Traditionally, the term ‘education’ has implied "knowledge acquisition". An ‘educated person’ was expected to espouse information pertaining to the sciences, arts and philosophies. Little was dwelt upon the skills and values for global citizenship and humane coexistence.
With the growth of open market economies and the continual influence of progressive science and technologies modernising our lives while simultaneously expanding our worldview, certain best practices in education must evolve to embrace an understanding of both natural and social phenomena, in order to promote harmonious living.
To this end, the development of necessary skills, interests, attitudes and critical thinking in students becomes an absolute imperative.
One needs to distinguish between being simply ‘informed’ and being ‘educated’.
In order for a person to be considered 'educated', he/she needs to possess an optimal combination of both conventional knowledge and conceptual understanding. This enables a true learner to rise above the level of a collection of disjointed facts.
Applied Knowledge & Life-Oriented Education
This implies an understanding of the basic principles that are involved in the organisation of facts, in turn enabling any individual to apply what he has learnt, to his/her real-life situations. A merely "informed" person is not the same as a truly "educated" man or woman. This means, that education in its truest form must involve a few essential processes- those of knowledge, understanding and a holistic view of every aspect of situations that can/will enable one to apply their knowledge and understanding rather than merely staying inert.
Creating an appropriate learning environment to develop logical thinking and critical thinking, is a part of the overall learning process. Furthermore, merely passing on a body of knowledge or principles without any systematic attempt to explain or justify them, does not constitute true education; rather - it leads to indoctrination.
The Evolution Of Peer Learning In The Real World
This recent "thinking about knowledge construction" (an evolutionary process in itself) assumes that knowledge is not something which can be transmitted from one person to another; rather, it is jointly constructed by all parties involved in the process of knowledge construction.
The contemporary approach to learning considers students as democratic partners in the teaching-learning ecosystem. This new student-tribe learns by constructing knowledge based on assimilation of the concepts, correct or incorrect, in their own experiences. If adequate opportunities are not provided to them to share their learning and receive feedback, the expected learning might not occur in its intended form.
Therefore, it is critical that teachers allow students to raise questions and doubts within the classroom interface. It is equally important not to penalise errors but to facilitate confidence, in order to enable exploration and experimentation.
While memory and recall will continue to be an integral part of any instruction-based system, the focus of education needs to shift to critical and analytical thinking. Accordingly, the examination system must also be tweaked, to test understanding instead of the ability to reproduce from the textbook. Evangelizing such learning systems will ensure that teaching and testing exist to complement each other, and avoid a negative washback effect.
The focus now, has to be on making learning joyful, creative, participatory, and designed to stimulate a thinking quotient in every child. A paradigm shift is implicit — in particular, to transform curriculum design and pedagogical methods different from rote learning, to promote a spirit of enquiry and a vision for sustainable growth.
Evolved Learning Systems
In today’s ICT-enabled learning environment, applying a constructivist approach to the teaching-learning process becomes easy via online learning systems. Numerous tools - such as videos, animations, discussion forums, games, simulations and blogs can enable learners to actively construct knowledge and discover hitherto unknown frontiers.
Digital Education is certainly ushering in a new age of learning in India. Though India is still at an early stage compared to that of other developed economies, it continues to grow at 58%, which is nothing short of phenomenal.
Technology is now an enabler across segments and industries, and education cannot survive in isolation. Indian learners are in the growth curve where they want to evolve, and to enhance their knowledge and skills at every stage of their career and lives.
In the years to come, it appears that digital education will be a force to reckon with. Moving forward with the "Digital India" slogan of our honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, technology will no longer be an ornamental feature, but transform into what is probably the most critical aspect of education for learners of the future.
Digital learning may acquire greater dimensions for its inherent flexibilities - self-paced, self-directed, self-assessment and promoting autonomy — truly a step away from merely "educating" to "being educated".
Editor's Note: The author of this column is the Country Director & a Member of the Board of Directors at Macmillan India. In order to reach Mr Mehta for further discussions on the subject, kindly write to firstname.lastname@example.org.