Letting Students Learn to Think by Nalinaksha Mutsuddi SignUp
Letting Students Learn to Think
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 The latest education policy exhorts the students to learn to think. This aspect is woefully missing in our education system. Only rote learning is in vogue. However, rote learning has its own use in certain specific cases, such as learning periodic tables, multiplication tables and different formulas in science. In such cases rote learning is unavoidable. But it doesn’t develop any critical thinking ability where you have to use your brain. 

 We used to have a question in the annual exam to write an essay. There would be three-four choices; you can choose any of them. My classmates used to mug up essays on several probable topics from the text book of essays. If any of those topics are covered in the question paper, they will regurgitate on the answer sheet, if not it will go unanswered. So thinking on your own remained underdeveloped. It is strange to see both parents and teachers approve the practice traditionally. The examiner also never denounce knowing full well that it is not an original product of the student

Let me illustrate further. My daughter was in third grade studying in a convent school in English medium. Along with other subjects Hindi also is taught separately. Once the Hindi teacher gave her homework to write an essay on Nalwar fair, which is a local fair held in the month of March every year. It is a big event for an isolated small town like Sundernagar, H.P. It has huge commercial importance for yearly transactions of cattle for sparsely populated villages scattered all over the rugged terrains.

One day my daughter came back from school, offloaded her backpack and looked utterly confused. She asked me to write an essay on Nalwar fair for her.

I didn’t expect a third grader to write an essay on any topic. Still I told her it is for you to write, not me.

I don’t know how to write an essay, she replied.

I simply told her to write how she felt participating in a cultural function, how she enjoyed with friends roaming around the fair, how lip smacking were the snacks etc. She wrote half a page accordingly in simple sentences. I gave her a big pat on her back.

Next day she came back from school with a crestfallen gloomy look and showed me the workbook, in which the teacher commented in English “Do it again” and verbally told her to copy from Atul’s workbook. Mind the word ‘copy’ here, not learning the skill.

Atul was the son of my colleague staying on the ground floor while I was on the first floor. 

Atul’s was a four page essay written by his teaching mother. Only the handwriting was Atul’s.

I tried to console my daughter to be proud of her own work in vain. This depicts the national scenario of our education system. It’s deep rooted and pervading. All our competitive tests of importance are meant for memory testing. The so-called renowned coaching shops(?) skillfully train the candidates just to do that and earn money and fame. A high score in the test entitles a candidate to enter into higher institute of learning.

Lon Watters defined: ‘school is a building, has four walls with future inside’. We forget that what goes on inside determines the quality of the future.

Can the new education policy alter the tradition on its head?


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