With experience, gain more knowledge

With experience, gain more knowledge

IStock Photo for representation.

Eminent psychologist Howard Gardner once asked a set of students who were brilliant in arithmetic the following question: “If 100 students need to be taken together to a picnic, and only mini-vans that can seat maximum 12 children are available, how many vans will you order?”  Many little ones quickly calculated and said, “8.33 vans, sir” and some said “8 vans and 4 remainders.”

This is an example of how hard-working and intelligent students pick up their lessons very fast and can reproduce the same without errors in the exams, but do not comprehend that one cannot order 8.33 vans, or if you order only 8 vans then 4 poor children (‘remainder’) will be left crying while their friends go to enjoy themselves.

This may not seem like an issue but it highlights how we set children into the rigid curriculum and drill them into learning only what is being taught. As a result, they are left absolutely at a loss if they are asked anything “outside the syllabus.”

Doing it practically

Though the foundation of education for Indian students is very strong, there is a lot more scope for the application of practical knowledge. For example, consider medical education in our country. The MBBS course, not only has four-and-half years of rigorous teaching, but also involves regular practical work on live patients, following their Professors on the rounds, helping in diagnosis and therapy, and giving presentations on the same.  Then students have to undergo very intensive internships, sometimes working round-the-clock in various medical and surgical departments before the MBBS degree is awarded. Only then can they practice as doctors.

Such methods are not followed in most other faculties.  A student completes school, gets into a degree course, often spends his entire course duration in the classroom or at best in protected ‘labs’, keeps ‘mugging up’ and appearing for exams, and is certified as a professional in that field on clearing the theory exams. But such students are hardly capable of working productively.

Starting early

Since the education system is unlikely to change drastically in the short term, it is up to the adults concerned to supplement the regular academics of students with additional inputs that teach them the application of the knowledge along with basic life skills. By starting early with children who are still in school, it can be ensured that they attain holistic development and find their own direction. Here are some ways of achieving this goal:

Children in primary school level should be taught to develop their emotional intelligence i.e. self-awareness, management of emotions, motivation, empathy and social skills.  Simple and effective techniques are available in the form of workbooks that can be used by teachers or parents.

By the time children come to high school, they should necessarily be taught the 10 Life Skills enunciated by the World Health Organisation. Children should learn self-awareness, empathy, effective communication, interpersonal relationships, creative and critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making, coping with stress and managing emotions.  Even if a couple of hours in a week are dedicated to the aforementioned skills and if children are guided and corrected systematically, they can learn how to face different challenges that they will encounter in their adult life. 

We need to guide students to chart out their career path based on their own abilities such as personality, interests, subjects they are good at, extra-curricular talents, aptitude, multiple intelligence and the realistic levels they can aspire for. Often ignorant elders with good intentions push a student into a course that they don’t have much aptitude for, and as a result, children continue to be unhappy throughout their working life. 

It is a proven fact that children who are taught autonomy and responsibility inevitably adapt themselves better to any future challenges. 
There are many ways in which adults can supplement the basic education.  Proven tips and techniques are available, but one has to have the intention, and then ensure quality time to work with each individual child based on his or her requirements.

(The writer is founder, Banjara Academy,Bengaluru)

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