What do we Unlearn when we Actually Learn?

Today, there is a huge debate going on between various educationalist that ‘Whether education is really the panacea of all the problems’ and I have to admit that till few months back till the time I didn’t ruminate about education I was convinced that it was. May be the branding of education is so strong which makes us believe that education is the only path which can lead us to prosperity (As Christian Missionary use to believe that the path of Christ is the only path to reach heaven.)

But, it is not that the people don’t think that the education is important, just that they question the current education system, they want to think about the whole pedagogy from the ab-initio as the current system is not serving it’s purpose and somehow making us ‘Unlearn more than we are able to learn’.

Education starts dictating a linear path i.e. you go to school, you do hard work, you go to college and finally you get a good job but go out and look at any successful person and you realize that life was never linear for them, then why do we teach our kids for 20 yrs to act linear?

Education has been proclaimed as the ‘Ultimate way of prosperity’ but today there are millions who are graduates but unemployed and somehow they have lost one of the most important skills of human being ‘the act of survival’. From Centuries, human being are known to make their own way and surviving through toughest conditions. But today most of the young graduates know only one skill in which they have been trained in the college and have somehow lost complete touch with their own culture and the work of their ancestors like handloom, agriculture etc and by getting educated they have raised their expectations while the reality is not the same. 

The linear path of education has started becoming so steep that today some 17 million college graduates are working in sectors which do not require college degree(only in U.S.), had they invested their time to learn more about that skills wouldn’t it be more useful. And are we really doing the right thing by making everything so linear and putting everyone through the same production lines. When had we learned that ‘Our society needs only one kind of professionals’ and when did we learned that ‘humans can be made in the same fashion as on a production line’ irrespective of their individuality.

Today, every society in the world is trying to change is public education? But why? Two reasons pop up as the biggest issues 1.Economics of providing education to everyone 2. Cultural Identity. 

People have started realizing that while we are learning, we are also unlearning the old traditions, old cultures and old languages and as it has been said ‘There is no future without the History’ so is it really worth losing our cultures to learn something, which actually doesn’t make much sense. We all are asked to learn algebra in our school but the time we graduate only 10% would be using it and only 2% use it in their professional life, So why do we are do adamant about these issues?

Also it’s not only the students who are unlearning but somehow it feels like the reformers of our society have also started unlearning and due to which there is some kind of  ‘ADHD(Attention deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Epidemic’.

Today, when a kid doesn’t learn we label him ADHD when a student doesn’t sit smartly in class we label him ADHD. Don’t you think there is some flaw in this conception, as in past children used to learn by playing, by interacting with things by being Aesthetic? But by labeling them ADHD we are inducing them to learn we are giving them medicine to sleep or become Anesthetic.

So, today the need of the hour is to learn rather than unlearn and we have to reflect back and admit that we really did something wrong or we have to inculcate a Buddhist’s ‘Beginner’s Mind’ –an attitude of openness, questioning, and listening, not with an attitude of expertise then entitles us to prescribe solutions for other people. And then only we can learn the nuances of education from other societies and understand how our own current system failing to support creativity and diversity we will need to face the challenges of the 21st century? How can we re-imagine learning and culture in a way that supports individual creativity, cultural diversity, economic justice, and a sustainable relationship to the environment?

Some thoughts to end this Discussion:

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.” – Albert Einstein

“Education...makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Real freedom will come only when we free ourselves of the domination of Western education, Western culture, and the Western way of living.” – Mahatma Gandhi

For More information on the particular issue please visit: 

1. Schoolingtheworld.org
2. Watch ken Robinson talk on ‘Changing Educational Paradigms’ 


More by :  Dr. Prashant Agarwal

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