Sunday, October 26, 2014

Paradigm Shift

Paradigm shift is a term often used to describe the changes in the areas of economics, politics, science, literature, philosophy and more recently mobile technology. However, I want to apply this term to the current system of primary and high school education in India and envision what could be a change in the pattern of teaching and learning . I can think of a few things that I felt might have made my learning experience better. When I say this, I am NOT talking from the perspective of budget or standards of syllabus or the curriculum or the role of the government in the above. But rather, I am talking from the perspective of a person who just wants to enhance the experience of learning.

Our schools can be widely categorized as public and private schools. There are a very few private schools that ensure high quality of education for its students and most often are also those schools that fall under the category of NOT affordable for a common man. Once again, this is not my focus. So, that leaves us with the private schools a normal middle class man can afford and the public schools that run on govt funds. Often these schools have faculty  with required qualification, however they are not trained on the methods of teaching. Or may be even if they are, the current system fails to produce the desired efficacy. If the expected result is to see how many qualified professionals we are producing and outsourcing then we are far beyond the expectations; but if it is to see the average number of students enjoying their learning experience in school then we are not so good. When  it came to school ,all I remember was homework, tests, exams and holidays. I don’t recall experimenting , searching for answers, thinking to solve a problem, struggling for a perspective. So what needs to change and what could be different? This is NOT a difficult question but probably has more than one answer.

Talking about how things could be taught brings out one of the answers. Physics and Chemistry can be better taught with experiments that support theories and definitions, Biology becomes more interesting with a microscope and set of slides, Mathematics is less detesting when applied to the interesting fields of science and discovery, Economics is not boring when learnt with house income balance sheets and current problems of nation’s economic crisis. Geography becomes invigorating with projects on survey study. The mastery and beauty of languages and literature is better taught with perspective and essay homeworks. History can become interesting with stories and life studies. Subjects as dry as civics can as well be refreshing when given a perspective and application. So what is that we are NOT doing right? It is a question that has to be answered at various levels of the existing system and only then can we enrich the experience of learning.

Learning should be fun and I cannot think of a better word. It consummates the transformation required in the current system. It is essential to have a grading system because competition is necessary to bring out the best of talent; but often this is how the system is defined and that should change. The primary focus of early education should become a student’s first step to think, question and even fail rather than just be a journey of credits and grades. The focus that can make learning “fun”.

We need a system that enforces this shift of thought. A system that increases inquisitiveness of a student, forces to think and contemplate and present a perspective if required. This cannot be done unless there is a dire requirement that dictates this aspect of effectiveness;  a paradigm shift in the system of primary and high school education that demands change at every step.

If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm. - Stephen Covey

P.S: I present this today only as a thought because this is a change that just cannot be done overnight. It is a process that needs a vision and action. Every element of this current system needs change and it starts from every person in it.

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