing health in the first place. Finance shouldn’t be about just how to create more profits, but also about how to manage everyday expenses and savings.
I am aware that I am perhaps leaving you with more questions than answers. But – What is innovation if it does not enable students (AND TEACHERS) to ask new questions and use the existing knowledge (not information) to discover and find answers to new questions? What is pedagogy, if learnings can’t be applied in solving problems of life?
So, let us find the ‘why’ of education and THEN innovate the ‘how’ of education, in line with that vision. Let me leave you with this parting thought by the modern-day Guru of innovation, Clayton M. Christensen, in ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?’
“Resources are what he uses to do it, processes are how he does it, and priorities are why he does it.”
About the author:
Dr. Deep Khare, MBA, M. Sc. & Ph. D. (Physics), B. Ed. & M. Ed. (Regional Institute of Education, Ajmer) is presently Principal at Jodhamal Public School, Jammu.
He has 32 years of School Education, started as a facilitator of Physics, continued the journey of learning as HOD Science, House Master at the Mayoor School (Mayo College, Ajmer), Master In-charge (Junior school) at The Lawrence School, Lovedale, Ooty, 9 years as Principal of Ivy League Academy, Hyderabad (Estd. 1988, a Full Boarding School), Founder Principal of National Public School, Gulbarga.
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