As we enter a new year with new hopes and resolutions for our selves, it may also be time to think about what we resolve to do as a society. Recent events and the accompanying protests and general social unrest in the city and the country at large have naturally led to a lot of reflection on where we’re heading and what we need to change in order to get there. I am not speaking only of violence against women, but also of many of the other large social problems we face as a nation, which tend to be deeply rooted within our cultural fabric. How can one change long-standing but outdated (and possibly downright dangerous) attitudes that prevent people from accessing basic rights and necessities?
The answer, to me, lies in education. It lies in the ways we learn, in what we learn, and what we value and prioritize in our education. While most of us can agree that the education system in India needs to change, there isn’t a lot of consensus in what precisely should change, or how. To me, the greatest need lies in creating a culture that embraces learning.
As someone recently said to me in conversation, “to my 13-year-old daughter, school and education are synonyms of boring.” Sadly, I think this is quite a typical attitude for school kids, and seems to me to be the most critical thing to change within our education system. So, when I came across a blog article on transforming education by embracing learning, leadership and innovation, I was pleased to see my own thoughts on the subject being articulated by an educator. The author writes,
Learning must be at the center of the education system. One might argue that this is not a paradigm shift at all. But on closer examination, it’s clear that our current system is focused on education—not learning. Learning is social and at its peak when learners collaborate, connect, and create. Learning should be purposeful and allow the learner to make a contribution. Learning is not simply about the transfer of knowledge from one individual to another; it’s generative, exciting, and inspirational. Student engagement, ownership of learning, and opportunities to make a contribution need to be hallmarks of the learning environment. It’s really about user-generated learning.
Successful education, then, is about enabling students to learn better – it’s about giving them the cognitive and practical tools that will allow them to explore, to question, to search for answers. With this kind of approach, you’re not just giving students information, but rather the ability to search for informative, to examine it critically and to generate more thoughts, ideas and discussions from this starting point. But in order to achieve this, teachers themselves need to be trained to be open to this new approach to education. They themselves need to learn how to create this new kind of learning environment, to embrace the technological tools that will enable learning, and be empowered to change traditional approaches and curricula.
This is, in itself, a grand challenge of sorts, and will require experimentation and innovation. Where do we begin? And what kinds of initiatives have already begun? Please do share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.