By Nihar Pradhan
Feb 5, 2016
As an education technologist entrepreneur I have visited schools and I have met students, parents and teachers, and the decision makers driving the education ecosystem. This meeting of mine with a little girl studying in class five forced me to change my entire perspective, it is not that I was asked the question for the first time, I have asked the same question to myself many times and I have been constantly ignoring or deliberately avoiding to get to the real answer.
This was an eye-opener, it was an upheaval of my conscience, it was a grim thought not to hold me back any more, and I was glued to this profound question, I didn’t have an answer.
The Question that I don’t have an Answer…
The question from the little girl was, why should we be studying for years and why we should be in the school for learning? It was intriguing. Her question was on the twelve years of schooling andlearning within the four walls of the campus. She continued by saying, I know much of the things that are being taught in the class from the internet and I am enjoying every bit of my classroom in my virtual world, through the process of self-discovery and web exploration. But I’m forced to come to school and sit like a statue in the classroom, it is so boring and it is dragging, I just cannot brag this issue of mine with anybody. Teachers shuts me down, when I ask a question, and they asks me to sit silently and listen. Parents have no time, they are working, they are busy in their own world, and they are happy when I am out in the school.
I had no answer, though I said this is the practice what has been followed for years and this process has been found to produce the desired result. I didn’t have any empirical figure or otherwise data points to substantiate my argument, if she would have further probed the depth of my argument, I knew it was shallow…I would have faltered and failed myself in front of entire class of smart kids, but she didn’t test me further, I narrowly escaped the sudden collapse of my towering proposition. I felt, she was more matured and she didn’t want to see me in such deep embarrassment, as I was introduced by her erudite principal as an expert in education management.
Today’s Kid live in a Different World…
When I look at these kids and interact with them, they have acquired more knowledge outside the classroom and they are more up to date on the lessons being taught than many of their teachers who are teaching them. Kids of digital natives are smarter and more progressive in their thinking than the teachers who are classified as digital immigrants. The kids have more access to the information world, the World Wide Web is at their disposal and they just Google and they have the Mobile Appsto connect and collaborate anywhere and anytime. Knowledge is no more restricted to the boundaries of printed books or prescribed text, it is constantly evolving and evolving at a rapid pace, it is now widespread and it is now available in much abundance, it is only the question of the students to properly tapping and taking it at the right time. Printed materials have their limitation, they have a limited longevity and they have few sources to collate their information. Digital Media has changed the very premise of knowledge gathering, distribution and the usage of applied knowledge. Though books have been replaced by digital tablets, but it is still a minuscule fraction in the ocean of education ecosystem.
Why the confinement of Time and Place?
Why should learning be defined by the day’s time, school timing and be confined in the specified place,classroom, both time and space is irrelevant in the age of digital technology. Learning can be anywhere and learning can happen anytime, it is in our mind, the mindset has to change and we have to use the potency of technology to make learning free from the confines of physical boundaries. Already, virtual classrooms and online learning are pushing the boundaries of conventional teaching. Sitting inside the classroom for hours and going to school travelling for hours in the school bus, and both this sitting and travelling, many times makes no sense but we are forced to make some common sense argument but with no avail. This has become a pattern and this has become an unwarranted habit and we don’t want to change that uncalled for habit, thinking that it is archaic and it has fetched wonderful result in the past and following the pattern we shall derive equally good result in the future. We are being caught in this tussle between the past and the future and we are making the present life of a child a casualty and they are the future thinkers who are now forced to think not having the freedom to think…it is time to change.
Why apply the same Yardstick?
The next derivative of question that kept me haunting is why this 12 long years of study and why stuff the course material to fit the time horizon, is it a necessity, is it a scientifically proven condition or is it a crime if we do the same in lesser number of years. There is no such right answer, it was followed and it is being followed, it was assumed and it is being assumed the level of understanding and the degree of intelligence of our students has remained static. The kids today have more IQ, the kids today have better exposure, the kids today have better access to knowledge and faster ability to learn, the kids today have many more options to choose from and the kids today are not dependent on few things to craft their career, the choices are copious and they are more mature than we were and they are ready to plunge into the real action at the earliest…the system is the culprit.
Questioning the very purpose of Education…
How to free these kids from the stranglehold of conventional education system confined to the text books and defined within the boundaries of classrooms? Education per se is the harbinger of freedom, the freedom of mind from the stacked up assumptions, the age-old practices, and the pre-conceived notions and from the vice like grip of blind faith and critical clutches of ignorance. If that is what education is all about, than why not question the proposition behind the way education is being imparted and delivered. Today, the very process of education needs to undergo a transformation tochange the contour, the composition and the confines of education management system that’s been in place for ages.
No Wonder, there are so many Wonder Kids…
In today’s digital age where age has become ageless and kids have literally become wonder kids, just not one amongst many where we use to see as a bright spot, today almost all kids barring few have become wonder kids in their own way. These kids are shining, there is glitter in their eyes and these kids are bubbling with unbound energy and basking with crazy ideas, they just need the channel and the channelization of their energy and idea into meaningful engagement, they don’t need the baggage of conventional wisdom from the text books to get their mind working, they are conditioned right from the inception with the connected surrounding to perform, they just need the right platform not the preaching and teaching.
They need the Path, we need to align the Paradox…
I can see in their eyes, they are stimulated with ideas and ready to innovate, they just need thesimulation of environment to get going, they just don’t need the mechanics of following the routine process of rote learning and producing the junk food, though they love eating the fast food but they are in a different zone of food for thought. They are feeling that they are being caged in the name of school education and it is becoming a zoo where teachers are becoming the ringmaster whereas they as performer need no such daily tutoring, they just need the right coaching and a good mentoring on the area they want to excel and perform. Just show them the path and they know what to do and how to do, they may need the help on their way but they need no more spoon-feeding nor they need hand-holding like a child, yes, there is a paradox, they are a different breed and we are still applying the tools and techniques which was designed for a breed that is almost getting phased out…the digital immigrants.
School to Zoo to Museum…
Just like leaving these kids in a Mega Modern Mall makes them excited and makes them go wild, it is time for us to leave these kids in an education campus that is more like edutainment amusement park rather than a replica of zoo. It is now like a jailed environment where classrooms are like prison cell where depending on the degree of offence you are confined to one particular cell. Depending on the age not on the level of knowledge and learning we confine the students into particular classrooms. It is time to think differently and it is time to think out of the box and it time to change the rules and question the assumptions that have governed our thinking and working on education, it time to reverse the process and make our critical thinking drive the unconventional working…otherwise we will be converting our education campuses from into zoos and ultimately into museums.
We will only be producing antique pieces and there will be no masterpieces in the human kind, we are being knowingly being unkind to the future mankind…not fair.
The three questions:
- Why K-12 Education and why not just K-7 or K-8?
- Why the confinement of Campus and Classroom?
- Why not break the barriers of Learning & Teaching?
Do we have an answer?