Education: Musings from Here and There; Then and Now

My recent association with READ Alliance takes on a whole new meaning around Teacher’s Day. It got me thinking on the learning acquired in a lifetime and what worked and what did not. So here it goes –

Reading: Reading, especially in our national language, Hindi brings me to this thought; why do our books still mention ‘da’ for ‘damroo’ ( a kind of a drum)  or ta for ‘tamtam’ (a kind of horse carriage). Which child today, has seen a ‘damroo’ or a ‘tamtam’. Also the text that our school children study in Hindi is almost insipid and this has resulted in a whole generation of children, who do not feel connected to the Hindi language. READ Alliance will be studying this landscape to figure out what are the causes of failures in early reading.

Studying Vs Doing: What we do, we remember! For e.g. in science apart from advanced concepts like Quantum Mechanics most other science concepts can be easily illustrated and that too while using very simple, cheap and easily available stuff (see www.arvindguptatoys.com). Do this and we ignite the curiosity in the child which bodes well for our country’s future in advanced science. READ Alliance’s ‘Innovation Challenge’ is an attempt in this direction to find innovative ways to promote reading in our primary school students.

Technology: A game changer for sure! Just look at the ‘Hole in the Wall’ concept – children just exposed to a computer are able to figure out how to use it and then use it for learning on their own. My 10 year old exposed to the internet is looking to learn Javascript from Khan Academy and wants to develop apps. My 3 year old can easily launch the CeeBeeBies app on my iPhone! READ Alliance is in the final stage of a hackathon to encourage development of innovative apps which will address the challenge of early grade reading. Kudos to that!!

Extra Interventions: I remember fondly a camp I attended held for winners of a science scholarship. I was exposed to ideas like holograms, advanced quantum physics, RNA and it was fascinating for the young mind. To keep the children engaged, teaching has to be done in creative ways and should be customizable, as per child’s requirements and abilities.

Teachers:  A little nudge here and a little push there from a teacher …has a tremendous influence on learning outcomes. Everyone has favorite teachers who made some subject come alive. Everyone also has memories of some teacher whose advice or actions helped them grow and extend their boundaries. So on the occasion of Teacher’s Day let’s  thank all the teachers who have nurtured the future of the country.

The ills in the Education Sector are there for everyone to see and some of the solutions are also self-evident. We need to come up with innovative solutions to keep our children engaged in the process of education and to be employable when they grow up. We need to adopt technology in a big way as that can be an invaluable tool in learning. Another critical factor which can be considered is PPE in Education sector to reach literacy and education goals of India.

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